He Gave Them Authority: Mark 6: 6-13


He went around to the villages in the vicinity teaching. He summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick–no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave from there. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” So they went off and preached repentance. They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Being limited in His hometown to do any mighty deeds, by the peoples lack of faith, Jesus moves on to the villages in the vicinity teaching. By doing this He is preparing the Twelve for their first steps of formation  as representatives of Jesus Christ; roles they will have to fill after Jesus returns to the Father.

This is also our first glimpse into what will be foundational for the priesthood of the early Church. Also, for the first time in His ministry, He gives the Twelve authority over unclean spirits and to cure many who were sick.

Along with this authority, Jesus sends them out to preach repentance. As a continuation of last weeks reflection, about how a lack of faith limits God’s activity in our lives (and even our communities) – without repentance , we close the door altogether to His activity in our lives.

In the context of this passage, repentance brings about deliverance from unclean spirits and allows the sick to be cured. We read, and last year studied, this aspect of repentance and healing, in St. James letter chapter 5 in verse 16 we read, Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. In this passage we see that repentance (the confessing of sin) and prayer (which is done in faith) are the only things we are told that bring about healing. Also within the context, this is done under the authority of the priesthood, Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up, for they were given this authority by Christ Himself, and passed on through Apostolic succession.

These passages should remind us all of God’s willingness to give His children His authority. Not just in the formal setting of the Mass, but in our everyday lives as well.

Are we not filled with the Holy Spirit? Are we not reminded in St. John’s first letter that, …for the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world?

Do we accept  that authority? Do we allow ourselves to live victorious lives ? Or do we reject  the authority of the Holy Spirit and the authority of God’s written word?

This week, let us challenge ourselves to believe what we’ve been told by God . Through repentance and faith we have, not just the ability, but the authority  over unclean spirits and sickness in our lives.

Now, let’s go out there and live in His authority !!

Amen.

Jesus Comes Home: Mark 6: 1-6


He departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.  When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter,  the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.  Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. He went around to the villages in the vicinity teaching.

This passage must drive universal salvationists, as well as hyper-Calvinists loony. What do I mean? Well this passage of scripture, places limits on the unlimited God . What’s going on?

Well, we have here yet another paradox presented to us. Much as the paradox Jesus Himself was; all man and all God, at the same time. We see here the example of the All Powerful God being limited by man . How can this be?

Anytime we have a paradox, it is helpful to not to draw any hard-line “either/or” conclusions. But what needs to be done is to weigh the paradoxical statements  seeing indeed, how they work together.

A great example of this, of course, is the Incarnation  itself. The All Powerful God chose to work through humanity, instead of around it. As a matter of fact, God has always chosen to work through humanity, using their actions and decisions ; starting with Adam and Eve in the garden.

When God created mankind, he gave him what we call free-will . The ability to make choices. Good or evil. God allows us to make these decisions, because of the love He has for His creation. Grace is offered to all, some receive it, others don’t. God doesn’t force His grace upon anyone , yet it is always present.

It’s the same in this case. Jesus comes home, to His native place, to teach and proclaim the gospel. And His relatives refuse to realize who Jesus is. They reckon in their human understanding,Is he not the carpenter,  the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? They thought they knew all there was to know, and refused what God was offering to them; Himself. They had heard of His mighty deeds, they were hearing is wisdom, but still the refused. In fact it states, they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”

And Sacred Scripture goes on to say, So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there because of their lack of faith. A cooperation with one another. God with man and man with God. Not a fifty-fifty relationship, but 100% cooperation  with one another.

What is so prevalent in Christianity today, is the same attitude that Jesus hometown realitives had; just enough knowledge about who Jesus is, as to be completely wrong about  who He is!

Many Christians will not go to the polls and vote  this election day, reasoning that “God establishes governments” and therefore, He doesn’t need my help. And on one level, this is indeed true. But God has chosen to limit His All Powerfulness – for us to be able to participate  in His on-going salvation history story.

Remember when Israel asked God for a king ? The people chose Saul, yet God told Samuel He had someone else in mind. What is the immediate difference from that of the people and that of God? The people looked on the outside  appearance, and God looked upon the inside ; the heart.

Look closely at the candidates and their actions , for their actions will indeed reveal what is within their heart  (Matt. 15: 19-20). And your actions will reveal what is within yours. Will you use  this election as an excuse for your inactivity? Will you let  the the liberal agenda be imposed on you, because you didn’t want to impose your “christian” agenda on them?

