Easter 2 B - Divine Mercy - Recognize by Nail Marks

Tony Kayala, c.s.c.:

1.     Psychologists talk about the left brain and right brain approach or the masculine and feminine in us. As we all know that all women are not right-brained nor all men left-brained. Most of us function from a combination of both. However, at times we seem to function from one side more than the other.

2. Last Sunday it was all the women rushing to the tomb “early morning” before dawn. (Do men love to sleep at that time!) The sensitivity, the grieving of women, the need to anoint a “dead” Jesus are all too obvious. These emotions, wonderful as they are, can also blind us to the reality, psychologists warn us. Who will roll the stone away (that’s men's job too), who could have taken him away (men need to find out), taking him as the gardener (women are not supposed to look at strange men and so don’t examine them properly) are all part of the emotion of looking at the past, looking for a dead Jesus. So Mary Magdalene misses a live Jesus standing before her. 

The call “Mary” awakens in her the relationship, love and closeness. The psychological into physical, the movement in her is pretty fast. She tries to hug him. She has to let go that type of relationship into a spiritual one. Many religious men and women struggle with that not knowing where and how to put the boundaries in their relationships as celibate people. The mission – to go and announce the resurrection – is all too important to “waste” our time and energies on earthly niceties. “Go to my sisters and brothers ……”

3.     There are a lot of “foot races” in Jn 20. Resurrected people run. If the resurrection hasn’t gotten into your feet, it hasn’t gotten into your heart either! That’s why we have the first reading from the ACTS for the entire season of Easter. The disciples on their foot races around the world trying to raise people from their tombs: of idol worship, laziness, adultery, customs and traditions, drunken living…. 

4.     We celebrate our women who wake up and run caring for parish activities, catechism classes, looking after  parishes without priests, altar servers, cooking all those nice things for fetes and birthdays and farewells. If Islam is kept alive by men, Christianity is kept alive by women, I might conclude. 

5.     If women get involved more emotionally and socially, men tend to go to the heads and talk more theologically and theoretically. We see at this season of Easter Mary coming in grieving, Peter in betrayal, Thomas in doubt and disciples on the way to Emmaus in confusion. Peter and John see the same pieces of clothing and yet John believes.

6.     Thomas recognizes the Lord by the “nail marks”. When I was in upper Michigan for a parish mission, while shaking hands with the old timers, I realized their calluses on the hands. I would like to believe that the exclamation of Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” is not only expressions of faith but experience of the love and sacrifice of the Lord through his wounds.

If you take the hands of your father in the evening of his life and feel in the hands the sacrifice and work he had put in working in the farm, field or factory, you would also say, “Oh my God, how much he has suffered in bringing up our family and me!” If you take the hands of your mom in the evening of her life and feel how chaffed, hardened they have become cooking, washing and scrubbing, you would also say, “Oh my God, how much she has suffered for us!”

7.     Whether you are a politician or preacher or teacher or a family person, you are recognized by the nail marks or the sacrifice, trouble, time you spent for your constituents. People will soon notice where your “callus” is whether it is on the knees and hands or only on the tongue and wallet.

8.     On the next Sunday again, we notice that on the Emmaus journey, Jesus walked with them, they didn’t recognize him, talked with them, explained scripture, they didn’t recognize him. But only in the breaking of bread, their eyes were opened. 


a.     So, seeking the Lord beyond the tombs, past of sinfulness, rottenness, addictions, dead habits ...
b.     Become a missionary to announce the resurrection through activities and ministries
c.     Let’s be recognized as the disciples of the Lord by the change of life styles, sacrifices we make, sharing of bread and life and our preaching.


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Starters: From Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection:  
1: Divine Mercy in action: 

 A TIME magazine issue in 1984 presented a startling cover. It pictured a prison cell where two men sat on metal folding chairs. The young man wore a black turtleneck sweater, blue jeans and white running shoes. The older man was dressed in a white robe and had a white skullcap on his head. They sat facing one another,  up-close and personal. They spoke quietly so as to keep others from hearing the conversation. The young man was Mehmet Ali Agca, the pope’s would-be assassin (he shot and wounded the Pope on May 13, 1981); the other man was Pope John Paul II, the intended victim. The Pope held the hand that had held the gun whose bullet tore into the Pope’s body. This was a living icon of mercy. John Paul’s forgiveness was deeply Christian. His deed with Ali Agca spoke a thousand words. He embraced his enemy and pardoned him. At the end of their 20-minute meeting, Ali Agca raised the Pope’s hand to his forehead as a sign of respect. John Paul shook Ali Agca’s hand tenderly. When the Pope left the cell he said, “What we talked about must remain a secret between us. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust.” This is an example of God’s Divine Mercy, the same Divine Mercy whose message St. Faustina witnessed.  

2.      "Well, then, I will have mercy."  

