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Thoughts and Questions About the Temptations of Jesus   1 comment

Above:  The Temptations of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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For St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia

Lent 2019

 

Texts:  Mark 1:12-13; Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13

Reading the Bible for spiritual formation is an ancient Benedictine practice.  My primary purpose in writing this short piece is to ask, how do the accounts (mainly the Lukan and Matthean ones) of the temptations of Jesus challenge us, both as individuals and a parish, to follow Jesus better than we do.

The Temptation to Turn Stones into Bread

Bread was especially precious in ancient Palestine, with relatively little arable land.

We are blessed to be able to purchase our bread inexpensively at stores.  Bread is abundant in our context, so we probably take it for granted more often than not.  We can, however, think of some tangible needs related to scarcity.

One challenge is not to permit tangible needs to overtake intangible necessities.  We all depend entirely on God and dwell within a web of mutual responsibility and dependence.  According to the late Henri Nouwen, this temptation is the temptation to be relevant.  Relevance is not necessarily bad; in fact, it is frequently positive.  However, maintaining the proper balance of tangible and intangible needs is essential.  Furthermore, Christ’s refusal to cave into the temptation to use his power to make bread—to cease to depend on God—ought to remind us never to imagine that we do not depend entirely on God.

Questions

  1. Do we permit tangible needs to distract us from intangible necessities?  If so, how?
  2. Do we manifest the vain idea that we do not depend entirely on God?  If so, how?

The Temptation to Jump from the Pinnacle of the Temple

Many scholars of the New Testament have proposed what the pinnacle of the Temple was.

That matter aside, this temptation is, according to Nouwen, the temptation to be spectacular.  It is also the temptation to attempt to manipulate God by trying to force God to intervene in a miraculous way.  That effort, like turning stones into bread, would indicate a lack of faith.

We humans frequently like the spectacular, do we not?  We tell ourselves and others that, if only God would do something spectacular, we will believe.  We are like those who, in the Gospels, only wanted Jesus to do something for them, and not to learn from him.

Questions

  1. Does our attraction to the spectacular distract us from the still, small voice of God?  If so, how?
  2. Does our attraction to the spectacular reveal our lack of faith?  If so, how?
  3. Does our attraction to the spectacular unmask our selfishness?  If so, how?

The Temptation to Worship Satan in Exchange for Earthly Authority

Many Palestinian Jews at the time of Christ thought of Satan as the power behind the Roman Empire and of the Roman pantheon as a collection of demons.  Jesus affirmed God the Father as the only source of his identity.

This temptation is about idolatry, power, and morally untenable compromises.

Many well-intentioned people—ministers, politicians, and appointed office holders, for example—have, in the name of doing good, become corrupt and sacrificed their suitability to do good.  They have sacrificed their moral integrity on the altar of amoral realism.

Some compromises are necessary, of course.  As Reinhold Niebuhr reminded us, we cannot help but commit some evil while trying to do good, for human depravity has corrupted social systems and institutions.

Questions

  1. Have we established our identity apart from God?  If so, how?
  2. How have we, with good intentions, committed or condoned evil?
  3. Have we made morally untenable compromises?  If so, how?

The Good News

The good news is both collective and individual.

I discover the principle, then:  that when I want to do right, only wrong is within my reach.  In my inmost self I delight in the law of God, but I perceive in my outward actions a different law, fighting against the law that my mind approves, and making me a prisoner under the law of sin which controls my conduct.  Wretched creature that I am, who is there to rescue me from this state of death?  Who but God?  Thanks be to him through Jesus Christ our Lord!  To sum up then:  left to myself I serve God’s law with my mind, but with my unspiritual nature I serve the law of sin.

–Romans 7:21-25, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Jesus has modeled the way to resist temptation—to trust God and to understand scripture.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF MARIE-JOSEPH LAGRANGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AGRIPINNUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT GERMANUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT DROCTOVEUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OGLIVIE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACARIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/03/10/thoughts-and-questions-about-the-temptations-of-jesus/

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The Death of Dreams and Aspirations   Leave a comment

Death of Dreams and Aspirations

Above:  The Original Text

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Loving God, who loves us, mourns with us, and rejoices with us,

the death of dreams and aspirations is among the most traumatic losses to endure.

It cuts to the emotional core of a person, causing great anguish, grief, and anger.

Regardless if the dream was indeed the one a person should have followed

(assuming that it was not morally wrong, of course),

the pain and disappointment are legitimate, I suppose.

I have known these emotions in this context more than once.

I wish them upon nobody, not even those who inflicted them upon me.

May we, by grace, function as your ministers of comfort

to those experiencing such a death or the aftermath of one

and who are near us or whom you send our way.

And may we, by grace, help others achieve their potential

and refrain from inflicting such pain upon others.

