Monday, March 30, 2015

March 30 Reflection by Father Robert Barron

St. Mark tells us that Jesus approached the Holy City of Jerusalem from the east: "When Jesus and his disciples drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives..." The Mount of Olives was just to the east of Jerusalem, and Bethphage and Bethany were on the eastern slope of the Mount.

Why in the world would the direction of his approach be important? Well, in the prophet Ezekiel, we hear that, because of the corruption of the Temple, the glory of the Lord had departed. This was one of the most devastating events in all of the Old Testament, for the Temple of the Lord was, in practically a literal sense, the dwelling place of Yahweh. To imagine that the glory of the Lord had quit the Temple was shocking in the extreme.

However, Ezekiel prophesied that one day the Lord would return to the Temple, and from the same direction by which he departed. Upon the return of the glory of Yahweh, Ezekiel predicted, the Temple would be rebuilt, reconstituted.

Pious Jews in Jesus' time certainly knew these texts. As they watched Jesus, they couldn't help but think of them, because Jesus proclaimed himself the true Temple: "You have a greater than the Temple here." And then see what Mark saw: Jesus approaching the old Temple from the east, just as Ezekiel said the glory of Yahweh would approach the Temple. Jesus, speaking and acting in the very person of God, is the glory of Yahweh taking possession of his house.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday by Father Robert Barron

On this Palm Sunday, I should like to reflect on a King and an ass. A donkey, an ass, was in Jesus time much what it is today: a humble, simple, unassuming little animal, used by very ordinary people to do their work. The wealthy and powerful might own horses or a team of oxen and a political leader might ride a stately steed, but none of them would have anything to do with donkeys.

All of his public career, Jesus had resisted when people called him the Messiah. He sternly ordered them to be silent. When they came to carry him off and make him King, he slipped away. But he is willing to accept these titles precisely at the moment when he rides into Jerusalem on an ass. The Gospel is clear: this is not only an ass; it is a colt, the foal of an ass, on whom no one had ever previously sat. This is a young, inexperienced, unimpressive donkey. And this is the animal upon whom Jesus rides into town in triumph.

This is no ordinary King; this is not the Messiah that they expected.

Now let us look even more closely at the ass. Jesus tells two of his disciples to go into a neighboring town and to find this beast of burden. "If anyone asks, respond, 'the Master has need of it.'" The humble donkey, pressed into service, is a model of discipleship. Our purpose in life is not to draw attention to ourselves, to have a brilliant career, to aggrandize our egos; rather our purpose is to serve the Master's need, to cooperate, as he sees fit, with his work.

What was the donkey's task? He was a Christopher, a Christ-bearer. He carried the Lord into Jerusalem, paving the way for the passion and the redemption of the world. Would anyone have particularly noticed him? Probably not, except perhaps to laugh at this ludicrous animal.

The task of every disciple is just the same: to be a Christopher, a bearer of Christ to the world. Might we be unnoticed in this? Yes. Might we be laughed at? Of course. But the Master has need of us and so we perform our essential task.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Saturday March 28 Reflection by Father Robert Barron

With Jesus Christ, something altogether new has entered the world, something that is deeply pleasing to God and therefore of salvific significance to us. Called "redemptive suffering," it is beautifully stated in the first letter of Peter: "If you put up with suffering for doing what is right, this is acceptable in God's eyes. It was for this that you were called, since Christ suffered for you in just this way and left you an example to have you follow in his footsteps."

What, precisely, is redemptive suffering? Well, it is not just suffering per se. Suppose you are being physically abused; suppose you are being economically and politically oppressed, and you suffer. That's just suffering, plain and simple - and there is nothing good about it. Nor is it the suffering that comes from resisting evil through violence. That has its place - as a last resort - but that is not redemptive suffering. It might be morally justified or even heroic, but it is not redemptive.

Redemptive suffering is what Jesus did on the cross: putting up with suffering for doing what is right. This is pleasing in God's eyes, precisely because it is redemptive for the world, precisely because it takes away something that God hates.

