Thankful Serenity

SerenityPrayerOn one occasion while attending Mass this summer a young man entered our church whom I had never seen before. I thought that perhaps he may regularly attend one of the Sunday Masses, and as a matter of convenience, attended this particular Saturday Vigil instead. What caught my attention was that he carried a backpack with him and before Mass began changed his seat a number of times, beginning at the front right pews of the church to the back right pews, and finally settled in the front rows on the left side in view of a statue of Mary, the Mother of Sorrows. I myself became unsettled at his inability to settle down. As he sat awaiting Mass to begin he reached inside his bag and pulled from it a head band, that he proceeded to tie around his head. With images of terrorist self-sacrificing shootings and bombings so widely  displayed on TV and the internet, it is no wonder that I kept my eyes riveted on him and his seemingly strange actions. The church began to fill with the usual Saturday vigil attendees minutes before the Mass was to begin. At 4:30PM the bell rang announcing the entrance of the priest who was to celebrate that Mass. I had ears on the readings but my eyes were on the stranger. At least a stranger to this Mass. After the Gospel was read and the priest began his Homily on the day’s readings, the stranger abruptly grabbed his bag, got up from his seat, that he earlier spent so much time in finding, and left the church. As he passed by where I was sitting I could see that he was dressed in rather worn clothing and in his bag was possibly all that he owned in the world.

When I returned home I felt a bit ashamed of myself for having allowed the signs of the times to instill such fear for my safety and those others attending Mass. Ashamed that, even in church, I should think the worst of another at the very moment that we are reliving Christ’s sacrifice for those who loved Him and those who hated Him.

We live in a most tumultuous time. Terrorism has raised suspicion to its highest level and reduced trust to its lowest. How then can one be grateful at this moment in history? We can find gratitude simply because two thousand years ago Christ willingly gave Himself to the cross in the midst of a world that was also filled with fear and hate. He did so for the salvation of souls that resulted in the re-opening of the once barred gates to heaven for the sake of the very creatures who did put their creator to death. How can one not be grateful for that greatest act of love?

At the foot of the cross, both on Calvary and on any alter in world during the consecration of the Eucharist, serenity enters the souls of those witnessing, and for that moment, the world’s turmoil calms. For Divine Love that settled the seas, calmed the winds, fed the multitudes, relieved the suffering, instilled light in the darkest of hearts and raised the dead, still commands us to fear not; “For I am with you always, until the end of time.’

So when seated at your Thanksgiving table, make time for a prayer of thanks to Christ, who paid the price that purchased serenity, courage and wisdom for all who believe in Him. For even in the worst state of the world His Divine serenity neutralizes all apprehension. His promise kept is a gift to all forever, for He came not solely at a point in time but for all time; and by it all is made new.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth,  for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, …” –  Revelation 21:1

There is no reason to fear for those who place their trust in Him. For in His coming nothing will ever be the same again.



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Muddled Perceptions


“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5



In recent media coverage of the Catholic Church the terms liberal, conservative and progressive have been used to describe the Church’s members, clergy and religious. How can such terms, that come to exist through doubt, ever be used in referring to  the Church that was founded on absolute truth? An absolute truth that embodies the divine person of Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh? There are two reasons by which these terms enter into any discussion concerning the Catholic Church. One is, that there is some fundamental misunderstanding of the Church’s nature. And two, that worldly relativism has infected the Church through Her laity, clergy and religious. It is difficult for those who are in the midst of an epidemic not to, somewhat, exhibit symptoms of the disease. Christ built His Church to be everlasting. However, He never said that Satan would not try to worm his way in. This second reason by which we hear spoken the above secular terms is a direct result of the first.

