Archive for the ‘Blasphemy’ Tag

Devotion for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Jonah Preaching to the Ninevites

Image in the Public Domain

The Inner Jonah, Part III

MARCH 31, 2019

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The Collect:

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 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:

Jonah 3

Psalm 143

Philippians 3:7-21

Matthew 26:57-68

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The reading from Matthew 26 depicts a scene of perfidy.  Religious leaders, in violation of the Law of Moses, seek false testimony (a capital offense, at least theoretically) to send Jesus to his execution, we read.  Their charge against him is blasphemy, a capital offense, according to Leviticus 24:16.

These men were really defending their power base as they committed a great sin.  Yet God used their actions to work abundant grace, culminated, in a few days, in the resurrection.  Those religious leaders must have had some interesting private discussions about that.

Divine grace is so abundant that it falls upon individuals as well as groups, and believers as well as heathens.  Grace calls us to repentance.  We all need to repent–to turn our backs to sin–daily.

Each of us has an inner Jonah.  We rejoice when God extends mercy to us and people similar to ourselves, but we, like some of the psalmists, want God to smite our enemies.  God loves them too, however.  God rejoices when they repent; so should we.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 24, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS SELNECKER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JACKSON KEMPER, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH MARY MELLISH (A.K.A. MOTHER EDITH), FOUNDRESS OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE SACRED NAME

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/05/24/the-inner-jonah-part-iii/

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Devotion for Pentecost Sunday (Year D)   1 comment

icon-of-aaron

Above:  Icon of Aaron

Image in the Public Domain

Speech and Grace

JUNE 1, 2020

DURING THE SEASON AFTER PENTECOST

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The Collect:

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 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:

Exodus 4:1-17 or Deuteronomy 5:1-33 or Deuteronomy 31:23-29 or Daniel 12:1-13

Psalm 119:113-136

Matthew 10:9-23 or Luke 12:1-12

2 Corinthians 11:1-12:1

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If we love God, we will keep divine commandments, the summary of which is to love God with our whole selves and to practice the Golden Rule.  Details of those generalizations tend to be culturally specific, but the principles are timeless.  We cannot keep divine commandments all the time, but we can be aware of the mandate to obey God, try to obey, and trust in the faithfulness of God.  We will have help for our vocations from God.  This help might arrive via human beings or directly from God.  Furthermore, circumstances might be quite treacherous and we might suffer and/or die, but God will never abandon those who are faithful.

Appropriately a recurring theme in some of the assigned readings for this day is speaking.  To be precise, God sends Aaron to speak for Moses and the Holy Spirit to speak through persecuted Christians.  Speech is powerful; it can build up or tear down.  Speech can inspire people to greatness and positive action or convince them that all hope is lost or that they should act negatively.  It can glorify God or blaspheme against the Holy Spirit.  Speech can exonerate or convict the innocent.  It can bless or curse.  Speech can elevate a situation with beauty and profundity or downgrade it with vulgarity.

Out of the same mouth come praise and curses.  This should not be so, my friends.  Does a fountain flow with both fresh and brackish water from the same outlet?  My friends, can a fig tree produce olives, or a grape vine produce figs?  No more can salt water produce fresh.

–James 3:10-12, The Revised English Bible (1989)

May we glorify God via our words and deeds, and may God speak and act through us.  Grace is free yet never cheap; it will cost us something.  Grace will require us to sacrifice that which detracts and distracts from glorifying God.  Grace will also never abandon us and will flow through us to benefit others and glorify God.  Will we be willing vehicles of grace?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN DOBER, MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER; JOHANN LEONHARD DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; AND ANNA SCHINDLER DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDITH CAVELL, NURSE AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT NECTARIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ARCHBISHOP

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/speech-and-grace/

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Devotion for Easter Sunday Morning (Year D)   1 comment

angel-in-the-tomb

Above:  The Angel in Christ’s Tomb

Image in the Public Domain

Divine Power and Perfect Love

APRIL 12, 2020

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The Collect:

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 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:

Deuteronomy 7:1-26

Psalms 71:15-24 or Psalm 75 or Psalm 76

John 5:19-30

2 Corinthians 1:1-17 (18-22) or Philippians 1:1-2 (3-11) 12-20

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Concepts of God interest me.  God, we read, delivers the faithful (sometimes).  On other occasions, faithful people suffer for the sake of righteousness, without deliverance.  God is a judge, we read, but God also acts mercifully and finds the Hebrew people attractive, despite the record of murmuring, of committing idolatry, and of committing other violations of the Law of Moses.