In the name of Jesus, who identified with us, suffered, died, and rose again.  Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

HOLY SATURDAY, YEAR A

Posted April 19, 2014 by neatnik2009 in 2020, April 1, April 10, April 11, April 12, April 13, April 14, April 15, April 16, April 17, April 18, April 19, April 2, April 20, April 21, April 22, April 23, April 24, April 25, April 26, April 27, April 28, April 29, April 3, April 30, April 4, April 5, April 6, April 7, April 8, April 9, Ascension, Ash Wednesday, Easter Sunday, February 10, February 11, February 12, February 13, February 14, February 15, February 16, February 17, February 18, February 19, February 20, February 21, February 22, February 23, February 24, February 25, February 26, February 27, February 28, February 29, February 4, February 5, February 6, February 7, February 8, February 9, Friday in Easter Week, Good Friday, Holy Monday, Holy Saturday-Easter Vigil, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday, June 1, June 10, June 11, June 12, June 13, June 2, June 3, June 4, June 5, June 6, June 7, June 8, June 9, March 1, March 10, March 11, March 12, March 13, March 14, March 15, March 16, March 17, March 18, March 19, March 2, March 20, March 21, March 22, March 23, March 24, March 25: Annunciation, March 26, March 27, March 28, March 29, March 3, March 30, March 31, March 4, March 5, March 6, March 7, March 8, March 9, Maundy Thursday, May 1, May 10, May 11, May 12, May 13, May 14, May 15, May 16, May 17, May 18, May 19, May 2, May 20, May 21, May 22, May 23, May 24, May 25, May 26, May 27, May 28, May 29, May 3, May 30, May 31: Visitation, May 4, May 5, May 6, May 7, May 8, May 9, Monday in Easter Week, Palm Sunday, Pentecost, Saturday in Easter Week, Thursday in Easter Week, Tuesday in Easter Week, Wednesday in Easter Week

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Devotion for the Fourth Day of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

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Above:  Jesus Blessing the Children (1891)

W21597 U.S. Copyright Office

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-01427

The Kingdom of God

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 2020

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The Collect:

Lord God, our strength, the struggle between good and evil rages within and around us,

and the devil and all the forces that defy you tempt us with empty promises.

Keep us steadfast in your word, and when we fall, raise us again and restore us

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 26

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 58:1-12

Psalm 51

Matthew 18:1-7

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Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

I shall teach your ways to the wicked,

and sinners shall return to you.

–Psalm 51:13-14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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To repent is to turn around, to change one’s mind.  Apologizing for and acknowledging error are parts of the process yet one ought never to confuse those parts of the whole.  No, repentance is active.  And action is what Isaiah 58:1-12 advises.  The mandated deeds include helping the less fortunate and bringing about justice, in contrast to the rampant economic exploitation and judicial and political corruption.

Those sins remain commonplace in contemporary societies, unfortunately.  Political corruption creates and perpetuates much poverty.  Wars lead to famines much of the time.  Judicial corruption imprisons people unjustly and places the poor accused at greater risk than the wealthy accused, who can accord bail and skilled attorneys.  Third Isaiah’s condemnations in 58:1-12 apply to my nation-state as much as they did to the kingdom in which he lived.

The greatest in the Kingdom of God, our Lord and Savior said, was as a powerless child, not anyone in a position of authority and prestige.  This profoundly counter-cultural message of nearly 2000 years ago remains just as subversive today as it was then.  God’s ways differ from dominant human standards of respectability and political legitimacy.  And witnesses from the Bible and times subsequent to its writing have reminded successive generations of our responsibilities to and for each other, especially the less fortunate and more vulnerable.  Such as these, Jesus said, are the greatest in the Kingdom of God.

I like the Kingdom of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 7, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF HERBERT F. BROKERING, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENT LIEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIBRORD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UTRECHT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/the-kingdom-of-god/

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Prayers of the People for Lent–Second Order   Leave a comment

Lent

Above:  Lent Wordle

I found the image in various places online, including here:  http://standrewauh.org/a-study-for-lent/

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The congregational response to “We pray to you, O God” is “Hear our prayer.”

We pray for the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, that it may show the face of Christ to the world and draw people to you,

We pray to you, O God.

We pray for

  • Katharine, our Presiding Bishop;
  • Robert and Keith, our Bishops; and
  • Beth, our Rector;
  • and all clergy and lay members,
  • that they may serve you faithfully,

We pray to you, O God.

We pray for

  • Barack, our President;
  • Nathan, our Governor;
  • Nancy, our Mayor; and
  • all others who hold positions of authority and influence,

that justice may prevail,

We pray to you O God.

That we may, by grace, do your will each day,

We pray to you, O God.

That all who suffer may find succor,

We pray to you, O God.

We pray for (_____) and all who have died, that they may enjoy and glorify you forever,

We pray to you, O God.