The Church’s nature, I believe, is misunderstood because it is perceived to be an organization, not unlike a tennis club. When a member goes to play tennis, that member must adhere to the rules of the club while in attendance; whether by participating in proper attire, acceptable playing etiquette and respectful use of the facilities. But, when one is no longer at the club those rules no longer apply. The true nature of the Church is understood when it is seen as it was intended by its founder. Not as an organization, but rather as an organism.  Christ said He was the true vine and we are the branches. Meaning that all Her members are as living cells of that Mystical Body with Christ as the Head. Therefore when a Catholic leaves Church attendance, he/she takes with them the obligation to continue their daily lives with the same dispositions revealed in the Sacrifice of the Mass, and governed by the Church’s doctrine, which is determined by every aspect of the life of Christ and encompassed in every sacrament. A member of an organization can leave that organization behind. Yet, a cell of a living organism leaves not the organism behind. The tennis club member lives by a separate set of rules when he re-enters the world after leaving the club. The Church member must, in all earnest and at what costs there may be, live the will of God always. Which now brings me to reason two.

When the media takes such an interest in the Catholic Church, other than to disparage and condemn Her, due to the human indiscretions (sins) of some of her members or hierarchy, or Her steadfast position on moral and social issues, one must take pause. People must participate in the world to some extent. And, in doing so, are exposed to its influences. One of those influences is relativism. The truth that one experiences in the Christian Faith is not the truth of the relativist. It is a contrast of the objective to the subjective, which results in either an orderly society or a disorderly one. One who argues: “Why must there be an objective truth?”; is really arguing: “Why must there be a God?” For the subjective to be, there must be a counter objective with which to compare, or how else can its meaning be defined. Does not the dark night need the light of day; a yes, an opposing no. For chaos to exist, order must be. Every exception has its rule.  When they who see truth as they would have it be, carry that perspective that is within their hearts into the Church, then the Church becomes infected. Rather than all the organism’s members being on the same page, there is produced an imbalance that radiates the wrong impression that the Church is conforming to a changing world. But how can God, the life of the Mystical Body, Who is all perfect, be subject to change? And if the Church were not to remain true to Herself, then those who come to Her seeking refuge from the world they wish to escape would then enter Her under false pretense. Only through a misinterpreted perception can that be so.

The Church is living as Her resurrected founder and Head is living. Although She be persecuted or fraught with scandals – which there are bound to be when left to human custodial care – there is yet kept one certain promise; “the gates of hell will not prevail against Her.” A tennis club may one day be disbanded as surely as the Roman Empire fell. Yet, despite Her trials, heresies, schisms and all forms of tribulations, the Church since its foundation still remains. It is the cement of Her doctrine that stands the test of time. And though church buildings be closed and people fall away to sample the false unenduring good life of the world, the true church, the living vine, is endless for its governing head is endless. And only by His unfathomable love, a love so great that it took to the cross for the salvation of friend and foe, does such an eternal untouchable organism as the Catholic Church come to be.

We who choose to be baptized into the Church will be reborn in the Holy Spirit. A consequence which renders us vibrant branches attached to the divine living vine. As such, we will have become brothers and sisters of Christ. And therefore, have further become adopted sons and daughters of God the Father. By our inclusion into the Mystical Body of Christ – the Church – we have become heirs of One Who is endless. And are now given the rights to an inheritance. An inheritance contingent upon a convergence in death with our brother and Lord. A death to a lower form of life in order to be raised to the highest form of life. An inheritance in which we are bequeathed the bliss of God’s eternal loving embrace.

When the length of the line to the confession box nears that of the line to the, sadly defunct, Communion rail, then the perception of the Catholic Church will have become crystal clear. To make this true perception one day again a reality, Catholics must be well versed in and live the Catechism of their Church. It is the duty of their priests and bishops to promote and reinforce that practice from the pulpit. For the primary mission of the clergy is to save souls.





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From The Mouths Of Babes.

children-jesusMany years ago my brother took his daughter to the circus. One of the acts performed was a magic act. The magician was very gifted and had my niece, as well as all the other children, entranced and mystified by his performance. When the act was over, my brother asked my niece, “How do you think he did all those things?” My niece replied, “Oh, Daddy, don’t be so silly. It’s magic.”