Deuteronomy 7, placed in the mouth of Moses long after his death, commands Hebrews to destroy the people of Canaan, not to marry them or to come under their influence otherwise.  That is a description of genocide.  That is something I cannot imaging Jesus advocating.  When I read Deuteronomy 7 I do so through the lenses of what the late Donald Armentrout called “Gospel glasses.”  To do otherwise would be for me to be disingenuous as a Christian.

Jesus died violently for a set of reasons.  Among them was the fact that some people considered him to be an enemy of God.  After all, Leviticus 24 orders the execution of blasphemers.  If I am to be consistent while condemning the execution of alleged blasphemers in the Islamic world because of my values of religious toleration and of attempting to emulate Christ, I must also condemn such violence committed in the name of God in the Jewish and Christian traditions.

One meaning of the crucifixion is that human beings executed Jesus unjustly.  One meaning of the resurrection is that God defeated the evil plans of those human beings–not with violence, but with power and perfect love.

May we leave terminal retribution to God, whose judgment is infinitely better than ours, and of whom mercy is also a quality.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/divine-power-and-perfect-love/

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Devotion for Palm Sunday (Year D)   1 comment

entry-into-jerusalem-giotto

Above:  Entry Into Jerusalem, by Giotto

Image in the Public Domain

The Sin of Religious Violence

APRIL 5, 2020

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The Collect:

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 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:

Deuteronomy 11:1-17 or Isaiah 43:8-15

Psalm 94 or 35

John 8:48-59

Romans 1:8-15 (16-17) 18-32; 2:1-11 or Galatians 6:1-6 (7-16) 17-18

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Accuse my accuser of Yahweh,

attack my attackers.

–Psalm 35:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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That verse summarizes much of Psalms 35 and 94.  The plea of the persecuted for God to smite their enemies, although understandable and predictable, but it is inconsistent with our Lord and Savior’s commandment to love our enemies and to pray for our persecutors (Matthew 5:43).  Sometimes divine smiting of evildoers is a necessary part of a rescue operation, for some persecutors refuse to repent.  Nevertheless, I suspect that God’s preference is that all people repent of their sins and amend their lives.

We read in Deuteronomy 11 (placed in the mouth of Moses long after his death) of the importance of following divine laws–or else.  Then, in Isaiah 43, set in the latter phase of the Babylonian Exile, which, according to the Biblical narrative, resulted from failure to obey that law code, we read of impending deliverance by God from enemies.  Both readings remind us of what God has done for the Hebrews out of grace.  Grace, although free, is never cheap, for it requires a faithful response to God.  We are free in God to serve God, not be slaves to sin.  We are free in God to live as vehicles of grace, not to indulge inappropriate appetites.  We are free in God to lay aside illusions of righteousness, to express our penitence, and to turn our backs on–to repent of–our sins.

This is a devotion for Palm Sunday.  We read in John 8 that some Jews at Jerusalem sought to stone Jesus as a blasphemer (verse 59).  I suppose that they thought they were acting in accordance with Leviticus 24:10-23.  Later in the Fourth Gospel (Chapters 18 and 19) certain religious authority figures are complicit in his death–as a scapegoat (11:47-53).