How does it work? Well, it is not tantamount to being a doormat in the presence of evil or just allowing oneself to be walked on. It always involves a clear naming of the violence or injustice or disorder. It entails speaking the truth publicly and unambiguously. And then it is being willing to suffer the effects of the injustice or violence.

What does this do? It allows the perpetrator of the injustice (and the whole world) to see what his violence has done, to really see it. And it signals that the sufferer of the injustice is living in an entirely different spiritual space.

Redemptive suffering literally redeems (i.e., buys back) the perpetrator of injustice.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Thursday March 19 Reflection for Lent by Father robert Barron


Lent Day 30 – Beasts of the Earth

by Fr. Robert Barron

During Lent, we may spend time doing battle with what we call our “animal passions.” But this may not be the right way to put it because God’s covenant is made, not just with men and women, but with the animals as well.

I know this sounds strange to us, but that is because we are the heirs of modernity, a philosophical movement that tends to separate human beings radically from other animals and from nature. Modernity sees them as, at best, things that might serve us or be mastered by us. But God has a much more integrated vision of things. All creatures, coming forth from God, are ontological siblings—brothers and sisters of the same Father. In finding oneness with God, we find, ipso facto, oneness with the rest of creation.
This idea is reflected in much of the great tradition prior to modernity. St. Thomas Aquinas says that vegetable, plants, and animals are ensouled like us. In fact, the word “animal” just means “thing with an anima [a soul]”. Thomas saw us as part of a great chain or hierarchy of being. But for the modern consciousness, we are disconnected from this chain. We have so mastered nature that we are, effectively, alienated from it.
In biblical terms, this alienation is an outgrowth of sin. Sin is the caving in on oneself, prompted by fear and pride, effectively cutting us off from each other. But sin also cuts us off from the non-human world around us. It cuts us off from our love for it, our curiosity about it, our care for it, and our fascination with it.
But Jesus, in his own person, joins together the disparate elements of creation, the spiritual and the material, angels and wild beasts. He brings them together and re-links the chain of being.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


FW: Elections - Chesterfield, NJ

Sisters Left to right -Miriam, Etta and Barbara
Sister Miriam asked me to email you with the good news of our Elections:
Abbess Sister Etta Patton
Vicaress Sister Miriam
Councilor Sister Barbara

We thank them for their williness to serve the community
and to help us follow the Gospel Way of Life
after our Mother Saint Clare
and promise of prayers





Tuesday march 17 Reflection by Father Robert Barron

Father Robert Barron
The story of Lazarus is rich in meaning for us, especially during Lent. At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus "groaned in spirit." Jesus' trouble here is the result of his identification with sinful humanity. He goes all the way to the bottom of it, letting its truth affect him. Jesus does not just love us abstractly or from a distance. He comes close to us.

More to the point, this groaning of Jesus signals the pain that God feels at our imprisonment. If his glory is our being fully alive, then his agony is tied to our sin. How salvific it can be to listen to this groaning of the Lord at our own lack of life.

In the same vein, Jesus weeps for his friend. There is something heartbreaking about this for it is the only time in the Scripture that Jesus is described as weeping. Whatever form death takes within us - physical, psychological, spiritual - it is something deeply troubling to God.

One detail is particularly moving: Jesus asks, "Where have you laid him?" Sin alienates us from our God, making us strangers to him. Just as in the book of Genesis, God looked for Adam and Eve, who were hiding from him, so here God incarnate doesn't know where his friend Lazarus is.

Then the Lord comes to the tomb. We hear that it was a cave with a stone laid across it. When things are dead, we bury them away, we hide them. When we feel spiritually dead, we lock ourselves up in the darkness of our own anxiety and egotism and fear. But there is a power, a divine power, sent into this world whose very purpose is to break through all such stones. "Lazarus, come out!" Are there any words more beautiful and stirring in the whole New Testament? From whatever grave we are lying in, Jesus calls us out.