From my brother’s adult point of view he knows that the magician uses sleight of hand, among other techniques, to divert attention to accomplish his goal. That goal is to make his audience see what he wants them to see; whether it is pulling a rabbit out of a hat or making an elephant disappear. My niece, a child, in her innocence, had yet not been jaded into such skepticism. Alas, with age, knowledge has the ability to make skeptics of us all.

A little boy came home from catechism to an unbelieving father. “What did you learn in catechism today? “That there are three Persons in God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and they are all eternal.” The father said, “Don’t be stupid. I am your father, you are my son. I existed long before you did.” The little boy said, “No, you didn’t. You didn’t begin to be a father, until I began to be a son.” – Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

God, the Father, thinks, but He does not think as we do. We think in a succession of thoughts. The Father has only one thought. And that one thought contains all knowledge. That thought is a Word, and is called a Son. One did not preexist the other. – Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

We are not capable of fully knowing God’s thought. That is why there is faith. Yet we do know, by the order and beauty of our environment, and the inherent goodness in mankind, that has not been spoiled by human ego, that the motive behind divine thought is love. A mystical love that has been made manifest to us all through his Son, who is the model by which we can fashion ourselves as we strive toward its perfection.

Knowledge can either make one wise or it can make one proud. Wisdom opens our minds to the mysteries of the universe and our hearts to the truth of a perfect love. Pride limits our vision to the very tip of our nose and closes our hearts to a peace that the world cannot give. Wisdom nourishes courageous conviction. Pride is the fodder of cowardly fools. Wisdom places us on the path toward absolute truth, from which we will one day enter into the joy of our true desiring. Pride embeds us in an endless maze, constructed from self-made truths of convenience, in which our worldly desires are never completely met.

Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 18:3

There were two types if people who came on bended knee to honor the Christ child; shepherds and wise men. Those that knew they knew nothing and those that knew they didn’t know everything. Those absent, were those who thought they knew it all. – Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Learn from the innocents. For they possess the wisdom – born of common sense and the law of first principles – that eludes the stubborn.




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Value Of The Entrusted

82a55fa6c5f25cd44c62f0488719c6bc“When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming  in from the country, and placed on him the cross behind Jesus.” – Luke 23:26

Jesus, as God, is not subject to coincidence. When he called down Zacharias from the tree, summoned the apostles to secure the colt for Him to ride triumphantly into Jerusalem at Passover, told Peter that he would betray Him and dismissed Judas from the Passover meal to go and do what he must do quickly, He did so by His omnipotent foreknowledge. And it is by it that He here now assigns Simon of Cyrene the role that would make him honored among men by sacrificing something of himself for his savior who was about to sacrifice everything for the forgiveness of sins and open wide the gates of heaven that had been sealed since man and woman first said no to God.

Many of us suffer some strife, whether temporary or chronic, that tests us physically, mentally or spiritually. Those who must bear such burdens may cry out: “Lord, why me?” Then there are those who may never know suffering or trials of any significance until they approach their death beds. And from these there may be heard the bewildered query: “Lord, why not me?” The question, in all truth, should be; “Lord why don’t you trust me?”

Our Lord tells us to take up our cross and follow Him. Those who have none to carry must wonder if they are trusted enough by God to do just that. Is it for this reason that God does not place upon some shoulders a cross of substantial weight? Or perhaps is there another reason? God has created an ordered universe. And for it to be ordered there must be balance.

If there are to be the weak and suffering among us would it not be just that there should be the strong and well to bring all into balance? God commands us to care for our brothers. If that command is to be fulfilled then there must be the strong to help the weak. Since there exists the dying in the streets of Calcutta, there must then be a Mother Teresa to nurse, nurture and comfort them. There must be the strong in life to instill in the weak that life has purpose, meaning and that it is valuable. Some must do for those, who by God’s will, cannot do for themselves. Those who need care will find God’s favor by bearing their burdens well and becoming an inspiration to others. Those caregivers who help them to achieve that end will receive equal grace. For all who observe this balance in play of those needing care and those providing care will be better for it. And through this display of order is shown that justice and charity can be found in this world; and that the witnesses thereof whose hearts are transformed will too be rewarded.