Emperor Napoleon was moved by a mother's plea for pardon for her soldier son. However, the emperor said that since it was the man’s second major offense, justice demanded death. "I do not ask for justice," implored the mother, "I plead for mercy." "But," said the emperor, "he does not deserve mercy." "Sir," cried the mother, "it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for." The compassion and clarity of the mother's logic prompted Napoleon to respond, "Well, then, I will have mercy." (Luis Palau, Experiencing God's Forgiveness, Multnomah Press, 1984.) 
The Second Sunday of the Easter season invites us to reflect on God’s infinite love and mercy for His people, as detailed in the Bible and as lived and taught by Jesus, and to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  

3.     St. Faustina and the Image of the Divine Mercy:  

St. Faustina of Poland is the well known apostle of Divine Mercy. On the 30th of April, 2000, the Second Sunday of Easter, at 10:00 a.m., His Holiness Pope John Paul II celebrated the Eucharist in Saint Peter’s Square and proceeded to the canonization of Blessed Sister FAUSTINA. The new Saint invites us by the witness of her life to keep our faith and hope fixed on God, the Father, rich in mercy, who saved us by the precious blood of His Son. During her short life, the Lord Jesus assigned St. Faustina three basic tasks: 1. to pray for souls, entrusting them to God's incomprehensible Mercy; 2. to tell the world about God's Generous Mercy; 3. to start a new movement in the Church focusing on God's Mercy. At the canonization of Sr. Faustina, Pope John Paul II said: “The cross, even after the Resurrection of the Son of God, speaks and never ceases to speak of God the Father, who is absolutely faithful to His eternal love for man.... 

Believing in this love means believing in mercy." “The Lord of Divine Mercy” a drawing of Jesus based on the vision given to St. Faustina, shows Jesus raising his right hand in a gesture of blessing, with his left hand on his chest from which gush forth two rays, one red and one white. The picture contains the message "Jesus, I trust in You!" (Jezu ufam Tobie). The rays streaming out have symbolic meaning: red for the blood of Jesus, which is the life of souls and white for the water which justifies souls. The whole image is symbolic of the mercy, forgiveness and love of God. 

4.      Mayor’s mercy:   

One night in 1935, Fiorello H. La Guardia, mayor of New York, showed up at a night court in the poorest ward of the city. He dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench. One case involved an elderly woman who was caught stealing bread to feed her grandchildren. La Guardia said, "I've got to punish you. Ten dollars or ten days in jail."  

As he spoke, he threw $10 into his hat. He then fined everyone in the courtroom 50 cents for living in a city "where an old woman had to steal bread so that her grandchildren should not starve." The hat was passed around, and the woman left the courtroom with her fine paid and an additional $47.50.   

5.     Traffic cop’s mercy:  

A priest was forced, by a traffic police, to pull over for speeding. As the cop was about to write the ticket, the priest said to him, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." The cop handed the priest the ticket, and said, "Go, and sin no more." 

6.     Photographer’s mercy:  

The story is told of a politician who, after receiving the proofs of a picture, was very angry with the photographer. He stormed back to the man's studio and screamed at him: "This picture does not do me justice!" The photographer replied, "Sir, with a face like yours, what you need is mercy, not justice!"
7. Mercy in the midst of tragedy:
 
The news is filled with illustrations of mercy—or the need for mercy—in our world. One of the most moving stories came to us on October 6, 2006, when an armed man entered an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. He chased out the little boys and lined up the 10 little girls in front of the blackboard. He shot all of them and then killed himself. Five of the girls died. After the medics and police left, the families of the fallen came and carried their slain children home. They removed their bloody clothes and washed the bodies. They sat for a time and mourned their beloved children. After a while they walked to the home of the man who killed their children. They told his widow they forgave her husband for what he had done, and they consoled her for the loss of her spouse. They buried their anger before they buried their children. Amish Christians teach us that forgiveness is central. They believe in a real sense that God’s forgiveness of themselves depends on their extending forgiveness to other people. That’s what the mercy of God is all about. That mercy is why we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. (Rev. Alfred McBride, O. Praem: Catholic Update – March 2008).
8. "Law v Mercy” In Reader’s Digest,

Jim Williams of Montana, writes: "I was driving too fast late one night when I saw the flashing lights of a police car in my rearview mirror. As I pulled over and rolled down my window of my station wagon, I tried to dream up an excuse for my haste. But when the patrolman reached the car, he said nothing. Instead, he merely shined his flashlight in my face, then on my seven-month-old in his car seat, then on our three other children, who were asleep, and lastly on the two dogs in the very back of the car. Returning the beam of light to my face, he then uttered the only words of the encounter. “Son,' he said, 'you can’t afford a ticket. Slow down.” And with that, he returned to his car and drove away.” Sometimes mercy triumphs over law. So it is for sinners who call out to Jesus.” (Sent by Fr. pgolden@richmondcathedral.org on March 1, 2013) 
 
