So you may be asking yourself 'Why this video of 'Dubstep Cat'? '
2-LSU Football starts tomorrow!
3-Cats... Yep... Cats.
4-The deacon is preaching for me this weekend, freeing up a nice chunk of time.
5-Three. Day. Weekend.
Friday, August 30, 2013
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Today is the feast of St. Augustine of Hippo - bishop, doctor of the Church, and quite the party animal prior to his conversion. God used this man who was passionate about life to show His power, changing a man who was a great sinner into a man who was a great saint. With that in mind, enjoy this prayer said to be composed by St. Augustine himself:
Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.
Sunday, August 25, 2013
Readings for Sunday, August 25/ 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13
Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
This question posed to the Lord is an interesting one, as well as one that can have great bearing on the extent to which we work to attain our salvation. The response to this question can be summarized in three responses.
The first is one which says only a few will be saved. This view emphasizes the judgment of God, and puts a very high price on our sins and since none of us are perfect then few will get into the Kingdom. The other extreme is one which emphasizes the love of God, seeing nearly no consequences for our sins, which would in effect mean everyone goes to Heaven. We can’t be sure of either one, though, and the Lord reminds us that we shouldn’t concern ourselves with it. This is the third way – be not concerned with it but simply strive to enter the narrow gate, which will indeed be too tough for some to accomplish.
It is surely not news to anyone, especially here around Lutcher, that football season is starting back up and with that all sorts of projections and speculation. Yesterday morning I was reading the paper and saw an article about LSU and how with a few things going in their favor they might find themselves playing for a national championship this year. What struck me was that the article didn’t quote any players talking about it, but rather just the sports writer himself. On the article next to it was where you could find the players’ comments – not about championships but about drills, conditioning, plays and formations, practice, and other such details. It’s all fine and good for the sports writer to sit around and project this and that, but if the players sat around looking at each other saying “Yeh, we’re going to win the championship this year!” and how they were going to do it, then you can rest assured that they’d get their butts handed to them when it came game time. Any good coach, no matter the sport, when faced with the speculation of titles and accolades will respond “We have to take it one game at a time.” To be consumed with things down the road is to miss the road itself that leads there. And that’s what Christ reminds us of today – that if we are too focused on the details of who gets into heaven and who doesn’t, then we miss the opportunities that actually permit us to enter ourselves.
It’s not by talking about titles that they are won, but in doing the things that strengthen a person or team and enable them to attain them. Players have to know their plays, formations, and rules to the game. As Christians we must know the faith we profess, studying always to grow more knowledgeable about it so as to live it better. Players must eat right, exercise, and stay in shape. We must pray unceasingly, staying in good physical shape to be prepared whenever we are put to the test. A player knows that practice makes perfect and the same applies to us. We cannot content ourselves with being Christians only a few hours a week or when it’s convenient but must practice our faith regularly by acts of charity spread all throughout our days. We cannot focus on the end but must stand ready to act in the present, to take up the daily discipline spoken of by the Letter to the Hebrews and be able to enter the narrow gate.
In a commentary on this passage Fr. Robert Barron says that Christ calls us to enter through the narrow gate and it is narrow because it is in the shape of Christ Himself. To the extent that we conform ourselves to His – live like Him, act like Him, and serve like Him – we are able to fit through the narrow gate. And to the extent that we fail to conform our lives to His, we are unable to do so. It is by the daily commitment to prayer, study, and exercise of our faith that God whittles away at us to bring us to be more like Christ and so be able to enter the gate.
As we receive Holy Communion today, let us pray for the grace to continue to walk in that path, to be disciplined and disciples here and now so that whenever the Lord does call us home, we can be confident of our salvation and the salvation of many others who follow after us because of our witness.
Monday, August 19, 2013
|Heaven, according to Wikipedia|
Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10
Psalm 40:2-4, 18
What is our mission? Our purpose? Our goal? We all have one, whether we realize it or not. That something that all of our actions, thoughts, and words ultimately work to attain. What is it?