"And the dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth." Lazarus comes out with all of the signs of death still clinging to him. So Jesus says "Untie him and let him go." Here we see it: Whatever limits, binds, controls, orders, dominates us - these are the enemies of God.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Monday March 16 Reflection by Father Robert Barron

LENT DAY 27 - LAZARUS, COME OUT! by Father Robert Barron
Jesus raises three people from the dead in the Gospel stories: the daughter of Jairus, the son of the widow of Naim, and Lazarus. In the symbolic language of the Gospels, these physical resuscitations are evocative of raisings from sin to spiritual health.

First, St. Augustine says that the young daughter of Jairus, who dies inside her house, symbolizes the sin that takes place in our thoughts and our hearts. That sin has not yet borne fruit in action.

Second, the dead son of the widow of Naim, carried to the gate of the house, represents sin that has expressed itself concretely in action. This dead man is raised and given back to his mother, who stands for the Church.

Thirdly, and most drastically, we have the case of Lazarus. He stands for the worst kind of moral and spiritual corruption, sin that has been expressed in the world and become embedded in evil custom and habit. This is the rot that has really set in, producing a spiritual stink.

In the Gospel of John, the raising of Lazarus takes place just before the Passion, just before the climactic moment when Jesus defeats death by succumbing to it. When told that Lazarus has died, Jesus says, "Our beloved Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to wake him." With these words, he signifies we are in a new world. Within the confines of the old world, the old consciousness, death is ultimate, and its very finality gives it its power. However, by referring to it as "sleep," Jesus is signaling that through God's power and purpose, death is not ultimate; it is not the final word.

When Jesus first arrives at Bethany, he learns that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. This is to signal that there is no mistake; the man is truly and definitively dead. But it is no concern for the one who transcends both space and time, whose power stretches beyond life and death as we know them.

Martha comes out to meet Jesus and indicates her incipient belief in his identity and power: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother never would have died. Even now, I am sure that God will give you whatever you ask him." Jesus replies, "Your brother will rise again...I am the resurrection and the life." God hates death and doesn't want its phony finality to ruin human life.

Coming to Lazarus's tomb, Jesus feels the deepest emotions and begins to weep. This is God entering into the darkness and confusion and agony of the death of sinners. He doesn't blithely stand above our situation, but rather takes it on and feels it. But then, like a warrior, he approaches the enemy. "Take away the stone," he directs.

Those who are stuck within the confines of this world protest, "Lord, surely there will be a stench." They are essentially saying, "Don't mess with death; you can't reverse it. Its power is final."

But Jesus is undaunted. He commands, "Lazarus, come out!" This is the voice, not simply of a hopeful human being, not simply of a great religious figure; this is the voice of God who hates death and has dominion over it. And therefore, "The dead man came out." Jesus then orders the onlookers to, "Untie him and let him go free."

That command still echoes today. Just as he did with Lazarus, Jesus sets us free from death and the ways of death.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Saturday Lent Reflection by Father Robert Barron

LENT DAY 25 - SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS by Father Robert Barron
During Lent we are often asked to confront our spiritual blindness. One story from the Gospels, about the man blind from birth, offers us new perspective.

The first thing to note is that the blind man symbolizes all of us. We are all blind from birth, affected negatively by original sin.

What does Jesus do when he confronts this man? He announces who he is: "I am the light of the world." In John's Gospel there are a series of "I am" statements: "I am the bread of life; I am the Good Shepherd; I am the way, the truth and the life." And here he issues another of those powerful claims: "I am the light."

Jesus is the way to see. When we are grafted onto him, when we assume his mind and his attitude, when we live his life, we are able to see the world as it is, and not through the distorting lens of our fear and our hatred.

In the story, Jesus makes a mud paste by spitting on the ground. Many Church Fathers saw this as the mixing of divinity and humanity (the Incarnation) which effectively saves us. God bends low in order to show us what he looks like. Then he smears the paste on the man's eyes becoming the salvator, the bearer of the salve. After the man washes in the pool of Siloam, he comes back and he is able to see.

Now at this point, we would expect that everyone around the cured man would rejoice, but just the contrary; they are infuriated and confounded. The Pharisees try first to deny that a real healing took place: "He is not really the one; he just looks like him." But the man himself corrects them, "No, I'm the one alright."