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Michel DeVerteuil 
General Comments
Doubting Tom
Today’s gospel reading, like all of St John’s gospel, is an interweaving of several themes. It is not possible to follow up all the themes together; we must focus on one at a time, going deeply into it and allowing it to reveal some deep truth about Jesus, about ourselves and about life.
Here I invite you to focus on the apostle Thomas; this is in accord with the Catholic church’s liturgical tradition for the Second Sunday of Easter. Therefore, although the reading includes two of Jesus’ resurrection appearances – both of them deeply moving – we stay with the second, the dialogue between Jesus and Thomas, and let the earlier appearance  provide the context.  We are free to identify either with Thomas or with Jesus, but not with both at the same time.
tom model of faithWe need to be clear on how we understand Thomas. The popular interpretation puts him in a bad light, as “doubting Thomas”. This however is not the movement of the text, which culminates in Thomas’ admirable act of faith, the most explicit in the New Testament – “My Lord and my God!”.
We are more in accord with the spirit of the text, therefore, when we look at Thomas as a model of faith. He was right to insist that before he could believe in Jesus’ resurrection he must see the holes the nails made in his hands, put his finger into the holes and his hand into the great wound made by the centurion’s lance.
Thomas teaches us the important lesson that we must not separate the resurrection from the cross, since we are called to be followers of Jesus. He also teaches us the truth of the Church and of our individual spiritual growth. We cannot live the life of grace, the “risen life”, authentically unless we bear in our bodies the wounds of the cross. This means being conscious that we develop the capacity to love and to be loved only by dying to ourselves. Our wounds are also a constant reminder of our frailty, and that it is God’s grace that raises us up to new life.
St Paul’s epistles show that the first Christians needed the corrective of Thomas’ faith. They tended to relate with the risen Jesus without reference to his crucifixion. They forgot that they were called to be “followers of Jesus crucified”, choosing to die with him so that they could rise with him (see especially 1 Corinthians 1).
We Christians fall into the same error today when our lives and our teachings proclaim an abstract “disembodied” Jesus, dispenser of graces and teacher of morality – we forget the historical person who was put to death for proclaiming the kingdom of God.
Thomas professes the true faith of the Church. We too must insist that the Jesus we follow is the true Jesus, the one whose risen body bears the wounds of Calvary.
Jesus is the model leader and spiritual guide. He is pleased to give Thomas the assurance he is looking for, and then challenges him to look forward to the day when he will believe without seeing – always in the Jesus who passes through death to resurrection.
The blessedness of believing without seeing came from the experience of the early Church. Jesus is not moralizing, but inviting Thomas – and us – to celebrate  great people of faith, in our local communities and world-wide, who take up their cross with confidence in the resurrection.
As always in our meditation we must not limit ourselves to personal relationships. We celebrate the resurrection faith lived by communities, nations and cultures.
You who remain ever faithful even when we are unfaithful, forgive our sins and grant that we may bear true witness to you before all men and women.”  Pope John Paul II, Service of Forgiveness, March 2000
Lord, we thank you for the moments of grace of this Lenten season,
when – as individuals and as a church community –
we walked in the footsteps of Jesus by passing from death to new life.
We thank you in particular for the great day
when our church publicly asked forgiveness from other religions and cultures.
We thank you for Pope John Paul who, like Jesus with St Thomas,
invited us to see the holes that the nails of arrogance and self-righteousness
had made in the body of Christ, and to put our fingers into the holes,
to put our hands into the huge wound
which the lust for power has made in his side,
so that we could recognize how, just as you raised Jesus from the dead,
you do not allow his Body, the church, to remain in the tomb,
but always raise her up to new life.
shared faithLord, we thank you for the times when reconciliation
emerged triumphantly from the tomb of conflict:
– the spirit of dialogue between our church and Jews, Muslims, Hindus,
and African traditional religions;
– the European Union created by former enemies;
– the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland;
– the peace process in the Middle East.
Lord, we thank you for the experience of the military in Iraq.
We pray that they will hear your voice calling on them all
to remember those who have been hurt,
who still have holes that the nails made in their hands
and can put their finger into the holes they made,
and unless they can put their hands into their side, they will refuse to believe.
Do not let us forget the terrible legacy of hatred and resentment
which had to be overcome;
invite us to put our fingers into the holes made by nails,
our hands into the great wounds made by lances,
so that we can recognize with awe and wonder
the spark of your divine life that is within us all.
Remind us too of those who worked for peace during the long years of conflict
when it seemed that they were working in vain.
How blessed were they who did not see
and yet continued to believe in your power to bring new life into the world.
“Whoever sees anything of God, sees nothing of God .  Meister Eckhart
Lord, lead us to the blessedness of not seeing and believing.
“Go for broke, always try to do too much, dispense with safety nets, aim for the stars.“   Salman Rushdie
Lord, we thank you for friends, leaders and spiritual guides
who challenge us as Jesus challenged Thomas.
When we commit ourselves to a cause because we have tested its reality,
they invite us to experience the blessedness of believing without seeing.
“Beware of the seduction of leaving the poor to think about them.”  Jean Vanier
Lord, forgive us that we want to help those in need without sharing their pain,
we look for their resurrection but do not want to see their wounds:
– young people have been deeply hurt and we serve them with pious exhortations;
– we become impatient with those who continue to mourn the death of a spouse or a child;
– we think we can restore a broken relationship by merely saying we are sorry;
– we propose reconciliation between warring factions without acknowledging  past wrongs;
– we pray for peace in the world and do not agonize over its terrible injustices.
We thank you for people like Thomas
who will not let us get away with easy solutions;
they insist that we must see the holes that nails have made
in the hands of victims,
put our fingers into the holes and our hands into wounds
that lances have made in their sides,
and only then believe that they have within them
the capacity to rise to new life.
We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs.” Step 5 in the 12 Step Method of Alcoholics Anonymous
Lord, when we are converted from an addiction to alcohol, drugs, power or sex,
we are so anxious to make a new start
that we try to forget the hurt which was at the root of our problem
– the loneliness of our childhood
– the sense of racial inferiority
– our disability
– the fear of failure.
We thank you for sending us friends who insist
that we must face the reality of the past.
We pray that like Jesus welcoming Thomas,
we will invite them to put their fingers into the holes the nails have made
and their hands into our sides, so that they can walk with us in our new life.
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Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration
Last Sunday we cried out with joy that ‘Today Christ is risen! Christ has conquered evil and death.’
Thisnewness theme is so central for us that we need an extended time to ponder the day of resurrection: so here we are again today thinking about the day he rose. Easter day is the day he told us that our sins were forgiven, it is the day he charged us to be forgiving. On Easter day he gave us new life, and charged us to be life-giving. So as we stand here celebrating resurrection, how do we stand in our lives as people claiming this belief?