We pray for our own needs and those of others.

Congregationally specific petitions follow.

The Celebrant adds a concluding Collect.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 2, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF JESUS IN THE TEMPLE

Devotion for the Fourth Day of Lent (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, October 31, 2010

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Genesis and Mark, Part IV:  Sin and Food

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 2020

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 3:1-24

Psalm 43 (Morning)

Psalms 31 and 143 (Evening)

Mark 2:1-17

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A Related Post:

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/22/prayer-for-saturday-after-ash-wednesday/

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The LORD spoke further to Moses:  Speak to Aaron and say:  No man of your offspring throughout the ages who has a defect shall be qualified to offer the food of his God.  No one at all who has a defect shall be qualified:  no man who is blind, or lame, or has a limb too short or too long; no man who has a broken leg or a broken arm; or who is a hunchback, or a dwarf, or who has a growth in his eye, or who has a boil-scar, or scruvy, or crushed testes.  No man among the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a defect shall be qualified to offer the food of his God.  He may eat of the food of his  God, of the most holy as well as of the holy; but he shall not enter behind the curtain or come near the altar, for he has a defect.  He shall not profane the places sacred to Me, for I the LORD have sanctified them.

Thus Moses spoke to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites.

–Leviticus 21:16-24, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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On the day that you elevate the sheaf, you shall offer as a burnt offering to the LORD a lamb of the first year without blemish.

–Leviticus 23:12, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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The mythology in Genesis 3 tells  the familiar tale of the eating of forbidden fruit and of the subsequent blaming of one another for one’s sin.  In the story Adam is responsible for his sin and Eve for hers.  The cost they paid entailed exile from the Garden of Eden.

Sin is a word I hear used often.  Yet I wonder how many people know what it means.  The catechism from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer defines sin as

…the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation.  (page 848)

And, as Paragraph 705 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains,

Disfigured by sin and death, man remains “in the image of God,” in the image of the Son, but is deprived of “the glory of God,” of his “likeness.” The promise made to Abraham inaugurates the economy of salvation, at which the Son himself will assume that “image” and restore it in the Father’s “likeness” by giving it again its Glory, the Spirit who is “the giver of life.”

(The scriptural citations in the notes to this paragraph are Romans 3:23, John 1:14, and Philippians 2:7.)

Concern over maintaining the image of God provided the rationale for the list of “defects” which disqualified one from offering sacrifices to God in Leviticus 21:16-24.  And a sacrificial lamb had to be unblemished.  Furthermore, there was, at the time of Jesus, a long-standing assumed connection between sin and suffering, despite the Book of Job.  So the physically disabled and different had to cope with that attitude.  Certainly many of them internalized it.

Thus we arrive at Mark 2 and the paralyzed man with some very good friends.  Jesus treated all the man’s needs.  Our Lord, the author tells us, also attracted criticisms.  As a sign I have reads,

FOR EVERY ACTION THERE IS AN EQUAL AND OPPOSITE CRITICISM.

Next in the Markan sequence Jesus calls Levi/Matthew, literally a tax thief for the occupying forces, to be an Apostle.  Then our Lord dines with Levi/Matthew and other notorious sinners and outcast people, attracting more criticism.

Jesus liked outcasts.  So far in Mark 2, for example, he has healed one, called another to be a close associate, and dined with a group.

Table fellowship was a serious matter for observant Pharisees and other Jews.  It was a question of maintaining one’s identity as a member of a visible minority.  This fact explains much of why many early Jewish Christians insisted that Gentile converts to Christianity become Jews and obey the Law of Moses.  I propose that Jesus also took table fellowship seriously–but as a means of including people, not excluding them, as a means of associating with them, not keeping oneself apart from them.

I have heard a Russian proverb:

A good meal is not one eats but with whom one eats.

Perceptions of sin–real or imagined, depending on circumstances–need not separate us from God or each other.  We are all in the big boat of sin.  And God forgives quite often.  When God draws near, may we reciprocate.

At my parish, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, we take the Holy Eucharist each Sunday.  (The 1979 Book of Common Prayer defines taking the Holy Eucharist as the central act of Christian worship.  In pre-1979 BCP days, it was common to take communion less often than every Sunday.)  Printed in the Sunday bulletin at St. Gregory the Great Church is this invitation:

Whoever you are and wherever you are in your journey of faith, know that you are welcome to join with us at the table of the Lord and to share in the bread and wine made holy.

And it is an excellent meal.  Jesus there in the bread and wine.  And the company is excellent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURBGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH MONK AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES LEWIS MILLIGAN, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCULF OF NANTEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/genesis-and-mark-part-iv-sin-and-food/

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Before a Bible Study   Leave a comment

Above:  An Old Family Bible

Image Source = David Ball

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God of glory,

as we prepare to study the Bible,

may we approach the texts with our minds open,

our intellects engaged,

and our spirits receptive to your leading,

so that we will understand them correctly

and derive from them the appropriate lessons.