Wake up Christian’s !! God wants to use you. He wants to use you in this particular way, to change the world . This is one of the few direct ways, that us “little folks” have the chance to effect the whole world. Let’s not squander it . Let us go forward, in the name of our Father, and reclaim this land for Him. He was gracious enough to give it to us in the first place, let’s reclaim it for His glory .

Our inactivity will jeopardize this country , just as our inactivity will jeopardize our standing in God’s kingdom. Render to Caesar what’s Caesar’s and to God what’s God’s. Isn’t it all God’s? Another paradox, or a call for God’s children to be active in the affairs of this world ?

So this week, let us make history  and not become history! Go and vote ! Vote Pro-life , Pro-family ; for these issues are Pro-God ! Economies will fluctuate, leaders will rise and fall; but life, and the family were here before  those things; and will remain after  these things have passed.

Blessings to you this week!

Amen.

How Should Christians Respond To The Ray Boltz News?


I think the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains it nicely.

Chastity and homosexuality

 

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Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358
The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
2359
Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

The Unforgivable Sin: Mark 3:20-30


He came home. Again (the) crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.” Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him. But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house. Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.” For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Jesus is again confronted; by the scribes this time. It’s not about doing good “works” on the sabbath, no not this time. It’s not about what  He is doing but, about who  He is!

First we see, that He has come back home, and that His relatives are ready to seize Him. Why? …for they said, “He is out of His mind.” Evidently, they had been listening to the scribes who came down from Jerusalem, for they were the ones saying Jesus was possessed by Beelzebul, and that by the prince of demons he drives out demons. All this, sets the stage for Jesus’ teaching on the unforgivable sin .

There are a few interpretations of these verses that merit deeper study. They explain on different levels this blasphemy, and it’s affects on us.

The most common interpretation of this text today, is that this unforgivable sin  is the total rejection of Jesus Christ as Savior. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

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“Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss.

We see from the text itself though, that this unforgivable sin  is connected with something a little bit different – for St. Mark adds; For they [scribes] had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” Thus this verse can also be interpreted as attributing the power of God, to the power of Satan. This is the charge that Jesus responds to in the last part of the parable[s].

But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house.

But, the main point of this text may be lost, if we simply glance at  it and not dig into  it. Division is opposed to unity. Even Satan’s house, in it’s evilness, could not remain without unity. For, if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him. This brings us to an interpretation by St. Augustine, from Book IV, Sermon XXI, [LXXI.BEN] in paragraph 35.

“Not that this is a blasphemy which shall not be forgiven, forasmuch as even this shall be forgiven, if a right repentance follow it; but because, as I have said, there arose hence a cause for that sentence to be delivered by the Lord, since mention had been made of the unclean spirit whom the Lord shows to be divided against Himself, because of the Holy Spirit who is not only not divided against Himself, but who also makes those whom He gathers together undivided, by forgiving those sins which are divided against themselves, and by inhabiting those who are cleansed, that it may be with them, as it is written in the Acts of the Apostles, “The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul,” (Acts 4:32).”

An affront to the Triune God who is prefectly united, is the disunity of His people. St. Augustine goes on to explain in paragraph 36:

“But in this passage according to Matthew (12:32), the Lord far more plainly explained what He intended to be understood here; namely that he who speaks a word against the Holy Spirit, who with an impenitent heart resist the Unity of the Church, where in the Holy Spirit is given the remission of sins. For this Spirit they have not, as has been said already, who even though they bear and handle the sacraments of Christ, are seperated from His congregation.”

So indeed, a house divided against itself, as Jesus said, shall surely fall. Yet, there was only the Catholic Church in St. Augustine’s day. What about today? There are tens of thousands of denominations that indeed call themselves Christian, yet are seperated from the Catholic Church. What about them?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this perplexing question this way:

“Outside the Church there is no salvation”
 
 
 
 846
How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

    Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.
847
This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

    Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation.
848
“Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.”
Often misunderstood by Protestants and Catholics alike is this: The Church is the messenger of the Gospel of Christ. Whether you heard and responded to the Gospel in a Baptist church, a Lutheran church or the Catholic Church, this Gospel was delivered by Christ to the Apostles for the Church to proclaim. So all (true Christian) churches proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ; born of the Virgin Mary, suffered, died, and was burried, and on the third day, rose again conqurering death and sin.

So in this vein, let us realize our unity. That even within our differences, God can and will unite what man in his sin has strained, or even ruptured. For the Church is a Divine institution, as well as a human one and within whichever ecclesial communion we are placed, their should be unity. Again the Catechism of the Catholic Church understands this, and therefore states:

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“The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter.” Those “who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.” With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound “that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord’s Eucharist.”

