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Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Jesus said to the Twelve: “Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.” Matthew 10:26
This line is spoken by our Lord within the context of preparing the Twelve for the persecutions that are to come. Prior to this passage, Jesus said, “But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans.” After saying much more about the persecutions to come, Jesus gives them a certain hope and encouragement in the passage above.
First of all, Jesus directly addresses one of the effects many people suffer when they encounter some form of persecution: fear. “Fear no one,” He says. Fear can consume a person when they lack faith in God’s care for them, allowing anxiety and worry to take hold. When we can keep our eyes fixed firmly on Christ and dispel the attacks we receive in life, then we will remain confident in God’s truth and not be deterred by lies.
Jesus is also very aware of the fact that fear can become overwhelming. This is especially the case when we must endure any form of severe persecution or trial. Therefore, He speaks a consoling line to the Twelve to help them have hope. “Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.” This is a reference to the end of time when Jesus returns to earth for the Final Judgment. At that time, every deceitful attack that people have endured will come to full light for all to see. Every virtue, including every hidden virtue, will also come to light. In the end, truth will reign and all will be judged by God’s Truth. This should be very consoling to those who have suffered injustice in life.
Persecution comes in many forms. Of course, persecution issued against you because of your faith is the worst form of persecution. But most often, persecution comes in other forms. Jealousy toward another could lead to gossip about them. Revealing the sins of another in a public way is the sin of detraction and is a form of persecution. Passive aggression, slander, the “silent treatment” and so much more are all forms of persecution. Any time one person attempts to inflict some form of harm upon another, this is persecution.
One common tendency that people encounter when another has harmed them in some way is to return the harm done. There is nothing wrong with defending ourselves by speaking the truth with love. But too often, the hurt experienced either turns into a consuming fear or into an attack against the one who harmed us. When this temptation is felt, Jesus’ words above are most helpful and freeing. In the end, no injustice will be ignored. Every wrong will be dealt with by the justice and mercy of God, and perfect order and truth will be fully restored for eternity.
Reflect, today, upon any struggle you have with fear. As you do, reflect upon Jesus’ words over and over. “Fear no one.” Do not allow yourself to be controlled by any injustice inflicted upon you. Instead, remain confident in the truth and, if some injustice is not able to be corrected here and now, look forward to the end of time when everything will be brought to light in accord with the mind and justice of God.
My courageous Lord, You endured so much ridicule and harsh treatment but never allowed it to deter You from Your divine mission of love. Please free me from all fear and give me courage when I face the injustices of life to trust that You will right every wrong in the end. Jesus, I trust in You.
God is Speaking
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Mark 4:38–39
Do you desire to hear God speak to you? The most common way this happens is through prayerful meditation on the Gospels. Over the centuries, the saints have prayerfully pondered the Gospels and have offered various insights on the stories and our Lord’s actions. Their insights are not primarily an intellectual exercise. Rather, they are first an exercise of prayer and meditation, revealing that the Scriptures have various layers of depth and meaning.
One Church Father, Saint Bede, explains from his prayerful pondering of today’s Gospel passage that the boat in which Jesus crossed the sea represents the Cross by which safe passage is obtained to arrive at the shores of Heaven. The other boats that followed represent those who have faith in the Cross of Christ and follow. Though they suffer the waves of temptation and hardship, they press on, relying upon the saving power of the Cross. Jesus being asleep represents His sleep of death, and His wakening represents His resurrection. The pleas of the disciples represent our need to turn to Jesus during the storms and temptations of life. The rebuke of the waves and the ensuing calm reveal the grace won by His death and resurrection, which is able to silence the demons and disordered passions. The fear that the disciples encountered points to our own fear that results from a lack of faith and trust in God.
God is able to speak these and many other truths to us through His actions and words contained in the Scriptures. There is no limit to the depth and meaning we can receive through His holy Word. Therefore, though it is useful to reflect upon the saints’ various interpretations of the Gospels, it is also very important to reflect upon these passages ourselves, so as to allow our Lord to reveal to us the message we need to hear.