Homily Notes
1. Only one of the three elements in this gospel passage can be explored in the homily: to try to do more is to risk confusion and overload. I have chosen the image of the risen Christ who appears among his followers with the greeting: ‘Peace be with you’, and who follows this up with a sending out of the disciples to be bearers of peace and reconciliation.
2. Forgiveness, peacemaking, and reconciliation are not concepts that we run together in our minds nor automatically link to our identity as Christian, yet they are at the heart of the meaning of resurrection. Let us note how we tend to react to these themes.
3. jesus forgives 1Forgiveness brings to mind a very individualist notion of getting rid of that which hinders me from getting to where I want to go: heaven. Forgiveness can be seen as a kind of sacred selfishness or a personal escape hatch from doom Seeking forgiveness can then become an introverted process of reducing the mystery of God’s love into my desire ‘to get off the hook’.
jesus mediates4. Reconciliation and peacemaking seem to be sideline issues for most Christians: one more good work that you might en. gage in if that is your ‘thing’. Having a conscious attitude of seeking to overcome division or taking a positive stance towards the question of peace can be seen to be areas where some Christians might feel they have a role, but that these could not be said to be defining issues for Christians. Many First World Christians might even go so far as to say that even if one were uninterested in the building-up of a society of peace one could still call oneself a Christian and a believer in resurrection.
5. When we hear of ‘forgiving and retaining sins’ we think first of the priest in the confessional in the highly structured environment of the sacrament. The notion of ‘retained sins’ brings to mind many negative images of being frightened in the confessional and ‘the church’ wielding spiritual ‘power’. This command is therefore primarily a commissioning ceremony of giving out power and authorisation to the apostles and their successors. This range of ideas, limiting forgiveness to a specific sacramental moment often with negative echoes, can seriously impair our seeing the larger significance of this part of Christ’s resurrection message.
forgive love6. To be a Christian is to be one who is forgiven, and so one who forgives. ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ This forgiveness is declared to us in the Father raising Christ from death: death and destruction are not to have the final say in human life. This forgiveness and victory are shared with us in Christ’s gift of the Spirit. We are a people who, far from being cut-off from God, have God dwelling within us.
7. This people of the resurrection is then commanded to share this forgiveness and peace in their actions: it is the acceptance of this divine programme that constitutes real belief in resurrection. So the followers are constituted as a group who have a task to fulfill for the whole world: they must be the bearers of forgiveness. It they carry out this task then peace and for King). This is a ministry that Christ sends us out into the world to perform as his agents. It is a ministry not in some restricted sense of a job or function in the church’s administration or liturgy, nor in a special sense of a sacral encounter with a sacred minister (priest), but in the fundamental sense of a service performed to a suffering humanity. The risen Christ looks with love on all who suffer and are in bondage in one way or another, and sends us to bring peace and freedom. This is a central task of us Christians as a group and of each of us. It should be that to know there are Christians is to know that there are people who go around working for peace and proclaiming that God is forgiving.
8. Even in the case of the specific instance of forgiveness we call the Sacrament of Reconciliation we express the belief that the basic mission to forgive and reconcile belongs to the whole group: ‘… the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of the Son … sent the Spirit … for the forgiveness of sins … through the ministry of the church (the sacramental formula of absolution).
9. However, knowing that peacemaking and reconciliation is central to our role as Christians and our witness as a group is one thing, moving beyond this is something else again. The temptation is to harangue and preach: we must be reconciling! we must be peacemaking! we must condemn violence! and the cries go on and on. But such harangues make little difference in practice. Perhaps it is more useful to become aware of the complexity of our situation. First, we all are in favour of peace and goodness and reconciliation — it is almost axiomatic, like saying ‘humans want to be happy.’ But, second, while this is what we claim to want, most of us have vested interests in strife in some shape or form: be it in relationships, in the way we earn a living, in our national pride, or in more obviously exploitational activities. We want peace but only in so far as it is equivalent to our victory or at the very least only in so far as our own apple cart is not upset. Third, we must be aware of how precious our own positions are to us and how we dread having to change our minds or lifestyles. This change is painful and cuts deep. Peace making is only easy for those with no stake in the present situation. Finally, we must note that we as Christians have an abysmal track-record regarding peace. Hence it is all too easy to root around in Christian tradition and find justification for any type of intolerance and this makes the whole notion of peacemaking seem less urgent. Memories can be the great authorisation of strife and hatred, and to challenge some long-championed position in theology, politics, business, relationship, or social customs can seem both treacherous and foolhardy.
10. It is in this personal analysis of the contrast between, on the one hand, how big a stake so many of us have in violence, strife, struggle, and a culture of death, with, on the other hand, the command to forgive and make peace, that we individually discover the cost of believing in Christ as the conqueror of death. To even start the examination of this cost of discipleship in our lives is the first victory of peace. Do not ask ‘Do I believe in the resurrection’ — that can be a cosy religious word-game; but ask: Am I prepared to take the discomfiture, loss of pride, or perhaps loss of income that comes with working for peace, development, and reconciliation (cf ‘development [of the Third World] is another name for peace,’ Paul VI in Populorum progressio)? Peacemaking is never soppy, usually costly, and rarely easy.
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Sean Goan