So this week, let us think about unity, and how we as believers, can demonstrate to one another, not to mention a lost world, the power of unity with the Holy Spirit. Let’s be instruments for our churches to work together for the betterment of society (as in the corporeal and spiritual works of mercy) as well as in our families. Fathers working in unity with their wives, and vice versa. Children with their parents and parents with their children, working together in love to live in the truth of Christ’s calling.

Can you think of other ways we could be showing the unity of Christ? I would love to hear them, and I’m sure others would, too. Now, let us go and serve our  Lord!

Amen.

What Did You Expect?: Mark 3:1-6


Again he entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand. They watched him closely to see if he would cure him on the sabbath so that they might accuse him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up here before us.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” But they remained silent. Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.

What was it about the Pharisees? Why did they have it in for Jesus? The answer may scare us!

It’s hard to understand though, just where they were at, without a little background of the sects of 1st century Judaism.

We are fairly familiar with two; the Pharisees(of course) and the Sadducees (mentioned in the New Testament, Matt. 16:6, Mk. 12:18). Another sect (mentioned in this passage) is the Herodians. There were also the Essenes, the Zealots(of which Simon the disciple came, Lu. 6:15) and the Samaritans (Jn. 4:9).

One of the things I find fascinating, is the “history” behind which these sects are formed. It’s not unlike Christianity today, in that what started out unified, is now splintered into “denominations” and like Judaism in the first centuries before Christ, came the rise of “remnant theology.”

Remnant Theology was developed during and coming out of the Exile. Mainline Jews declared that God would preserve a faithful remnant of His people, who would be the seed of the “new” Israel. For the first time in their history, they entertained the notion that not all Jews were “chosen”. During the Exile, synagogues had been built all over and rabbis (at least those well versed in Torah) expounded on their view of what it said. So in Exile, as these different sects formed, and rabbis with different views taught Torah, they came out with different “interpretations” of what the Hebrew Scriptures said. Of course, like today, more than one sect, considered itself to be the “faithful remnant of God”. This is the mind-set of the sects of Judaism prior to and at the time of Jesus.

The Pharisees descended from a group called the Hasideans. During the time of the Maccabees they are referred to as, mighty warriors of Israel, all who offered themselves willingly for the law(I Macc. 2:42). After the Maccabean revolt, during the time of the Hasmoneans (when John Hyrcanus named himself king and priest in 135 B.C.) The Pharisees emerged from this sect, as master interpreters of the oral traditions of the rabbis. Most Pharisees came from middle class families of artisans and tradesmen (as St. Paul was a tent maker). The historian Josephus observed that when the Jewish people faced an important decision, they relied on the opinion of the Pharisees, rather than that of the king or the high priest (Antiquities, Bk.XII, Chap.X Sect. 5 ). Because they were esteemed so highly by the people, they were often chosen for high government positions, such as the Sanhedrin. Could this be a/the reason why they feared Jesus so, His ability to draw large crowds ? Of all the sects of Judaism, the Pharisees were more in line with Jesus’ teachings on the resurrection of the righteous and the eternal punishment of the wicked.

Now why, as we read in our text for this week, did the Pharisees go out and take counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death?

Not much is known about Herodian beliefs as a sect. We do know that they were basicly a political group, made up of Jews from various religious sects. As their name suggests, they supported the dynasty of King Herod the Great, and some scholars believe that they may have taught that indeed, Herod was the Messiah (though there is no hard evidence to support this veiw). But, if this were true, The Pharisees could certainly count on the Herodians to help dispel this Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah, not only from the religious side, but from the political side as well.

One thing is for sure though. Jesus was not  the Messiah they were expecting! And the Pharisees, the Herodians (as well as all the other sects) reacted just as they had every other time before. When some self-proclaimed, or people anointed “messiah” came along, they got rid of him by any means possible – even if that meant using the hated Roman authority.

So, what does all that have to do with us?

Plenty!

Do we think of Jesus in a one way only kind of faith? In other words, do we put God in a box? One that He couldn’t possibly work out of? Is He not what you expected, and you’ve made Him into what you did expect?