Christ was trusted with the cross as He bore the sins and sufferings of the world. Simon, in fine physical condition, was entrusted to help Our Lord carry His cross. Simon thought the cross only wood. But, in reality, it was saturated with the suffering, pain, weaknesses, sins, sorrows and regrets of all mankind. Only a God could bear such a burden. Yet Simon was able to carry it as well. Christ said: “Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” As our burdens in life are manageable when joined to Christ’s cross, so too was Simon able to manage the cross that was also joined with Christ. One can not calculate the value of grace received by Simon for his role when our savior’s hour had come.

Christ Himself exemplified the entrusted as he sighed when he healed the blind, lame and those possessed by demons.  He felt power leave Him when the women suffering from hemorrhaging touched his robe in faith. And He groaned when He raised Lazarus from the dead. He is the divine caregiver who possesses not only the power to heal the sick and feed the poor but to release sinners from the death sentence that no long would bar them from eternal life. And what caregiver does not feel fatigue and the pain of empathy in the execution of their duty. In that they show themselves to be Christ-like. For we the well and capable are the channels of Christ empowered by Him to continue His good works in serving the unfortunate through faith and trust in Him.

Whether we are in the position to help one or millions all is the same in the sight of God. For care given to a loved one or a stranger is given to Christ. The grace received by Simon of Cyrene can be granted to anyone who performs good deeds for the sake of a brother or sister to whom God has so entrusted.


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“And he shall say to you, I Know you not, whence ye are: depart from me,” – Luke 13:27

My bother had just returned home  from the doggie salon with Bridget, his pet dog, a Shih Tzu. He opened the gate to the back yard where her companion, Maggie, a mixed Dalmatian, another pooch owned by my brother, was lounging on the lawn. When Bridget entered the yard Maggie behaved strangely. She walked circles around Bridget sniffing as she kept her distance. My mom called Bridget to climb up to the deck floor so she could see her new hair cut. Bridget, however, just sat at the base of the stairs looking at my mom as though she had two heads. While we all puzzled over the strange event that we were witnessing the phone rang. It was the doggie salon asking to speak with my brother. It seems there was a lady who had just arrived to pick up her dog claiming that the dog did not belong to her. It just so happened that the lady’s dog was of the same breed as Bridget. Yes, you guessed it, my brother brought home the wrong dog.

No wonder Maggie acted so strangely toward her little chum. It wasn’t her chum at all. My brother immediately returned to the doggie salon and made the switch. As the real Bridget entered the back yard she was now not avoided by an incredulous Maggie, but rather was warmly welcomed with a lick from her friend. Maggie now recognized her life long pal and was judged to be bona-fide. And by that recognition she was enthusiastically received with open arms; I mean paws.

What is judgment? Judgment is recognition: recognition from our point of view and recognition from God’s point of view. It is recognition, first of all, from our point of  view. Suppose that we are cleaning our house when a distinguished visitor is announced. We will say, “Oh, I am not clean, wait until I wash up and dress.” That’s the way we are when we go before the sight of God: let me clean up a bit. Recognition is also from God’s point of view. Grace is the similarity of our nature to God’s nature. St. Peter says: “We are partakers of God’s nature.” Just as our parents know us because we share their nature, so God looks upon us. If He sees His nature in us, then He will say, “Come ye blessed of my Father. I am the natural Son; you are the adopted son. Come unto the kingdom prepared for you.” If, however, he looks and does not see that likeness of nature, as a mother knows the neighbor’s child is not her own, so the lord will say, “I know you  not.” It is a terrible thing not to be known by God. – Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

What is that likeness of nature that Archbishop Sheen speaks of? It is that which is found on the cross. A man whom we deemed to be suffering from punishment for some wrong done. In relation to the world he was a criminal. And His crime was to be unworldly. As we look upon Him we see pain instead of pleasure. We see poverty instead of wealth. We see helplessness instead of power. We see humility in lowliness instead of honor. We see someone who has separated Himself from all that this world holds so dear. We see someone who has done something that no one in the world has ever done; He overcame death. And He invites us all to do the same.