In the first reading from Jeremiah we hear about a group of princes whose goal was to keep the peace. The prophet Jeremiah came among them preaching God’s Word and it upset the people. Rather than good pleasant things he spoke of difficulties and trials, robbing them of their ultimate mission: earthly peace. The extent they went to keep that peace, ironically, was to kill the prophet of God. As I was praying with that I was struck by the reality of how we can implicitly make earthly peace our life’s goal. We all want peace - it’s written in our very hearts and we pray for it all throughout the Mass - but the reality is that the peace we long for is not an earthly peace, but a heavenly and eternal peace. Earthly peace isn’t bad and we must rejoice in it when we find it and pray for it often, but it is not our ultimate goal. Our ultimate goal is heaven, eternity. That’s what Jesus reminds us of as He boldly says, “Do you think that I came to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”
This harsh Jesus can seem to shock us a bit. We’re used to the nice Jesus. The meek little lamb, the infant born to Mary at Christmas, the Jesus who loves us, accepts us, is merciful and kind, calling us to do the same. We’re used to the smiling Jesus in pictures with blonde highlights and a carefree attitude. We like that Jesus because He’s comfortable and comforting. But the truth is that ‘nice Jesus’ is the exact same person as the one who comes to bring about division and disrupt the peace. The meek lamb is also the powerful Lion of Judah. The merciful Lord is also the Just Judge. The God who is Love is also the God of wrath for the unrighteous. They are two sides of the same coin and that is something we must remember when following after Him. While He loves us endlessly and calls us to love others, He also sets the standards high and is not hesitant to hold us accountable to them. When we come to serve Christ, it is serious business. There are obligations and, of course, rewards.
|Angry Jesus at the National Shrine|
Let’s start with the rewards – we all like that part, right? The reward is that if we are faithful to the Lord He will be faithful to us and welcome us into eternal life. We can look forward to heaven, which will be greater than anything we can imagine – greater than anything we can conceive of, the scriptures tell us. But the key is being faithful to the Lord. Many Christians think that we just to ‘accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior’ and all is well, their ticket to heaven is secured, but it’s not. If I accept Jesus as my savior and then go off and fail to live in accord with His laws, then I will not be saved. We have to accept Him as Savior, yes, but even more important is living our lives according to what God wants of us. We have obligations.
The word ‘obligation’ in our modern culture can be something a bit repulsive. We are so set in this mindset of freedom being the ability to do what we want that we shrink back from obligations – ‘you’re taking away my freedom!’ is what we hear so often. The truth is that when we follow Jesus Christ, we are absolutely free, but the fact is that the way He sets before us is a narrow path and it is for us to choose to walk on it. We have the freedom to choose otherwise, but in exercising the freedom to do whatever we want we more often than not end up in slavery to sin; so much for freedom, huh?! That’s why the Lord sets the way before us and is so clear on right and wrong. He knows the path to Heaven and He wants us to walk on it, even to run on it! That’s what He means when He says to the disciples, “I have come to set the earth on fire and how I wish it were already blazing!” He wants us to be on fire with love for God and for His laws. He wants us to burn with love, to do things that are absurd in the eyes of the world because we are so enamored with Him that the world doesn’t matter to us anymore. Instead we are found wanting, not yet burning. Sure, some of us burn brightly and the more saintly among us show more clearly but by and large we are not yet burning. So He seeks to set us on fire because fire clears away the bad and purifies the good. He comes to purify us from our sins and to bring us to eternal life. You and I know that is extremely pain, and Christ knows it even more than we do, even though He never sinned.