In this very packed Gospel, different facets of the Easter mystery are presented. Firstly we note that Jesus appears to the community pity gathered on a Sunday, they rejoice at his presence and receive through him the gift of the Holy Spirit and with this are given a mission, they are sent just as Jesus himself was. In these verses we have as good a summary of what Sunday Eucharist is all about as we will ever find. In short, it is about joy in the presence of the Risen Lord who give us his peace so that we can continue his task of revealing God to the world. Thankfully Thomas is missing because his refusal to believe means that the following Sunday we need to gather again and once again as a community of faith encounter Christ among us. Now, by a wonderful irony, it is Thomas who leads us in our appropriate response as we acknowledge Jesus as Our Lord and Our God. The words addressed to Thomas by Jesus are for the generations of Christians who have continued to proclaim the Easter message ever since: ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

Reflection
Jesus explainshow the kingdom will grow.
Jesus explains how the kingdom will grow.
Today’s readings originated with different communities at different times in the life of the early church but there is a striking similarity in their insistence that believing in the resurrection heralds a change in the way we live. We simply cannot be true believers if we close our hearts to those in need around us. If we accept the risen Christ and the promise of new life that he brings then we must be engaged in bringing about the kingdom of God. It is not characterised by a private piety but by an inclusive love which reaches out to those who are most in need. Today’s gospel gives us John’s Pentecost and reminds us that all that we would do in the name of Jesus is to be done in the power of the Holy Spirit.
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From the Connections:

THE WORD:
The Gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter (for all three years of the Lectionary cycle) is Act 2 of John’s Easter drama.
   
Scene 1 takes place on Easter night.  The terrified disciples are huddled together, realizing that they are marked men because of their association with the criminal Jesus.  The Risen Jesus appears in their midst with his greeting of “peace.”  John clearly has the Genesis story in mind when the evangelist describes Jesus as “breathing” the Holy Spirit on his disciples:  Just as God created man and woman by breathing life into them (Genesis 2: 7), the Risen Christ re-creates humankind by breathing the new life of the Holy Spirit upon the eleven.
In scene 2, the disciples excitedly tell the just-returned Thomas of what they had seen.  Thomas responds to the news with understandable skepticism.  Thomas had expected the cross (see John 11: 16 and 14: 5) -- and no more.
The climactic third scene takes place one week later, with Jesus’ second appearance to the assembled community -- this time with Thomas present.  He invites Thomas to examine his wounds and to “believe.”  Christ’s blessing in response to Thomas’ profession of faith exalts the faith of every Christian of every age who “believes without seeing”; all Christians who embrace the Spirit of the Risen One possess a faith that is in no way different less than that of the first disciples.  The power of the Resurrection transcends time and place.
 
HOMILY POINTS:
We trace our roots as parish and faith communities to Easter night when Jesus “breathed” his spirit of peace and reconciliation upon his frightened disciples, transforming them into the new Church.
The “peace” that Christ gives his new Church is not a passive sense of good feeling or the mere absence of conflict.  Christ’s peace is hard work: the peace of the Easter Christ is to honor one another as children of the same Father in heaven; the peace of the Easter Christ seeks to build bridges and find solutions rather than assigning blame or extracting punishment; the peace of Christ is centered in relationships that are just, ethical and moral. 
The “peace” that the Risen Christ breathes into us at Easter shows us a way out of those tombs in which we bury ourselves; the forgiveness he extends enables us to get beyond the facades we create and the rationalizations we devise to justify them. 
Jesus’ entrusting to the disciples the work of forgiveness is what it means to be the church: to accept one another, to affirm one another, to support one another as God has done for us in the Risen Christ.  What brought the apostles and first Christians together as a community -- unity of heart, missionary witness, prayer, reconciliation and healing -- no less powerfully binds us to one another as the Church of today.
All of us, at one time or another, experience the doubt and skepticism of Thomas:  While we have heard the good news of Jesus’ empty tomb, all of our fears, problems and sorrows prevent us from realizing it in our own lives.  In raising his beloved Son from the dead, God also raises our spirits to the realization of the totality and limitlessness of his love for us. 

Nail marks 

It has happened to all of us.  We discover that we are better people than we think we are.  The parish puts out a call for volunteers.  There aren’t enough hours in the day as it is — and you can’t imagine yourself contributing anything meaningful to help the elderly, the homeless, the poor, or kids — especially (God help us!) teenagers.  But once you begin, you find a real joy working with these folks.  You look forward to these couple of hours.  You realize that you have been changed as much as those you have touched. 

Or you walk into the cafeteria and the only place left is next to her.  She’s nice enough but painfully shy — she barely says hello to anyone.  You sit down and say Hi.  You’re taken back by the welcome and graciousness in her quiet Hello.  The ice is broken; a friendship begins — all because you were willing to risk a simple Hello. 

Or a beloved family member or friend is critically ill.  You feel helpless.  You’d like to go and be with them — but you’re afraid you may say the wrong thing; you fear that in your clumsiness and awkwardness you may do more harm than good.  But it becomes clear in just a few minutes that your presence alone has brought much joy to the dying, that your simple taking of their hand reassures them that are loved and cared for.  

In today’s Gospel, the Risen Christ invites the doubting Thomas to place his fingers “in the nail marks” and “in my side” and believe — believe in the love of God to transform us and in the grace to be agents of that love for others.  The “nail marks” of Jesus are all around us in the lives of those walking their own Calvarys.  Jesus calls us to be willing to place ourselves in the pain and struggle of others and bring the joy and peace of Easter into hearts entombed in winter cold and darkness.   
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ILLUSTRATIONS:  

1.     Andrew Greeley:  

Story:
Once upon a time there was a man who counted carefully all his grudges. He remembered all the cruelties of the school yard, the taunts from his class when he did something well, the feather-brained irresponsibilities  (as he saw them) of the young women he had dated, the dishonesty of his business associates, the insensitivity of his wife, the ingratitude of his children. So many people had done such terrible things to him that he figured that there had to be a conspiracy. Who could have organized such a massive conspiracy?