Then they try to tie him up in legal knots. "This man cured on a Sabbath; only sinners cure on the Sabbath; therefore, your cure came from an evil source." Once more, the man's response is a masterpiece of constraint and understatement: "I don't know whether he was a sinner or not; all I know is that I was blind and now I see."

Why are the Pharisees so reactive? Why don't they want this man to be cured? I suggest it's because we sinners don't like the ways of God; we find them troubling and threatening because they undermine the games of oppression and exclusion that we rely upon in order to boost our own egos.

But God doesn't come to play these games. He comes to help us see.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Thursday March 12 Reflection by Father Robert Barron

LENT DAY 23 - GOD OF THE NATIONS- by Father Robert Barron
While we take comfort from much of the Bible's message, the Bible is not always comforting news. It often carries a message of warning and danger. During this penitential season, it's good for us to attend to the darker side of the biblical message.

When we read about the pollution of the Lord's Temple, we discover a familiar prophetic theme: the people have wandered from the ways of God, rendering impure what God intends to be just and upright. God sends prophet after prophet in order to bring his people back, but they are ignored, mocked, and rejected. Then God's judgment falls on the unfaithful nation.

What is the instrument of God's justice? In one case, it was the Chaldeans, one of the heathen nations. They came and destroyed the city of Jerusalem, burned the Temple, carried off its most sacred objects, and led the people into exile.

What was this? Dumb bad luck? Just the give and take of geo-political forces? No! The Bible insists that this should be read as God's action, more specifically, as God's judgment and punishment. How at odds this is with the typically modern Enlightenment view, according to which religion is a private matter, confined to the heart and the mind of the individual. For the biblical authors, God is the Lord of history and time, and hence the Lord of nations and the Lord of nature. His works and actions must be discerned in all events.

If you want an example of a boldly theological reading of political events, look to Karl Barth, widely considered one of the greatest Protestant theologians of the twentieth century. At the start of the First World War, Barth was a country pastor in Switzerland who had been trained in the confident liberal theology that was all the rage around the turn of the last century. This theology shared the common view that with the rise of the natural sciences, the development of technology, and with political and cultural liberation, human beings could build the Kingdom of God here on earth.

From the quiet of his parsonage in Switzerland, Barth followed the horrors of the First World War, the slaughter of hundreds of thousands, the devastation of nations, the collapse of the European social order. Then something dawned on him: it was precisely the inflated self-regard and hubris of nineteenth-century liberalism that led to this disaster.

He saw the European powers as descendants of the Tower of Babel builders, attempting to reach up to God on their own terms and in their own way. Behind the sunny confidence of the liberal period, he discerned arrogance, imperialism, and colonialism. The advances of science were made possible through the rape of the environment and economic comfort for some was made possible through the enslavement of others.

In the end, bad personal habits have bad consequences, but bad national habits have bad consequences as well.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wednesday March 11, Reflection by Father Robert Barron

by Father Robert Barron
When reading about the Cleansing of the Temple, we might assume this was the first time in Jewish history that the Temple had been defiled and needed fixing. But that isn't the case. In the second book of Chronicles we read, "...the princes of Judah, the priests, and the people added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the Lord's temple."

This is the tragedy of Israelite history. The nation that was supposed to be the bearer of God's holiness had become unholy. The Temple, which was meant to be the dwelling place of God, had become an abomination.

But did God give up? No, he sent messenger after messenger to the people, calling them back to holiness. Isaiah, Hosea, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, and Elijah - all of them were the messengers of God, summoning Israel back to fidelity, "because he had compassion on his people."

Still Israel remained faithless: "But they mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets." At which point the anger of the Lord was awakened.

God's anger is not God's emotional temper tantrum; it is the divine passion to set things right. Sometimes when things get too bad, they just have to be cleaned out. Remedies and halfway measures don't work: a thorough cleansing is called for. Therefore God uses secondary causes in order to realize his will: "Their enemies burnt the house of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, set all its palaces afire and destroyed all its precious objects. Those who escaped the sword were carried captive to Babylon."