Reflect, today, upon this Gospel scene. Try to find time to slowly read today’s Gospel from beginning to end. Read a sentence and then close your eyes and try to imagine it. See Jesus entering the boat. Ponder the boat being an image of the Cross. See the sea as the many evils within this world. Consider the fear the disciples encountered during the storm. See yourself in that boat, waking our Lord. Listen to Him silence the waves and restore peace. Hear Him say to you about your own struggles in life: “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” As you prayerfully meditate upon this and other Gospel passages, know that God will speak to you and reveal to you the meaning that He wishes to communicate to you today.
My sleeping Lord, as I endure the many storms of life, may I always have faith in the saving power of Your Cross and Resurrection. May I always call upon You to calm the storms and hear You speak to me the many truths I need to hear. Jesus, I trust in You.
Knowledge Through Prayer
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
Once when Jesus was praying by himself, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.” Luke 9:18–20
Jesus was both “praying by himself” and “the disciples were with him.” This is the case because our Lord’s communion with the Father was perfect and unique. Saint Bede says this is because “the saints may be joined to the Lord in the bond of faith and love, but the Son alone is able to penetrate the incomprehensible secrets of the Father’s will.” He alone was able to penetrate the depths of the Father’s Heart, and, for that reason, He always prayed alone, even if others were with Him.
One of the reasons Jesus prayed in the presence of His disciples was to invite them to a deeper faith and love through prayer. Though they would never fully share in the depth of Jesus’ prayerful communion with the Father, they were invited to share in that unity to the extent that they were able.
As the story goes on, Jesus asks the disciples Who He is. Peter speaks for them all when he says “The Christ of God.” In the Greek, the definite article “the” is included. Thus, Peter was not only saying that Jesus was “a Christ,” meaning, one who was anointed by God, he was saying that Jesus was uniquely the one and only Christ of God. Peter and the other disciples could only arrive at this conclusion through faith that is obtained through prayer.
One very helpful meditative exercise to practice is to see yourself in this Scripture passage. See yourself alone with Jesus as He is alone in deep prayer to the Father. Gaze at Him while He prays. Sense His deep love and union with the Father. And then observe Him turn to you and ask you, “Who do you say that I am?”
Most likely the initial answer will be easy to arrive at. Jesus is God, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Savior of the World, the Messiah, the Christ of God. But don’t allow yourself to respond with those answers alone. Look deeper and ponder your faith that is acquired through prayer. What does your prayer reveal to you about our Lord?
Through prayer, God will reveal to you many deep and hidden mysteries about His very life. He is the God Who loves you, personally—the God Who leads you, protects you, consoles you, transforms you and saves you. Knowing Jesus is not primarily an intellectual exercise. It’s a spiritual communion by which our knowledge transforms us through faith. It cannot be taught; it must be experienced through prayer.
Reflect, today, upon the holy and sacred scene of being with our Lord as He prayerfully communes with the Father in Heaven. Reflect upon Him turning to you and inviting you into that prayer. Be open to the gift of faith that is bestowed upon you as you pray to Him and with Him to the Father, and allow that prayerful union to reveal to you the depths of the Heart and Soul of our Lord.
My prayerful Lord, You and Your Father are truly united as One with the Holy Spirit. The depth of Your unity and love are beyond my full comprehension. However, You invite me to share in that union through faith and prayer. Please draw me into true prayer so that my knowledge of You will grow. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Judgmental Heart
Monday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples: “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?” Matthew 7:1–3
Sadly, this tendency is far more common than most of us would like to admit. We live in a world in which it is very common to condemn, criticize and judge. This growing secular tendency, in turn, powerfully influences our thinking and actions.