Only God: 

For some reason, maybe it was his face, God did not like him. This was unfair, but what could he do. If God had a grudge against him, that was God’s privilege. But then he had the right to hold a grudge against God. So he died lonely and isolated, hated (he thought) by everyone who ought to have loved him. I have a grudge against You, he told God on first meeting. So what, God replied. I don’t have a grudge against you, so forget about it!  

Then God showed him the people at his funeral Mass. All the people who had injured him were sobbing in church. Do you think maybe you missed the point, God asked.

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2. Fr. Jude Botelho:

The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles has an apt description of the ideal Christian community, a community gathered around the risen Lord. There are two characteristics pointed out in this community. Firstly, there was a tremendous unity and secondly, as a result of this unity there was a generous sharing of all that they had, out of concern for others. It is good to remind ourselves today that if we are truly Christians, then our communities should have the same characteristics.Today we are reminded that if we are an Easter people we have to share our lives and in the measure we care, in that measure we grow as a Christian community. 


Uplifting One Another
Have you ever watched geese fly in V-formation? While a thing of beauty to watch, the formation is essential to the geese for survival. If you listen, you can hear the beat of their wings whistling through the air in unison. And that is the secret of their strength: the lead goose cuts a swath through the air resistance, which creates a helping uplift for the birds behind it. In turn their flapping makes it easier for the birds behind them, and so on. Each bird takes its turn at being leader. The tired ones fan out to the edges of the V for a breather, and the rested ones surge towards the point of the V to drive the flock onward. If a goose becomes too exhausted or ill and has to drop out of the flock, it is never abandoned. A stronger member of the flock will follow the failing, weak one to its resting place and wait till the bird is well enough to fly again. Together, cooperating as a flock, geese can fly at 71% longer range, with up to 60% less work.

Phillip Yancy, in 'Benedict Arnold Seagull'



In the Gospel, Easter Peace is very much linked with our readiness to forgive and to receive forgiveness from others. We are all called to be witnesses of His Peace and His forgiveness. The Gospel adds a little detail that Thomas, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came and when the others told him that they had seen the Lord he refused to believe. He demanded proof that would satisfy him. "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." We have people who are believers and people who are doubters; people who are ready to accept the word of others as gospel truth and people who question even those in authority. Apparently, the apostles let Thomas be part of the group in spite of his doubts and questions. Equally, it must be said, that in spite of not believing their testimonies, Thomas did not walk out on them, but rather, stayed with the community. His perseverance was rewarded with the second appearance of Jesus to him. Jesus on his part is seen to be patient and tolerant of Thomas and takes the initiative to meet him on his terms and conditions. "Thomas, put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Doubt no longer but believe." The gospel concludes with those reassuring words for many of us, who have our doubts, who have not seen and are struggling to believe. "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."

Don't be crying! It's Ok! He is alive!

"I remember one occasion when I led a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. One of the young men in the group was quite mentally limited, although his grasp of God, of Jesus, and the events of the gospel were uncanny. We arrived at the tomb of the basilica, and we joined the long line, waiting our turn to enter. One lady came out of the tomb, and was obviously deeply touched by the experience of her visit to such a sacred spot. She sat down outside the entrance, took out a tissue, and began wiping her tears. My friend, who was back in the line, spotted what was happening, and responded instantly. He ran straight up to her, put his hand on her shoulder and said, "Don't be crying, it's ok. He's alive; don't you know that?" The whole thing was so spontaneous and genuine that the woman stood up, and gave him a warm hug. The simple fact was that he could not understand how anybody could be crying at this tomb, of all the tombs in the world. - Jesus thanked the Father for giving a message that was so simple and straightforward that the intellectual and the worldly-wise would fail to grasp it, and yet it could be fully accepted by someone with the mind of a child. Happy are they who have not seen yet believe."

Jack McArdle in 'And that's the Gospel Truth'



Cure for Sorrow
There is an old Chinese tale about a woman whose only son died. In her grief, she went to the holy man and said, "What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring my son back to life?" Instead of sending her away or reasoning with her, he said to her, "Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life." The woman went off at once in search of that magical mustard seed. She came first to a splendid mansion, knocked at the door, and said, "I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me." They told her, "You've certainly come to the wrong place," and began to describe all the tragic things that recently had befallen them. The woman said to herself, "Who is better able to help these poor, unfortunate people than I, who have had misfortune of my own?" She stayed to comfort them, then went on in search of a home that had never known sorrow. But wherever she turned, in hovels and in other places, she found one tale after another of sadness and misfortune. She became so involved in ministering to other people's grief that ultimately she forgot about her quest for the magical mustard seed, never realizing that it had, in fact, driven the sorrow out of her life.

Brian Cavanaugh in 'The Sower's Seeds'


Identity Issue

The conversation at a party turned to religion. Many gave their opinion on a whole series of contemporary issues. One person kept silent. Then one of the guests asked him: "By the way, what are you?" In the context it was clear that he was asked what religion he was affiliated with. He said: "Oh, I happen to be a Christian!" You could tell by the way he said it that either he didn't take his religious convictions seriously, or he didn't want to admit it if he did. How different from those Christians from the Acts! They had no difficulty in describing or defining themselves; they had no identity problems. They would say things like: "We are witnesses to all this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who listen." They didn't just 'happen to be' Christians. They were Christians by conscious choice and commitment. They had opened their hearts and minds to the presence of the spirit of Jesus. They not only witnessed to Jesus by professing what had happened to him; they witnessed to Jesus by living as he lived.