After this speech of setting the earth on fire the Lord speaks of a mysterious baptism He must undergo and how great is his anguish until it is completed. That baptism was His death on the Cross, which was constantly before His eyes. Imagine going throughout your days with the knowledge in the back of your mind of your imminent death which include scourging, beatings, mockery, crucifixion, and abandonment by your loved ones. That’s what was in Christ’s mind each and every day as He walked with the disciples and yet he continue on, as the letter to the Hebrews reminds us “for the sake of the joy that lay before Him.” It wasn’t necessarily His joy – He was God and could easily have passed on to heaven whenever He willed – but rather our joy. Our heavenly reward was only attained by His death and in attaining life for us, He too surely received some joy too. That journey, though, is what He calls us to today. We all have trials in this life that take away our peace. We have sins that we cling to, burdens that cling to us, and a number of other things going on around us that keep us from enjoying a peaceful life. Today the Lord call us to look past all of those things to the joy that awaits us in Heaven. Again – our goal is heavenly peace, not earthly peace. And so we must choose to rid ourselves of the burdens and sins that cling to us and hold us back from attaining greater heavenly treasures. As I was praying with this myself I began to reflect on how I, as a priest, still struggle to recognize just how serious my sins are. As I reflected on my own faults and the sins I cling to, the question came to mind ‘Are you so attached to these sins that you’re willing to go to hell for them?’ The obvious answer is ‘NO!’ but it is so hard to live that ‘no.’ Part of this is because we look at the whole picture and try to tackle all of our sins at once and when we do that we get overwhelmed and fail. The key is to pick one sin that plagues us most and pray for God’s grace there until it is resolved, then moving on to the next sin over and again. How do we do this though? How to rid ourselves of sin? The Eucharist!
Each week we come to Mass and it is easy to miss the miracles that take place here week after week and the grace that is held out to us. Our eyes and ears hold us back from understanding the reality because we think we settle for the externals and miss the interior. What we celebrate on this altar is not a reenactment, like we would do a Christmas play or Living Stations of the Cross. What we celebrate on this altar is the actual sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, the actual Last Supper, the truth of the Resurrection of Christ. We have not the eyes to see these realities but they exist, the same as we cannot see the change in the bread and wine that make them the Body and Blood of Christ. After the Sacred Words of Consecration when the priest holds us the host and chalice, he does so for the faithful to adore for a moment but also as an offering to the Father, symbolically saying ‘Father we cannot save ourselves, our only hope is in the flesh and blood of Your Son that won our redemption! Mercy, Lord!’ And as we gaze upon the elevation Body and Blood it is as if another secret dialogue takes place wherein Christ speaks to each of us from the Cross saying ‘All of this for love of you.’ He thirsts to hear us reply the same ‘All of this for You, Lord’ as we commit ourselves to ridding ourselves of sin and carrying the Cross on the narrow path to heaven. If we do this and are willing to put it into action, the Lord will give us the grace. Let us not miss this opportunity today to begin anew the fight to walk the way before us. Christ came to set the earth on fire. Would that each and every single one of us were already blazing!
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
It fascinates me that God works so often in clearly-discernable designs. He does the same things in the same ways so that we can come to identify His handiwork in our won lives. He does it in the big picture of Salvation History in what scholars refer to as typology, events or persons prefiguring a latter individual or ever. It also fascinates me that the Lord God does this same thing in bring about our spiritual health and salvation. There is a history of speaking of Mary as 'untying the knot tied by Eve' in her act of co-redemption with Christ. But her care is not limited just to that one big knot, but extends into the knots of our own personal sins. The only way to fix a knot is to properly untie it, lest it get worse and we lose ourselves in frustration. I have found much consolation in this prayer to Our Lady, Untier of Knots to help in untying those many things in my own life that I have tied up by past sins. So without further rambling on my part:
The Prayer to Our Lady, Untier of Knots
Holy Mary, full of the presence of God during your life you accepted with great humility the Holy Will of the Father and the legacy of your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Evil never dared to entangle you with its confusion.
Since then you have interceded for all of our difficulties. With all simplicity and patience you have given us examples on how to untangle the knots in our complicated lives. By being our Mother forever, you arrange and make clear the path that unites us to Our Lord.
Holy Mary, Mother of God and ours, with your maternal heart, untie the knots that upset our lives. We ask you receive in your hands (mention who or prayer request) and deliver us from the chains and confusions that have us restrained.
Blessed Virgin Mary, through your grace, your intercession, and by your example, deliver us from evil and untie the knots that keep us from uniting with God, so that once freed of every confusion and error, we may find Him in all things, have Him in our hearts and serve Him always in our brothers and sisters. Amen.