Why is it so easy to judge others? Why is it so easy to see the failures of others, dwell on their sin, point out their weaknesses and speak of their faults to others? Perhaps part of the reason is that many people are not at peace within their own souls. In an unfortunate way, condemning another brings with it a certain twisted satisfaction. But it’s a “satisfaction” that will never satisfy. The desire to condemn, criticize and judge will only grow all the stronger the more these actions are committed. If you struggle with these sins, then listen to the words of Jesus. “Stop judging…”
Oftentimes the person who judges others does not even realize they are judging. This is why our Lord poses the question, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?” If that stings even a little bit, then know that our Lord asks that question of you. And He asks it with deep love for you, desiring that you will hear Him, understand, and respond.
The truth is that being judgmental of others causes far more harm to the one who judges than to the one who is judged. Certainly being judged is not pleasant. But the act of being judged by others is not a sin. However, the act of judging others is a sin. And it can be a grave sin. This sin leaves the one who judges with an empty and angry heart. Love is lost in the soul who judges.
If these words seem unpleasant, that’s because they are. But sometimes we need to face the unpleasant truth in order to change. The Cross was unpleasant, but it was also the greatest act of love ever known. Facing our sin of judgmentalness is unpleasant, but doing so is the only way to be free. Honesty with ourselves is an act of love given to God, to ourselves and to those whom we need to stop judging.
Reflect, today, upon these challenging words from Jesus. Read the Scripture passage above a few times and then prayerfully ponder it. Use it as an examination of your own conscience. Try to be honest, humble and attentive to any ways that Jesus speaks this to you. Some will find that they have grave tendencies toward judgmentalness. Others will see less serious ways. But everyone who lacks complete perfection will find some ways in which they need to be more compassionate, merciful, forgiving and understanding of others. Be open to these truths and allow our Lord to lift the heavy burden of this sin from your own life.
My merciful Lord, You and You alone are the true Judge. Only You judge with mercy and justice. Give me the grace I need to abandon my own self-righteous judgmentalness so that I will be free to love You and to love others with my whole heart. Free me from the burden of these sins, dear Lord, so that I can more easily see Your goodness in others and rejoice in Your presence in their lives. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Narrow Gate
Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:13–14
Is fear helpful? That depends. It depends upon which form of fear we are speaking of. First, there is a form of fear that is contrary to faith. It’s a fear that leads us to doubt and even despair. It’s a fear that results from the attack of the evil one and others who may sin against us. This form of fear is unhealthy and must be overcome through a faith that turns to our Lord with the utmost confidence and hope.
But there is also a holy fear that is most useful and one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Recall the Proverb that says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” (Proverbs 9:10). At a minimal level, this holy fear makes you aware of your sins and the consequences of those sins, especially serious sin. And this holy fear leads you to fear the punishment that results from sin, leading you to avoid serious sin. But the ideal form of “fear of the Lord” we must strive for is “filial fear,” which is the holy fear of a son or daughter of God. This fear is one that is grounded in a profound love of God and leaves you so filled with a wonder and awe of the glory, goodness and majesty of God that you are filled with a desire to please Him and give Him great glory with your life. Thus, this “fear” leads you to a desire to avoid even the smallest of sin, because, in your love of God, you not only want to avoid offending Him, you also want to honor Him to the greatest extent possible.
The Scripture passage above should lead us to, at a minimum, a fear of not entering the gate to the “road that leads to life.” It is useful to consider Jesus’ teaching in a very straightforward way. Jesus essentially says that it is quite easy to walk through the gate that is “wide” and down the road that is “broad” in this life. In other words, it’s exceptionally easy to embrace a life of sin and head toward “destruction.” Jesus further says that those who walk through this wide gate and down this broad road are “many.” This fact should be the cause of our honest daily examination. If this broad road is so easy, then we should honestly admit that we can easily find ourselves walking it.