This desire to kill those who offend our religious sensibilities strongly is dangerous for everyone.  It is certainly perilous for those who suffer because of it.  Furthermore, such violence causes spiritual harm to those who commit it.  And what if one’s judgment is wrong?  One has committed a most serious offense before God.  This tendency toward religious violence exists in various traditions, has a shameful past and an inexcusable present reality, and does nothing inherently to glorify God.  In fact, it detracts from the glory of God.  That God can work through such abominations committed in His name testifies to divine sovereignty.  Exhibit A is the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/the-sin-of-religious-violence/

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Devotion for the First Sunday in Lent (Year D)   1 comment

ezra-reads-the-law-to-the-people

Above:  Ezra Reads the Law to the People, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

The Sin of Favoritism

MARCH 1, 2020

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The Collect:

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 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:

Deuteronomy 10:12-22 or Nehemiah 9:1-38

Psalm 6

John 7:1-13

Galatians 2:1-14 (15-21) or Galatians 1:1-24 or James 1:1-16 (17-27) or James 1:17-2:10 (2:11-13)

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The life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was under threat in John 7.  He was, according to certain critics, a blasphemer.  Those critics knew Leviticus 24:10-23 well; the punishment for blasphemy is death (by stoning).  Saul of Tarsus, the future St. Paul the Apostle, thought that he was acting righteously when he stood by during the death of at least one Christian.  Then he learned that he was wrong, that God showed no partiality or favoritism among the faithful, whether Jew or Gentile.

That caution against spiritual arrogance–sometimes expressed violently–is evident also in James 1 and 2.  There we read that we have divine instructions to be impartial.  To treat a prominent or wealthy person better than a poor person is impious, we read.  The text also reminds us of the obligation to treat the poor and the vulnerable justly and with respect, thereby echoing Deuteronomy 10.  Society and social institutions do, as a rule, favor the well-off and penalize the poor, do they not?  This is societal sin.

Societal remorse for and repentance of this point and others would be nice.  The scene in Nehemiah 9 follows the reading of the Law of Moses to Jews in Jerusalem after the end of the Babylonian Exile.  Many people, upon hearing what they should have been doing, felt guilty and wept.  Their leaders told them to rejoice in God (Nehemiah 8:9-12).  Then the people fasted and confessed their sins.  Next, in Chapter 10, they repented–turned their backs on their sins.

I want my society to express remorse for exploiting all vulnerable people, sometimes violently..  I want my society not to weep but to act to correct its foolish ways that harm the poor and all other vulnerable people.  I want other societies to do the same.  I want us to succeed in this great work, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF WILHELM WEXELS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; HIS NIECE, MARIE WEXELSEN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER; LUDWIG LINDEMAN, NORWEGIAN ORGANIST AND MUSICOLOGIST; AND MAGNUS LANDSTAD, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, FOLKLORIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/the-sin-of-favoritism/

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Devotion for Thursday Before the Third Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Candle Flame and Reflection

Above:  Candle Flame and Reflection

Image in the Public Domain

Resisting the Darkness with Light

MARCH 21, 2019

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The Collect:

Eternal God, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world

through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son.

Help us to hear your word and obey it,

and bring your saving love to fruition in our lives,

through 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 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 3:19-30

Psalm 63:1-8

Revelation 2:8-11

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O God, you are my God, I seek you,

my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you,

as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,

beholding your power and glory.

Because your steadfast love is better than life,

my lips will praise you.

So I will bless you as long as I live;

I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,

and my mouth praises you with joyful lips

when I think of you on my bed,

and meditate on you in the watches of the night;

for you have been my help,

and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.

My soul clings to you;

your right hand upholds me.

–Psalm 63:1-8, The Book of Worship of the Church of North India (1995)

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Psalm 63:1-8 is the happy pericope for this day.  The author praises God for divine, steadfast love and provisions.  The other readings encourage readers and listeners to trust in God during extremely trying times.  That is a positive and timeless message, but each of the other pericopes presents its own difficulties.