By not separating ourselves from those potentially enslaving misused things that would be our gods and which bind us to this world, we will experience not one but two deaths; one of body and one of soul. When we control that which would control us we die but once. And for one whose soul is unbounded by worldly restraints we then free ourselves to truly live the life that Christ has promised through the event of His resurrection. We will do what He has done.

When we stand before Christ’s judgment we will hear one of three things from Him; “I know you, I know you somewhat, or I know you not.” The category in which each of us falls will depend upon our likeness to Christ determined by our disposition toward this life. That likeness which is revealed on the cross. How much of Himself that He sees in us will determine the response that we will receive. We will be overjoyed to be among those in first two categories. For those known in complete likeness will enter God’s house immediately and those known somewhat, through God’s mercy, will enter the city of God after a period of purification. And to be among those in the third group will be the saddest of moments. For when we are in His incomprehensible glorious presence for but that instant of determined recognition, we will then know why faith and hope in His will were so instrumental in bringing to reality the promise of eternal life in the loving embrace of God.

So now is the time to succeed in the effort of attaining and maintaining the lessons of the cross. The purpose of which is to avoid the tragic regret of being found among the unknown.



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“For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work in me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” – Romans 7: 22-25

A dog and his master are enjoying a warm summer day outdoors. The dog’s master is reclining in a hammock tethered between two trees, while the dog lies near his master beneath a shade tree upon the cool grass. Suddenly, out on the road that abuts the property a car roars by. The dog quickly rises out of instinct and races toward the speeding car. The master shouts his dog’s name and immediately the dog stops in his tracks and looks to his master. In a softer voice the master beckons him to return. The dog again looks toward the road wishing to answer the call of instinct but reluctantly returns to his master’s side after a sterner third call to return is delivered. As he again lies down in the cool grass, his master, knowing the potential danger to his pet that awaited in the road, with love and relief pats him on the head with the consoling words one would extend to another person with understanding: “It wasn’t worth the risk.”

In another town another dog is free to roam his yard not tethered by leash nor bound by a fence.  There too a car roars down the road that runs by his master’s home. So unconfined and uncoupled by the absence of his master’s staying and saving command, the dog rushes out in pursuit of the speeding car as is his nature as well. There he meets his fate as he is caught up under the wheels of the car. He heard no master’s call that would have compelled him to obey, and also lacked disciplined training that could have avoided the tragedy that forever would deprive him of any further joyful summer days.

We too can relate to a loving master in God. We are drawn to the call of things that excite our desires and often find ourselves attached to them. We have the gift of prudence from God as a call and command to protect us from the things of this world that seem harmless at first, but as we foolishly return to them so often we seem incapable of doing without them. There in lies the danger of habits that enslave. They are as dangerous to our health in all ways, especially to our souls, as is chasing cars to our canine friends.

When a thing takes hold it will not release us no matter how hard is our effort. It is like a person who awakens to finds himself at the bottom of a well. He knows not how he got there, yet he can’t get out. His only hope of being freed is if someone comes along and helps him out. That someone is Christ Jesus; who provides the needed grace to separate us from the habits that stifle healthy growth in body, mind and soul. The power of grace, that strengthens us toward complete healing, is released when we make a continued effort to turn away from that which binds us and turn instead toward Christ who frees. The more that effort becomes habit, the stronger the grace. With time, patience and persistence the former undesirable beckoning is reduced to but a whisper.

Christ provides this grace through his unconditional love for us. An unconditional love that paradoxically requires a condition of obedience. Christ confirms this in saying: “If you love me you will do what I say;” and; “Many say to me, ‘lord, lord,’ yet don’t do what I say.”