Then may we act on those lessons.

For the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Amen.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 7, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, SHEPHERD OF LUTHERANISM IN THE AMERICAN COLONIES

THE FEAST OF FRED KAAN, HYMNWRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN WOOLMAN, ABOLITIONIST

Posted October 7, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 2020, April 1, April 10, April 11, April 12, April 13, April 14, April 15, April 16, April 17, April 18, April 19, April 2, April 20, April 21, April 22, April 23, April 24, April 25, April 26, April 27, April 28, April 29, April 3, April 30, April 4, April 5, April 6, April 7, April 8, April 9, Ascension, Ash Wednesday, Easter Sunday, February 10, February 11, February 12, February 13, February 14, February 15, February 16, February 17, February 18, February 19, February 20, February 21, February 22, February 23, February 24, February 25, February 26, February 27, February 28, February 29, February 4, February 5, February 6, February 7, February 8, February 9, Friday in Easter Week, Good Friday, Holy Monday, Holy Saturday-Easter Vigil, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday, June 1, June 10, June 11, June 12, June 13, June 2, June 3, June 4, June 5, June 6, June 7, June 8, June 9, March 1, March 10, March 11, March 12, March 13, March 14, March 15, March 16, March 17, March 18, March 19, March 2, March 20, March 21, March 22, March 23, March 24, March 25: Annunciation, March 26, March 27, March 28, March 29, March 3, March 30, March 31, March 4, March 5, March 6, March 7, March 8, March 9, Maundy Thursday, May 1, May 10, May 11, May 12, May 13, May 14, May 15, May 16, May 17, May 18, May 19, May 2, May 20, May 21, May 22, May 23, May 24, May 25, May 26, May 27, May 28, May 29, May 3, May 30, May 31: Visitation, May 4, May 5, May 6, May 7, May 8, May 9, Monday in Easter Week, Palm Sunday, Pentecost, Saturday in Easter Week, Thursday in Easter Week, Tuesday in Easter Week, Wednesday in Easter Week

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A Prayer for Proper Priorities   Leave a comment

Above:  A Scene from the March for Troy Davis, September 16, 2011

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

(https://picasaweb.google.com/114749828757741527421/MarchForTroyDavis#5653438224111695570)

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God of justice,

may we have proper priorities.

Taking our cues from the prophets and Jesus,

may we eschew idolatry,

love you fully,

love our neighbors as we love ourselves,

care for widows and orphans,

plead their cases,

feed the hungry,

clothe the naked,

visit the sick and the imprisoned,

resist and condemn judicial corruption and other official injustice,

and value the most vulnerable members of society.

May we love the unloved,

comfort the comfortless,

give hope to the hopeless,

include the improperly excluded,

and recognize your image in each other.

May we succeed by grace and for your glory and our common good.

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 22, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS OF VILLANOVA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF VALENCIA

THE FEAST OF PHILANDER CHASE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

Posted September 22, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 2020, April 1, April 10, April 11, April 12, April 13, April 14, April 15, April 16, April 17, April 18, April 19, April 2, April 20, April 21, April 22, April 23, April 24, April 25, April 26, April 27, April 28, April 29, April 3, April 30, April 4, April 5, April 6, April 7, April 8, April 9, Ascension, Ash Wednesday, Easter Sunday, February 10, February 11, February 12, February 13, February 14, February 15, February 16, February 17, February 18, February 19, February 20, February 21, February 22, February 23, February 24, February 25, February 26, February 27, February 28, February 29, February 4, February 5, February 6, February 7, February 8, February 9, Friday in Easter Week, Good Friday, Holy Monday, Holy Saturday-Easter Vigil, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday, June 1, June 10, June 11, June 12, June 13, June 2, June 3, June 4, June 5, June 6, June 7, June 8, June 9, March 1, March 10, March 11, March 12, March 13, March 14, March 15, March 16, March 17, March 18, March 19, March 2, March 20, March 21, March 22, March 23, March 24, March 25: Annunciation, March 26, March 27, March 28, March 29, March 3, March 30, March 31, March 4, March 5, March 6, March 7, March 8, March 9, Maundy Thursday, May 1, May 10, May 11, May 12, May 13, May 14, May 15, May 16, May 17, May 18, May 19, May 2, May 20, May 21, May 22, May 23, May 24, May 25, May 26, May 27, May 28, May 29, May 3, May 30, May 31: Visitation, May 4, May 5, May 6, May 7, May 8, May 9, Monday in Easter Week, Palm Sunday, Pentecost, Saturday in Easter Week, Thursday in Easter Week, Tuesday in Easter Week, Wednesday in Easter Week

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