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

Expectation of the Messiah and his Spirit
 

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“Behold, I am doing a new thing.” Two prophetic lines were to develop, one leading to the expectation of the Messiah, the other pointing to the announcement of a new Spirit. They converge in the small Remnant, the people of the poor, who await in hope the “consolation of Israel” and “the redemption of Jerusalem.”We have seen earlier how Jesus fulfills the prophecies concerning himself. We limit ourselves here to those in which the relationship of the Messiah and his Spirit appears more clearly.
712
The characteristics of the awaited Messiah begin to appear in the “Book of Emmanuel” (“Isaiah said this when he saw his glory,” speaking of Christ), especially in the first two verses of Isaiah 11:

    There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
    And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the spirit of counsel and might,
    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
713    The Messiah’s characteristics are revealed above all in the “Servant songs.” These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus’ Passion and show how he will pour out the Holy Spirit to give life to the many: not as an outsider, but by embracing our “form as slave.” Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life.
714
This is why Christ inaugurates the proclamation of the Good News by making his own the following passage from Isaiah:
    The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me,
    because the LORD has anointed me
    to bring good tidings to the afflicted;
    he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted,
    to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
    to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.
715
The prophetic texts that directly concern the sending of the Holy Spirit are oracles by which God speaks to the heart of his people in the language of the promise, with the accents of “love and fidelity.” St. Peter will proclaim their fulfillment on the morning of Pentecost. According to these promises, at the “end time” the Lord’s Spirit will renew the hearts of men, engraving a new law in them. He will gather and reconcile the scattered and divided peoples; he will transform the first creation, and God will dwell there with men in peace. 
716        The People of the “poor”—those who, humble and meek, rely solely on their God’s mysterious plans, who await the justice, not of men but of the Messiah—are in the end the great achievement of the Holy Spirit’s hidden mission during the time of the promises that prepare for Christ’s coming. It is this quality of heart, purified and enlightened by the Spirit, which is expressed in the Psalms. In these poor, the Spirit is making ready “a people prepared for the Lord.”

Maybe we need to use our time this week, to re-examine who Jesus the Messiah is, in our own lives.

Is He the long awaited Messiah, or is He only what you were expecting the “messiah” to be?

Amen.

Happy Birthday Humanae Vitae


Pope Paul VI’s encyclical turns forty today!

If you’ve never read it check out the link. It’s an insightful and prohpetical letter.

Here is the opening:

The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships.

The fulfillment of this duty has always posed problems to the conscience of married people, but the recent course of human society and the concomitant changes have provoked new questions. The Church cannot ignore these questions, for they concern matters intimately connected with the life and happiness of human beings.

Enjoy! 

Lenten Reflection Week 6: John 19:30


When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

With just one more week left in this Lenten season, let us take a moment and look back on what we’ve finished/accomplished.

Jesus had a mission, a purpose, a goal He had to complete. Yet, He did many other things on His way to accomplish His goal. Jesus never lost sight of His main objective, but set an example of service for us to follow. An example of living for a purpose and with a purpose.

When Jesus uttered these words, “It is finished“, He knew He had fulfilled all the work His Father had sent Him to do (John 4:34, Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the One who sent me and to finish His work” ). In it’s fullest sense, His work was to bring redemption for fallen humanity. Yet as He walked down life’s pathway He encountered fallen, broken, diseased sinners that needed not only spiritual life and forgiveness, but physical help, care, healing and love

I’ve heard it said, “Let us not be so spiritually minded that we are no earthly good.” As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are commanded to show our love for others, not just spiritually but in tangible ways as well. Did Jesus Himself not say, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” ? So, we can gather from this that if we don’t have love for one another, that we are telling the world that we are not His disciples?! Not only did Jesus give us this command but the apostles Paul and John, along with James, did as well.

  • This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these points, that those who have believed in God be careful to devote themselves to good works; these are excellent and beneficial to others. Titus 3:8
  • If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth. I John 3:17-18
  • If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? James 2:15-16  

As we ponder these verses for a moment, let us think about what we have accomplished in (the big picture):

  • Our lives
  • Our faith journey

And what we’ve accomplished in (the snap-shot):

  • Our Lenten journey

Have we moved closer to God through Christ this year? Have we moved closer to God through our prayer, fasting and alms-giving? Have we made or taken the opportunities to minister to those in need, either in spiritual or physical need? It isn’t to late to begin, or to get better – but to begin or get better we must!

I say this, not to overwhelm us or cause us any discouragement. So if you haven’t changed the world (or even your little corner of it) don’t worry, Jesus didn’t call us to be successful, He called us to be faithful.

So for this week’s reflection, let us examine our strengths and our weaknesses concerning our service to God and others. Setting our minds, hearts and actions to better serve our Lord through our actions for others (as Jesus tells us in Matthew’s gospel;  ” ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me’ “). Remember, when we show compassion and truly love people, we instill in them hope. Isn’t this what God did for us through Jesus Christ His Son? (But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Rom. 5:8). This is indeed our hope – redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb!

It’s a great privilage but a daunting task we have been assigned, yet we have His promise, “for nothing will be impossible for GodLuke 1:37.

Amen.