Joseph G. Donders in 'With hearts on Fire'


Hope for the Flowers

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then, it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could. So the man decided to help, he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly. What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon. Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. If God allowed us to go through our lives without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. We could never fly!

Anonymous


Is God Alive?

In a philosophy class being taught by a great Master of Philosophy, the issue being discussed was "The Existence of God-Myth or Reality". The professor was very verbose about the folly of the whole idea of "God". While he was thus going on, one of the boys in the class was eating an orange right under the professor's nose while taking in all that the professor was saying. At the end of the discussion, the professor, with a very gleeful look of great satisfaction, asked his students whether anyone had anything to add to what he had said. Very promptly this student, who had just finished licking the final bit of juice off his fingers, popped up and asked the professor: "Sir, wasn't that orange simply scrumptious!". The professor turned all the colours of the rainbow. He was furious and yelled at the student: "How do I know you imbecile, you ate the orange not me. How can I tell the taste of something I did not eat?!!" The whole class laughed- but the student quite undeterred spoke up and said: "Exactly my point sir, how then can you speak of God whom you have never known or experienced, when I have known Him and experienced Him and I can tell you that He is, beyond a shadow of doubt".

Anonymous


God cannot be separated from our lives

About two centuries ago, some atheistic scientists in France set out to prove that, if an individual was never told about God, he would never think of the existence of God. And so they devised a strange plan. They made an agreement with the parents of a newborn infant to remove the entire family to a remote region where they could enjoy the very best by way of nutrition and recreation. The little boy was educated by the best of tutors, who were however strictly instructed never to make a mention of God. When the little boy was seven, his nurse found him missing one morning. In a state of alarm, she searched for him until she found him on a little hillock, facing the rising sun. He was on his knees, his hands were reverently joined, his head respectfully bowed and his eyes were closed as though he was lost in prayer. "What on earth are you doing?" demanded the anguished nurse. Without batting an eyelid, the little fellow said: "I am only praising the almighty Person who made that beautiful sunrise!" And there ended the sinister plan of those atheistic scientists and their presumptive objective.

James Valladares in 'Your Words O Lord, are Spirit and they are life.




MERCY

Years after the death of President Calvin Coolidge, this story came to light. In the early days of his presidency, Coolidge awoke one morning in his hotel room to find a cat burglar going through his pockets. Coolidge spoke up, asking the burglar not to take his watch chain because it contained an engraved charm he wanted to keep. Coolidge then engaged the thief in quiet conversation and discovered he was a college student who had no money to pay his hotel bill or buy a ticket back to campus. Coolidge counted $32 out of his wallet -- which he had also persuaded the dazed young man to give back! -- declared it to be a loan, and advised the young man to leave the way he had come so as to avoid the Secret Service! (Yes, the loan was paid back.)   

Today in the Word, October 8, 1992.  


A mother once approached Napoleon seeking a pardon for her son. The emperor replied that the young man had committed a certain offense twice and justice demanded death. 

"But I don't ask for justice," the mother explained. "I plead for mercy." 

"But your son does not deserve mercy," Napoleon replied. 
"Sir," the woman cried, "it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for." 
"Well, then," the emperor said, "I will have mercy." And he spared the woman's son. 

Luis Palau, Experiencing God's Forgiveness, Multnomah Press, 1984.   

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If I were to mention the names of certain disciples to you and ask you to write down the first word that comes into your mind, it is unlikely you would come up with the same words. If I were to mention the name of Judas many of you would write down the word "betray" but not all of you. If I were to mention Simon Peter, some of you would write down the word "faith," but not all of you. If I were to mention the names of James and John, some of you would write down the phrase "Sons of Thunder," but not all of you. But when I mention the word Thomas, there is little question about the word most everyone would write down. It would be the word doubt. Indeed, so closely have we associated Thomas with this word, that we have coined a phrase to describe him: "Doubting Thomas."
You may be interested to know that in the first three gospels we are told absolutely nothing at all about Thomas. It is in John's Gospel that he emerges as a distinct personality, but even then there are only 155 words about him. There is not a lot about this disciple in the Bible but there is more than one description. 


When Jesus turned his face toward Jerusalem the disciples thought that it would be certain death for all of them. Surprisingly, it was Thomas who said: Then let us go so that we may die with him. It was a courageous statement, yet we don't remember him for that. We also fail to point out that in this story of Thomas' doubt we have the one place in the all the Gospels where the Divinity of Christ is bluntly and unequivocally stated. It is interesting, is it not, that the story that gives Thomas his infamous nickname, is the same story that has Thomas making an earth shattering confession of faith? Look at his confession, "My Lord, and my God." Not teacher. Not Lord. Not Messiah. But God! It is the only place where Jesus is called God without qualification of any kind. It is uttered with conviction as if Thomas was simply recognizing a fact, just as 2 + 2 = 4, and the sun is in the sky. You are my Lord and my God! These are certainly not the words of a doubter.

Unfortunately history has remembered him for this scene where the resurrected Christ made an appearance to the disciples in a home in Jerusalem...
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The British writer Arthur C. Clarke proposed three "laws" of prediction that are known as "Clarke's Three Laws." Here they are: 

Law 1) When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.  

Law 2) The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.  

Law 3) Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.    