The “narrow gate” and the “constricted” road are found and walked by only a “few,” according to Jesus’ words. Again, we should take notice of this and take it seriously. Jesus would not say this if it were not true. Therefore, if the gift of the fear of the Lord is alive in your life, and if you truly are a son or daughter of God, then you will daily strive to be one of those “few” who find this narrow way to holiness. And, ideally, you will do so out of your love for God and your desire to give Him the greatest glory you can.
Reflect, today, upon this challenging teaching of our Lord. Take Him at His word and evaluate your life in light of this teaching. What are you doing in life to be certain that you are one of those few who have begun to walk through this narrow gate? Does your love for God leave you with such a wonder and awe of the greatness of God that your deepest desire is to not only please Him but to glorify Him fully with your actions? Strive to enter the narrow gate and the constricted road and do not turn back. Though this requires much determination, sacrifice and love, the goal and end of the road are worth it.
My most magnificent Lord, You and You alone are worthy of all glory, honor and praise. May everything I do in life lead to Your glory and may I avoid everything that harms my relationship with You. I love You, dear Lord. Help me to love You and glorify You with all my heart. Jesus, I trust in You.
Good Fruit—Bad Fruit
Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
“Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.” Matthew 7:16–17
“So by their fruits you will know them.” This is how our Gospel passage for today concludes. It offers us an exceptionally practical way by which you can discern the working of God in your own life and in the life of others.
When you look at your own life, what good fruit, born for the upbuilding of the Kingdom of God, do you see? Some people may find little to no fruit born, either for good or bad. Such complacency is, in and of itself, bad fruit. Other people may see an abundance of fruit, thus producing many consequences in this world. They influence the lives of many, and their public actions make a true difference. Sometimes for good…and other times for evil.
When discerning the actions of God in our world, we must first be very objective. The evil one is always very deceptive and regularly presents his bad fruit as good. For example, the legalization of abortion is often presented by many within our world as a “right to choose” or a “health service.” But the intentional death of any unborn child is clearly “bad fruit” from a “rotten tree.” There are even many so-called “humanitarian groups” or very wealthy “philanthropists” who present their work as “good fruit,” when it is anything but good. And on the contrary, there are many who work hard to bring forth a greater respect for life from the moment of conception to natural death, or strive to uphold the sacredness of marriage as God designed it, or work to promote the freedom to worship in accord with the will of God, but are labeled by the secular world as prejudiced, bigoted, fearmongers and even hateful. But their work, done very sacrificially, truly does bear good fruit for the Kingdom of God.
How about your own life? When you examine your actions and the fruit born of those actions, from where does that fruit originate? Does it come from a false sense of compassion, a misguided “charity,” and a fear of being criticized for standing for the truth? Or does it come from a deep love of God, an awareness of the truth God has revealed to us, and through a courageous proclamation of the pure Gospel?
Good fruit, born from the heart of the Father in Heaven, will always mirror the truths of our faith. A false sense of compassion, false accusations, persecutions and the like will flow from the rotten trees in our world. We must work diligently to be those good trees that bear the good fruit coming from God. This requires a radical commitment to do what is right in the face of the evil all around us.
Reflect, today, upon these images Jesus presents. Do you see clearly both the good and bad fruit around you? Is your life helping to foster the lies of the evil one or the truth and love of God? Look at the fruit your life bears, as well as the fruit within our world, in an objective way, comparing it to the clear and unambiguous teachings of Jesus. Seek out that good fruit with all your heart and do all you can to bring it forth, no matter the cost, and you will not only save your soul, you will also help feed others with the good fruit of Heaven.
My Lord of all truthfulness, You and You alone define the good and evil in our world. Your truth reveals the good fruit that is born to nourish the growth of Your glorious Kingdom. Give me courage and clarity of mind and heart so that I may continually do all that You call me to do so as to bring the good fruit of the Kingdom to all in need. Jesus, I trust in You.