No better example is there that shows that obedience pays off than the miracle at the wedding at Cana. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is told that the wine for the wedding guests is running out. Mary goes to her son Jesus and asks Him to help. He tells her, “What is this to me? My hour has not yet come.” She then tells the servants: “Do whatever he tells you.” They do and the water requested by Jesus is changed into wine. The guests all comment to the host that most would serve the choicest wine at the beginning of the wedding banquet, yet he has served it at the end when most would expect to be served the cheapest. The obedience given by the servants to Jesus has resulted in the best outcome.

We are all reluctant to obey. We believe we know what is best. Often we are not prudent in our thinking, but rather we are prideful. As with the unrestrained pooch in the second story, all does not end well. However, in the first story, the reluctant pet in his eventual obedience to his master’s call avoids disaster and remains in the comfort and security of his master’s loving embrace.

When God calls us from those pleasures that we find so difficult to resist, He is calling us to immeasurable joys of which we are yet unable to conceive. 


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Turning The Other Cheek

“But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” – Matthew 5:3

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, of South Africa, once was confronted by a man while walking in town. The passer-by and the archbishop were on the same sidewalk heading toward one another with only room for one to pass at a time. They stood face to face with the man not willing to allow the archbishop to pass. The man’s comment was, “I don’t move for gorillas.” With that, Archbishop Tutu, stepped aside and replied, “I do;” as he made way for the man to pass.

Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, India entered a local bakery with one of her starving children in her care. She approached the counter, tended by the owner, and asked if he could spare bread for the child. The owner, not enamored with Mother, promptly spit in her face. Mother Teresa’s responded with, “Thank you for your gift to me. Now, perhaps, some bread for the child.”

There was a man who was very good at his trade. That trade was training men to hate. At the end of the training program he felt he had accomplished his goal with ten recruits. For the final test he lined up the ten men shoulder to shoulder. He then viciously struck the first man in line across his face. Then commanded him to do the same to the man next to him. One after the other, with the same force received, each delivered an equal blow to the man next to him. When it was the sixth man’s turn he refused to carry out the command. That is when hate stops. (Archbishop Fulton K. Sheen)

“Love is rock; hatred is sand. Love is strong; hatred is weak. You can never build a relationship on hatred. Nothing is everlasting unless it is built on love.” – Fr. Leo Clifford

Did we witness here a strong response or a weak response? The answer is in what may have been gained. What appears as acquiescing is instead a courageous act. Each suffered a degrading attack, yet, by their response, opened themselves to possibly further abuse. But for what purpose? To make a point.

Anyone near enough to each event was witness to a moment of truth. All eyes turn from the attacker to the target to see how each would respond. If an argument ensued or a knock down drag out fight, all would have walked away with nothing but a bit of – par for the course – entertainment as they continued about their daily business. Yet in each case they would have witnessed the unusual, the unexpected. And that is cause for pause and pondering.

In the non-aggressive responses the eyes of those watching were opened. Opened to another means of handling hatred beyond an eye for an eye mentality. Giving the racist, the bakery owner and the trainer food for thought. For in attacking someone a second time when they did nothing to earn the first cannot be justified. With a firmness in their conviction to not inflict the abuse that they had received shows a strength that is all too often neglected. It is the strength that impels aggressors to look into their souls. And with what little remnant of conscience which is still possessed, that the world has not yet destroyed, one can then take an account of oneself with hope of seeing the truth. And having done so realizes that in every heart no matter how dark or hard there is always room enough for God’s grace to enter. Through that grace a heart can be healed and a soul saved by nurturing each through good thoughts, words and deeds.

Not all will see value in the turn the other cheek response. Nor will all who witness take with them a changed heart. But some will. And for that some, which may include the antagonist, an opportunity to change their attitudes for the better and renew their lives will not be if those who like Archbishop Tutu, Saint Mother Teresa and the trainee have not the courage and faith to stand their ground on a sound foundation of love against the evils of hatred.

Each case cited is an example of pride verses humility; vice verses virtue. Whenever selfishness and humility are found in the same company confrontation is inevitable. They are the incompatible oil and water of conflict.

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” – Matthew 10:34

 The only justifiable hatred is that which God has for evil.


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