Sunday, August 11, 2013
|'St. Philomena' by Mic Carlson|
Psalm 33:1, 12, 18-22
Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19
Today, August 11, is the feast of St. Philomena, a virgin martyr from the third century. Second only to our Blessed Mother, she is my ‘go to gal’ for intercession with Our Lord Jesus, so it was with great joy that when I arrived in our community I was greeted by two images of St. Philomena at St. Michael’s in Convent and the story of the chapel of St. Philomena that once stood in Grand Point. Indeed she loves our community very much, so let us pray for her intercession especially in this sacred time.
Something that I have come to do in my personal prayers before images of Our Lord, Our Lady, and the angels and saints, is to situate myself before them in such a way that they are looking at me. To be able to look them in the eye and feel as if they are looking back at me helps me to remember that the image I’m praying before is representative of a person truly alive in Heaven. They’re real, they’re praying for us, and they’re hoping that we’ll one day enter into their joy. So it always does my heart good to be able to look upon them face to face. But one thing I’ve noticed with most of the images of St. Philomena is that she won’t look at me. I have a statue and framed image of her but as often as I’ve prayed before them I find she will not look at me, but instead looks through me. Those images in a very powerful way show the reality that she was not caught up in earthly things but set her eyes on heavenly things, on the world to come, on eternity.
This is what Our Lord invites us to do today, to store up treasure for ourselves in heaven, looking past all the temptations to store it up instead here on earth. St. Philomena was a young girl beautiful to behold. There was something in her that shined upon all whom she met – her name even means ‘daughter of light’. A Greek princess of royal blood on both parents’ sides, she had much in her favor for a life of riches. When she went with her parents to Rome she was noticed by the Emperor, who desired to take her as his wife. She declined, stating that she had consecrated her virginity to Christ and she was His alone – this all at thirteen years of age! In anger, the Emperor had her imprisoned, hoping to break her spirit. It did not work. She was scourged just like our Lord, but was miraculously healed the next day. Arrows were shot at her but to no avail. Even flaming arrows were shot, but they turned back and killed the archers themselves. An anchor was tied around her neck and she was to be tossed into the Tiber River in Rome, but as they tossed her in she anchor was mysteriously came away and she was found on the shore perfectly dry, said to have been brought there by angels. Finally she was struck with a sword and received the martyr’s palm. She could have had the whole world at her disposal and lived a life of luxury most of us can hardly even conceive of living. And yet her eyes were not here, but looking toward heaven. Her treasure and her heart were firmly placed within the heavenly gates.
This past week I went on a short retreat for a few days and enjoyed the gift that time, being able to sit in the silence and experience God in a powerful way in my prayers both alone and in the community where I was staying. I was on that spiritual high that often accompanies a retreat. And when I came home, I found as I always do that I hadn’t really changed that much. I still had to battle with the same sins, still had the same temptations to avoid this or that task, to exercise my vices rather than virtues. In short, I realized that my heart is not completely in heaven yet. I still try often to store up treasure here on earth for myself. And I don’t think I’m alone in that. I think most of us are in the same boat on that point – we all have at least one sin that we fight against, that one possession we cling to, that one thing, whatever it may be, that keeps us from really letting our hearts go up to heaven. We keep those little treasures here for ourselves just in case – just in case Christ doesn’t fulfill us, just in case we’re not happy like we want, just in case.
How do we get away from this? How can we work to set our eyes and our hearts on heaven? It’s quite simple – not easy, but simple. We need only look at four main areas in our lives. Back in Lent we had books free for the taking, one of which was Matthew Kelly’s book The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic (available HERE for only the cost of shipping). In that book he outlines those four ways which I remember by a nice little acronym – PEGS. Prayer, Evangelization, Generosity, Study. PEGS.
Prayer. Are we praying? I mean REALLY praying? Not just mindlessly saying words from a pray card or book, but speaking those or other words from our very heart. We have to pray regularly, telling God what is going on in our mind and heart, what is happening in our life, where we need His help, where we’ve seen His work, and how we experience and return His love. If we don’t know Christ personally and dialogue with Him we are far from heavenly joy. And at Mass, are we really praying there? I’ll be the first to admit that I struggle to pray every time I’m at Mass. It’s easy to just say the words without really meaning it, but we’re called to enter deeply into this celebration. Prayer.