An Authoritative New Law
Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. Matthew 7:28–29
These lines conclude the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew’s Gospel chapters 5–7. In that lengthy sermon, Jesus touches on many topics and presents us with a summary of all we need to know in our lives of faith. In these concluding lines of His sermon, the words “astonished” and “authority” should stand out. Why were the crowds astonished at Jesus’ teaching? Because His teaching was new and relied upon a new authority that the people hadn’t experienced before.
The authority with which the scribes taught was based upon their knowledge of the traditions handed down to them from earlier teachers. The scribes studied long and hard and then presented what they had learned. This was the form of religious teaching that the people were used to receiving.
Jesus, however, arrived on the scene and astonished the crowds, because He spoke with a new authority that they had not seen before. Jesus’ authority came forth from His very Person. It was not based upon what He had studied and learned from those who preceded Him. Instead, when He spoke, it was He Himself Who was not only the mouthpiece of the New Law of grace, He was also the Author of the Law and its source.
Try to ponder the idea of authority. For example, a child knows that a parent has authority over them. They may not like it at times, but they understand that they do not set the rules of the house but must abide by the rules set by their parents. Or consider the authority of civil leaders. Law enforcement officers, for example, have an authority entrusted to them by their office. They are not only well versed in the rule of law, they can also enforce it and everyone knows it.
Similarly, Jesus did not just know about the new and glorious truths He taught. He did not simply learn them from the Father in Heaven and then pass them on verbally. Instead, when He taught, He did so as the One Who knew the New Law of grace, the One from Whom it originated, and the one and only Person sent to enact and enforce this New Law.
Reflect, today, upon the New Law of grace and mercy taught by our Lord, especially as it is contained in the lengthy Sermon on the Mount. Reading those words is much more than something we study and learn. The words themselves are alive; they are the Word of God. Reading them makes present to us the same authority that the crowds experienced in Jesus’ time. Everything Jesus taught was and is new, deep, profound, transforming and alive. And when He teaches it, He also establishes His divine authority to enforce it upon the world. This is good news, because His New Law is not an imposition; it is the one and only source of freedom and new life. Reflect upon this New Law of our Lord and pray that you will more fully come under its authority.
My glorious Lawgiver, You taught as One with authority. Today, as Your holy Word is read and proclaimed, You continue to exercise Your new and glorious authority of love and mercy. Please help me to listen to You and to always submit myself to Your authority so that I am governed by Your New Law of grace. Jesus, I trust in You.
Homage, Reverence and Respect
Friday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And then a leper approached, did him homage, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” Matthew 8:1–4
To do homage to another is to publicly express reverence and respect. This is what this leper did to Jesus. He “did him homage.” But the leper went even further. He also expressed his certain faith that Jesus could cure him if He wished to do so. And Jesus did desire this. Jesus stretched out His hand to touch the leper and pronounced the words, “I will do it. Be made clean.” And with that, the leper was cleansed.
The first thing to note in this passage is that Jesus “touched” the leper. This was a forbidden practice, since lepers were unclean, and touching them could spread their disease. But Jesus broke the norm and touched the man, revealing to him his innate dignity.
It’s interesting to consider the question: Who paid whom a greater act of homage? Was the act of homage shown by the leper greater? Or the act of touching and cleansing the leper greater? Though we need not compare these two acts, it is helpful to reflect upon the profound fact that Jesus did show a form of homage to this unclean leper.
As was said above, to do homage to another is to publicly express reverence and respect to them. Without a doubt, Jesus did just this. He not only honored the leper by His touch and healing, but He publicly expressed His love and respect for this man through this act.