What does this have to do with us? It helps us interpret our own catastrophes. What does it mean when a marriage falls apart or a loved one is killed? How about when we lose our job or our Church is rocked with scandal? Might there be a cleansing going on in these cases, something purifying and clarifying?

In the Bible, the negative is always in service of a greater positive. But it happens in God's way, on God's timetable. This means we should never despair; never give up even when catastrophe strikes. The entire process is being watched and supervised by God.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tuesday March 10 - Reflection for Lent by Father Robert Barron

For The People of the Cross
Father Robert Barron
The Ten Commandments are divided into two sets. The first three deal with our relationship to God and how to worship him, and then, following from these commandments, comes a whole series of commandments concerning our relationship with other people.

As we enter into the heart of Lent, reflecting on how we keep these commands can become the impetus to deepen our commitment to the Lord.

"Honor your father and your mother." What is the quality of your relationship with those who are nearest and dearest to you? If things are off there, they are probably off everywhere else.

"You shall not kill." Very few of us have actually killed another person, but what is the role that violence plays in your life? What is the quality of your temper? Have you effectively killed people, that is to say, rendered them lifeless? Do you enhance the lives of those around you, or are people less alive after they've been with you?

"You shall not commit adultery." The Bible is not obsessed with sex, but it does recognize the importance of our sexuality in the moral sphere. Much of our popular culture wants to teach us that sex is basically amoral, a matter, finally, of indifference. As long as you're not hurting anyone, so says the culture, anything goes. But sex, like every other part of us, is meant to serve love, to become a gift. Is your sex life self-indulgent, simply for the sake of your pleasure? Do you lust after others, using them for your own sexual satisfaction? Do you practice forms of sex that are simply perverse?

"You shall not steal." Do you steal other's property, even very small things like little amounts of money? Do you steal someone's good name and reputation through gossip?

"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." What is the quality of your speech? How much time do you spend inveighing against your neighbor, even making things up to make him look bad?

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house or wife." The philosopher René Girard suggests that we imitate other people's desires, wanting things simply because other people want them. This can easily lead to conflict and dysfunction. What is it that you are coveting in your life, especially that which others have or desire?

This Lent, suppose that Jesus has made a whip of cords, knotted with the Ten Commandments. What would he clear out of you?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Thursday March 5 Reflection for Lent by Father Robert Barron

By Father  Robert Barron
We've mentioned before how Moses and Elijah represent the Law and the Prophets, but there is more to their appearance at the Transfiguration than just a symbolic representation or shorthand for the Jewish Scriptures. They give us additional insights into the nature of prayer.

Recall that the text says, "behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah..." When you pray, you step out of the ordinary world of space and time and enter into the properly eternal realm of God. This means that you can come into contact with the past and the future. You establish contact with what the Church calls "the communion of saints," all those friends of God over the centuries. We speak of invoking the saints, speaking with them, seeking their help and intercession. This is not just pious talk. It is the metaphysics of eternity.

But what precisely are Jesus, Moses, and Elijah talking about? The answer is "...his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem." We notice first of all the wonderful thematic connection between the Exodus that Moses led - a journey from slavery to freedom - and the exodus that Jesus would accomplish on the cross, a journey from sin and death to resurrection.

In both cases, it is a great work of liberation and life-giving love, and this is key. The fruit of prayer in the Biblical tradition is action on behalf of the world. We are, essentially, a mission religion. Even the highest moments of mystical union are meant to conduce to doing God's work in the world, to becoming a conduit of the divine grace. This is why Peter's line is so important: "Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

As Luke points out immediately, "But he did not know what he was saying." The point of prayer is not to stay on the mountain. It is not to cling to mystical experience, however wonderful. It is to become radiant with the divine light so as to share it with the world. And this is why the voice from the cloud, once it identified Jesus, specified, "Listen to him."

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Wednesday March 4 Lenten Reflection by Father Robert Barron

by Father Robert Barron
As we continue our Lenten meditations, I would like use the story of the Transfiguration as an occasion to reflect on the nature of prayer. Studies show that prayer is a very common activity. Even many of those who profess no belief in God pray!