Evangelization. We have to share the Good News! When I get on Facebook I see all the updates – people in new relationships, getting married, having babies, experiencing this or that activity – good things that they want to share. None of us ever experiences something that is incredible and fails to tell a soul about it. No, what do we do? We share it with everyone around us because we want them to know about it to. And if there is anything we should be excited about it is the salvation we have in Christ Jesus. When we truly encounter Christ in prayer – and only after that – we will be changed and want to tell others, to seek them out and say ‘let me tell you what Christ did in my life today, let me tell you what incredible things He has done.’ Evangelization.
Generosity. As I look out I see many faces who help in various ways and ministries in our community. It is a joy to see that. We must be generous with our gifts. Yes, we need to tithe, but we need even more to be people of service. People who are filled with the Gospel call to charity and seek to build up the Church and the Kingdom of God with our gifts, not keeping them for ourselves but sharing them generously. Generosity.
Study. We must grow in our knowledge of the faith. We have to read and know the Scriptures. We have to know our theology, our catechism lessons, the stories of our saints. It’s easy to study, we do it in so many other things. We know all the celebrity gossip, we know about our favorite TV shows, video games, internet sites, car parts, clothing stores, and the list goes on. We study the things of the world, but how willing are we to study the things of God? To spend a few minutes with the Bible everyday? To pick up a good book or cd on something of the faith and immerse ourselves in it? To set our hearts in heaven , this is an absolute must. St. Jerome once said that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ Himself. And the same coule be said of His teachings given through the Church. If we don’t know our faith, we don’t know our God. Study.
PEGS. Prayer. Evangelization. Generosity. Study. If we want to go to Heaven, the path is a tough one but the method is simple. If we start with these four areas and try to live them each day and grow in them throughout our lives, we can be sure that there will be much heavenly treasure built up for us. And if we refuse to live these four things and grow in them throughout our lives, we can be sure of the opposite. The choice is ours and ours alone. Let us choose wisely and follow the path that St. Philomena has walked before us. Let us choose Christ.
Sunday, August 4, 2013
Readings for Sunday, August 4/ 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Ecclesiastes 1:2; 221-23
Psalm 90:3-6, 12-14, 17
Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11
Ecclesiastes 1:2; 221-23
Psalm 90:3-6, 12-14, 17
Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11
I had some trouble this week trying to discern what to preach this weekend. This Sunday, August 4, is the feast of St. Jean Vianney, the patron of parish priests and part of me wanted to talk about his life and the priesthood. Another part of me wanted to take up that powerful first reading from Ecclesiastes, which holds a special place in my heart and conversion story, and speak to the reality of the purpose of this life. Another part of me wanted to speak of the Gospel call to simplicity and storing up true treasures that glorify God. And yet to each of those things the Lord continually said ‘No.’ What kept coming up every time I went to pray was not anything mentioned in the Scriptures but something else that needed to be addressed: the remarks of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, from the spontaneous interview on his return flight from World Youth Day. And if you’ve opened up the internet or seen a newspaper in the past week you already have a hint about the topic of this homily.
After a week among the youth of our world and the great spiritual experiences that took place during the World Youth Day celebrations, Pope Francis was gracious enough to speak with the secular media and they asked a number of great questions 99% of which was lost because of one question, the final question, regarding a particular Monsignor’s alleged connection with a ‘gay lobby’ in the Vatican.
In response to the particular situation Pope Francis also gave some interesting remarks in regards to persons of homosexual orientation which caught the attention of the whole world. Here, then, is the response of our Holy Father:
“If a person, lay or priest or Sister, has committed a sin and then has converted, the Lord forgives, and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is important for our life. When we go to confession and truly say: “I have sinned in this,” the Lord forgets and we don’t have the right not to forget, because we run the risk that the Lord won’t forget our [sins]. That’s a danger. This is important: a theology of sin. I think so many times of Saint Peter: he committed one of the worst sins, which is to deny Christ, and with this sin he was made Pope. We must give it much thought…. I think that when one meets a person like this, one must distinguish the fact of being a gay person from the fact of doing a lobby, because not all lobbies are good. That’s bad. If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge him?” He then went on to reference the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which teaches that such persons “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” and that “every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (CCC, 2358). [Full text HERE.]