Of course, the homage we owe to God is unique. It is the homage of worship. We must bow down before Him, surrendering our lives in total abandonment and trust. We must honor Him as God and express our love accordingly. But, in addition to Jesus showing His almighty power by this miracle, He also sets for us an example of how we must treat others. Every person, because they are made in the image and likeness of God, deserves our utmost respect, and they deserve to receive that respect in a public way. We must continually seek to honor and respect others and express that honor and respect for others to see. This is especially difficult when the person we are called to show respect for is considered by others as “unclean.” The leper is only a symbol of the many types of people whom the world considers unclean and unworthy. Criminals, the poor, the confused, the sinner, the homeless, the political opponent and every other person in our world deserves our utmost respect and reverence. Doing so does not justify their sin; rather, it cuts through the surface and looks at their innate dignity.
Reflect, today, upon the act of homage done by this leper to Jesus. And then reflect upon the act of homage Jesus offers this leper by publicly confirming his innate dignity. Who in your life is represented by this leper? Who is “unclean” because of the condition of their life, the sin they commit, or the public stigma they have? Whom is God calling you to reach out and touch with love and respect, for others to see? Seek out the leper in your life and do not be afraid to imitate this holy act of homage exemplified by our Lord.
My holy Lord, You are worthy of all adoration, glory and homage. You and You alone deserve our worship. Help me to continually discover Your hidden presence in the lives of those around me. Help me, especially, to see You in the leper of our day. May my love and respect for them flow from my love for You and become an imitation of Your act of love for all. Jesus, I trust in You.
Touched by Grace
Saturday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus entered the house of Peter, and saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand, the fever left her, and she rose and waited on him. Matthew 8:14–15
How do we properly respond to the action of God in our lives? In the passage above, we are given the witness of Peter’s mother-in-law to answer that question. It should be noted that Jesus was on a continual mission of healing. In fact, before arriving at the house of Peter, Jesus had just healed a centurion’s servant. When the centurion came to Jesus stating that he was not even worthy to have Him enter his house, Jesus saw the centurion’s faith and healed his servant from a distance. After arriving at the house of Peter, we are told that many people brought to Jesus those who were possessed by demons, and Jesus healed them all. But between the healing of the servant and the healings of the many, another healing occurred. The response to this healing sets for us a wonderful example.
Peter’s mother-in-law was ill and in bed with a fever. It’s unclear just how ill she was, but the fact remains that she was ill to the point of being in bed. Notice, first, that Jesus was not even asked to heal her. Rather, He “saw” her ill and in bed, approached her of His own choosing, “touched her hand,” and she was healed.
Within the same sentence describing Jesus’ healing, we are told that “she rose and waited on him.” First of all, “she rose.” This should be seen as a symbolic depiction of what we must do when we are touched by grace. The grace of God, when it is given to us, must have the effect of causing us to rise. We rise from sin when we confess that sin and receive forgiveness, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We rise up every time God enters our lives to give us direction, clarity and hope. To rise is to be strengthened to dispel the burden that sin and confusion causes. We rise in strength, renewed and determined to go about the will of God.
After this woman rose, she “waited” on Jesus. This is the reason we rise up when touched by grace. We are not given God’s grace so that we can go back to our sin, or pursue our own ventures, or do our own will. We rise so that we can serve our Lord and His holy will. In a sense, Jesus’ actions in our lives impose upon us a holy burden. But it is a burden that is light. It’s an obligation to serve and give ourselves to our Lord to attend to Him, His holy will, and to all that He calls us to do.
Reflect, today, upon this threefold action of the Gospel. See Jesus approaching you and touching you in your prayer. Know that He comes to you not only because you pray to Him but out of His own initiative when He sees you will respond. Then consider your response. Rise from that which keeps you down. Let God’s grace free you from the burdens you carry. And as He grants you this grace, determine to wait on Him and to serve His will alone. The service of our Lord is what we are made for, and doing so will enable us to continually receive His grace through His touch of love.
My merciful Jesus, You continually come to me, approaching me to reach out and touch me with Your grace. You desire my healing and strengthening every day. Help me to be open to all that You wish to bestow and please free me from all that keeps me down. May I rise up in service of You and Your holy will so that Your Kingdom may be built up more fully through me. Jesus, I trust in You.
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