But what precisely is prayer - or better, what ought it to be? The Transfiguration is extremely instructive. We hear that Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him "up the mountain to pray." Now, as we've said before, mountains are standard Biblical places of encounter with God, with the Yahweh who was imagined as living in the sky. So the higher you go, the closer you come to God.

We don't have to be literal about this, but we should unpack its symbolic sense. In order to commune with God, you have to step out of your every day, workaday world. The mountain symbolizes transcendence, otherness, the realm of God.

Your mountain could be church, a special room in your house, the car, a corner of the natural world. But it has to be someplace where you have stepped out of your ordinary business. And you have to take the time to do it. Jesus and his friends literally stepped away in order to pray.

The text then says, "While he was praying, his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white." The reference here is to Moses whose face was transfigured after he communed with God on Mt. Sinai. But the luminosity is meant in general to signal the invasion of God.

In the depths of prayer, when you have achieved a communion with the Lord, the light of God's presence is kindled deep inside of you, at the very core of your existence. And then it begins to radiate out through the whole of your being. That's why it is so important that Luke mentions the clothing of Jesus becoming dazzling white. Clothes evoke one's contact with the outside world. The God discovered in prayer should radiate out through you to the world, so that you become a source of illumination.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tuesday March 3 Father Robert Barron's Reflection

To the People of the Cross
At the Transfiguration, Moses was there representing the law and Elijah was there representing the prophets. But why were Peter, James, and John present? And what does this event mean to us today?

St. Thomas Aquinas devotes an entire section in his Summa theologiae to this event. His treatment sums up much of the wisdom of the Fathers, so looking at his reflections may give us some answers.

Aquinas says that it was fitting that Christ be manifested in his glory because those who are walking an arduous path need a clear sense of the goal of their journey. The arduous path is this life, with all of its attendant sufferings, failures, setbacks, disappointments, and injustices, and its goal is heavenly glory, fullness of life with God, the transformation of our bodies.

As he makes his way toward the cross, Jesus accordingly allows, for a brief time, his glory to shine through, the radiance of his divinity to appear. We are not meant finally for this world. This event is meant to awaken our sense of wonder at the world to come.

Next, Aquinas asks about the "light" or the "glory" that envelops Christ during the Transfiguration. It "shines." Why have people, trans-historically and trans-culturally, associated holiness with light? Well, light is that by which we see, that which illumines and clarifies. But at bottom it is the fact that light is beautiful. Beautiful things shine. Aquinas says that Jesus, at the Transfiguration, began to shine with the radiance of heaven so as to entrance us with the prospect of our own transfiguration.

Finally, Aquinas talks about the witnesses to the Transfiguration, namely Peter, James, John, Moses, and Elijah. Moses stands for the Law. Jesus recapitulates, perfects, and illumines the Mosaic law: "I have come not to abolish the law but to fulfill it." Christ is the new Moses, the new Lawgiver.

Similarly, Elijah stands for the prophets; he was the greatest of the prophets. The prophets spoke the words of God; Jesus is the Word of God. Therefore, the prophetic books are read in his light.

But why is Peter there? Because, says Aquinas, he loved the Lord the most. Why is John there? Because the Lord loved him the most. Why is James there? Because he was the first of the Apostles to die for his faith.

Who gets access to the glory of Jesus? Those who are tied to him through love.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Monday -March 2 Reflection for Lent by Father Robert Barron

The Transfiguration was, obviously, of great importance for the first Christians. We've been talking about how the early Church related it to the Akeda so let's take a deeper look at its Biblical framework.

The Transfiguration takes place on a mountain, and this right away places it in relation to the Old Testament. Abraham is willing to sacrifice his son on a mountain; Noah's ark comes to rest on Mt. Ararat; the law is given to Moses on Mt. Sinai; Elijah challenges the priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel; Jerusalem is built on the top of Mt. Zion. Mountains are places of encounter with God.

In the New Testament, Jesus gives the law on a mountain, the Sermon on the Mount; he dies on Mt. Calvary; and, in a climactic moment in his public life, he brings three of his disciples to the top of a mountain - and there he is transfigured before them.

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