The story from Daniel 3 is ahistorical.  That fact presents no problem for me, for I am neither a fundamentalist nor an evangelical.  No, my difficulty with the account is that the monarch threatens anyone who blasphemes YHWH with death by dismemberment.  I oppose blasphemy, but temporal punishment for it is something I refuse to support.  Besides, one person’s religious expression is another person’s idea of blasphemy.  I know of cases of (Christian) religious expression in foreign (majority Muslim) countries leading to charges of blasphemy and sometimes even executions (martyrdoms).  Religious toleration is a virtue–one much of the Bible frowns upon severely.

The pericope from Revelation 2 comes from an intra-Jewish dispute.  Non-Christian Jews were making life very difficult for Christian Jews at Smyrna.  The Christian invective of “synagogue of Satan” (verse 9) is still difficult to digest, even with knowledge of the historical contexts.  Passages such as these have become fodder for nearly two millennia of Christian Anti-Semitism, one of the great sins of the Church.

As we who call ourselves follow Jesus, may we cling to him during all times–the good, the bad, and the in-between.  And may we eschew hatred, resentment, and violence toward those who oppose us.  Christ taught us to bless our persecutors, to fight hatred with love and darkness with light.  This is difficult, of course, but it is possible by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL JOHN STONE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR TOZER RUSSELL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILDA OF WHITBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

THE FEAST OF JANE ELIZA(BETH) LEESON, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/18/resisting-the-darkness-with-light/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the First Sunday in Lent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Calling of St. Matthew Caravaggio

Above:  The Calling of St. Matthew, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

Knowing One’s Need for God

FEBRUARY 17, 2018

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The Collect:

Holy God, heavenly Father, in the waters of the flood you saved the chosen,

and in the wilderness of temptation you protected your Son from sin.

Renew us in the gift of baptism.

May your holy angels be with us,

that the wicked foe may have no power over us,

through 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Psalm 32

Psalm 25:1-10

Matthew 9:2-13

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For your Name’s sake, O LORD,

forgive my sin, for it is great.

–Psalm 25:10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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How happy are those who know their need for God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

–Jesus in Matthew 5:3, The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition (1972), J. B. Phillips

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The emphasis this time, in contrast to the previous post, is the individual.

I lift up my soul….

Forgive my sin….

Then I acknowledged my sin….

“Blessed are the poor in spirit” is one of those well-worn King James phrases which requires explanation.  It refers to those who know their need for God and act accordingly.  Each one of us needs God, of course, but some are oblivious to that fact.  St. Matthew, originally a literal tax thief for the Roman Empire, knew his need for God and acted accordingly.  The paralyzed man with friends carrying him might have known of his need for God; the text says nothing about that point.  His friends, however, were acting based on confidence that Jesus would heal him.  On the other hand, Pharisees who accused our Lord and Savior or committing blasphemy (an offense punishable by death according to the Law of Moses) due to his act of healing and words of forgiveness (more the latter than the former) also criticized him for eating with tax collectors and sinners.  These Pharisees did not realize their need for God.  They would have, in fact, benefited from  open minds and many meals with Jesus.

A few days ago, on the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia, I encountered some members of an Evangelical college ministry.  I surmise that they were not from the school, for one young man representing the organization did not know that he was on a campus of a state college.  He asked me to complete a brief questionnaire.  I agreed.  One item entailed me rating my goodness on a scale of one (evil) to ten (perfect).  I guessed five, for I am far from both ends of the spectrum.  He and a comrade suggested that I was perhaps an eight or a nine, but I replied that no, I know myself.  (At least they were nice people.)

I know my need for God and the sacraments.  My record of acting on that knowledge is mixed.  Yet I improve, by grace.

None of us is worthy based on our own merit, but our effort is valuable nonetheless.  That little bit of desire and initiative is something with which God can work.  So may you, O reader, be aware of your need for God and respond favorably to God, regardless of how feeble and inadequate your response might seem.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 6, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETIUS OF TRIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP; AND SAINT AREDIUS OF LIMOGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM OF KRATIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF PHILIP BERRIGAN, SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/knowing-ones-need-for-god/

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