The media upon hearing the words “who am I to judge?” immediately burst into an uproar – THE CHURCH HAS CHANGED HER TEACHINGS!!! Headlines all over spoke of Francis being ‘Okay with gays’ and other such catch phrases. As they came in I was struck by it because what Francis said was the same thing the Benedict XVI said, and the same thing that John Paul II, John Paul I, Paul VI , John XXIII, and every other pope back to St. Peter himself have said. The teaching has not changed. The world just doesn’t know what the Church teaches to begin with, and neither do many Catholics. What Pope Francis said didn’t change the teachings of the Church; it simply restated once more what we have held from the beginning and that is the distinction between the person and the sins a person commits.
In the Book of Genesis when God was creating everything He did so and saw that it was good. When He created us and continues to create us generation after generation he looks upon us sees that we are good. This is where we get our human dignity – not from what anything we’ve accomplished or where we live or our family history. Our dignity comes in that we are all created and loved by God. The reality though is that while we are all loved by God, we are also sinners. Every one of us has pierced the Lord’s heart by our sins but His love doesn’t change. St. Paul reminds us that “God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). While we were sinners He died for us. Christ, being God Himself, knew everything that would take place in human history. As He hung upon the Cross He knew in His Sacred Heart every sin that we would commit and that every other person in history would commit and yet He remained there on the Cross for us. He loved us to death. And by that He challenges us to do the same.
That call to love, however, is often not what takes place in our society. Instead labels are given and individuals are isolated and rejected rather than received and loved. This is a major fault on our part because rather than encourage people who bear the cross of same-sex attraction we increase the weight and refuse to permit any room for growth, change, and conversion. Rather than help them on their journey of faith, we do exactly that which Pope Francis warns against: refusing to forget things of the past and thus possibly condemning ourselves as we pray week after week to be forgiven as we forgive others. We must learn to love, not condemn, to show compassion, not to marginalize. Does that mean that we approve of homosexual actions? No. We have to speak the truth, but we must do so with love and strive to love the individual. Just because we don’t approve of an action doesn’t mean we can’t love and accept people. After all, if we’re honest with ourselves as a community we can look around and see that there are a number of people in our community that have a tendency to abuse alcohol. Do we approve of it? No. Do we still love them? Yes. There are some who have been unfaithful to their spouses. Do we approve of it? No. Do we still love them? Yes. And we could go down the list of every sin we have committed, recognizing that while we cannot approve of our sins we are still in need of love.
This issue of homosexuality has been a hot topic for many months now – between the Boy Scouts, the striking down of the Defense of Marriage Act upholding traditional marital values, and the numerous states and countries discussing legalization of so-called gay marriage. It would be hard not to recognize it is something important to discuss in our culture. But it’s not just something out there away from us. It’s something close to home too, sometimes in our own homes. I don’t know about you but I have family, close friends, and people to whom I minister that are very close to my heart who struggle with these inclinations themselves. And that doesn’t change my love for them.
In the end, as much as one may want to ‘fix’ this group or that group that has this or that problem that they don’t approve of, that is not something we are called to do. God created every one of us and it is His task to mold our hearts to resemble His own. Our task is to be loved by Him and to share His love with others. Blessed Mother Teresa was once asked what needed to change most in the Church. Her response was simple: you and I. The problem with the world isn’t other people, the problem with the world is you and I. It’s me. It’s us as individuals. We need not worry about others’ problems so much as we need to worry about ourselves. That’s what Pope Francis was stating by saying, “who am I to judge?”
As we celebrate this Eucharist today let us lift up those who struggle with these inclinations that they might be freed from past sins and know God’s peace. And let us pray for ourselves that recognizing our own sins, we might be compelled to greater love and compassion for them and for all, in accord with the witness given to us by Christ.
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