Taking Clarke even further, some historians of science have argued that the roots of science in the mists of time lie in magic, that science began as magic. According to these scholars the astrologers and magicians parted company: those who sided with the astrologers accepted fate and the destiny of the stars; those who cast lots with the magicians looked for ways to change our future and manipulate the world.   

For people of my generation, we are living in a magic renaissance. Science and technology are awash in magic with things like 3-D printers, which are now printing human organs and 3500 square foot homes in 24 hours. Have you seen how they work? That's magic. Then there are Google glasses and Amazon drones. That's magic.   

But some of the biggest magic around is voice recognition. As a young Samuel was instructed to speak by his mentor Eli, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth." Our technology now is saying to us, "Speak, Lord, for your servant hears and obeys." We "speak," and our toys turn on and do our bidding. Your voice is enough to get the GPS systems in your car to be your digital concierge and report back to you with a voice of our choosing. X-Box One recognizes who is speaking to it and obeys the voice of its "master" instantly. It's all magic. But to our kids, it's not magic, it's normality.    

 But Voice Recognition didn't begin as magic, or as science. It began with Jesus....
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 A New Shalom 

When Jesus appeared to the disciples, his greeting was, "Peace be unto you." The Hebrew word shalom, for "peace," is a most comprehensive word, covering the full realm of relationships in daily life and expressing an ideal state of life. The word suggests the fullness of well-being and harmony untouched by ill fortune. The word as a blessing is a prayer for the best that God can give to enable a person to complete one's life with happiness and a natural death. If the concept of shalom became all too casual and light-hearted with no more significance than a passing greeting, Jesus came to give it new meaning. At Bethlehem God announced that peace would come through the gift of God's unique Son. The mission and ministry of our Lord made it quite clear that Jesus had come to introduce the rule of God and to order peace for the world.  

Harry N. Huxhold, Which Way To Jesus?, CSS Publishing
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Is your preaching EPIC?

GIVING BLOOD by Leonard Sweet - a must-have manual for preachers. Get your copy today!  
http://www.zondervan.com/giving-blood.html
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 Would You Still Like to be Rescued?

 Several years ago, The Saturday Evening Post ran a cartoon showing a man about to be rescued after he had spent a long time ship-wrecked on a tiny deserted island. The sailor in charge of the rescue team stepped onto the beach and handed the man a stack of newspapers. "Compliments of the Captain," the sailor said. "He would like you to glance at the headlines to see if you'd still like to be rescued!" Sometimes the headlines do scare us. Sometimes we feel that evil is winning. Then Easter comes to remind us that there is no grave deep enough, no seal imposing enough, no stone heavy enough, no evil strong enough to keep Christ in the grave.  

James W. Moore, Some Things Are Too Good Not To Be True, p. 80
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 Ants in The Pants of Faith 

Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don't have any doubts you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.  

Frederick Buechner
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 Just Because We Can't See It 

A junior high school teacher was telling her class about evolution and how the way everything in the world was formed proved that God doesn't exist. She said, "Look out the window. You can't see God, can you?" The kids shook their heads. "Look around you in this room. You can't see God, can you?" The kids shook their heads. "Then our logical conclusion is that God doesn't exist, does He?" she asked at last, certain that she had won her audience over. 

But one girl from the back of the classroom said, "Miss Smith, just because we can't see it does not mean it does not exist...

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 We Know Where We Are Going 

The story is told about Albert Einstein, the brilliant physicist of Princeton University in the early 20th century. Einstein was traveling from Princeton on a train, and when the conductor came down the aisle to punch the passengers' tickets, Einstein couldn't find his. He looked in his vest pocket, he looked in his pants pocket, he looked in his briefcase, but there was no ticket. The conductor was gracious; "Not to worry, Dr. Einstein, I know who you are, we all know who you are, and I'm sure you bought a ticket." 

As the conductor moved down the aisle, he looked back and noticed Einstein on his hands and knees, searching under the seat for his ticket. The conductor returned to Einstein; "Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don't worry. I know who you are. You don't need a ticket, I'm sure you bought one." Einstein arose and said "Young man, I too know who I am; what I don't know is where I am going." 

And that is the good news of Easter; that we know where we are going. We have been told by the Savior that his life and death has promised us life eternal. And Low Sundays don't change that promise. And unemployment doesn't change that promise. Neither does divorce, or bankruptcy, or cancer, or depression, or felony, or failure. Through elation and deflation and every emotion in between, this truth remains; we know whose we are and we know where we are going, because the Son of God has promised. And this, my friends, is faith. 

Steven Molin, Elated....Deflated
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The Greatest Scar Story
I can think of no better modern-day illustration of the sacrifice Jesus made for us than a recent scar story I heard from a tennis friend of mine. As we were waiting for another match to finish, she was relating how badly her knees hurt. This friend is the most fit 30-something-year-old I know. Yet she sat beside me with a brace on each knee. I pointed to the open hole of her knee brace and asked if her scar was from knee surgery. She told me, "No, it's from my son, and I actually have an identical scar on my other knee."

You see, several years ago she scooped up her toddler son from the swimming pool and began to walk towards a lounge chair. As she stepped onto the tiled patio, her foot slipped on the wet slick surface. She was also seven months pregnant, and it was one of those moments where you feel like you're moving in slow motion but there's nothing you can do to stop the fall. Within a split second, she knew her momentum was toppling her forward, and she could either face-plant and land on top of both her son and her unborn child, or she could fall on her knees.

Of course, as any loving parent would do, she chose to fall on her knees directly onto the unforgiving concrete. Her knees immediately burst open and blood went everywhere. She ended up needing stitches, which resulted in scars, but her son and unborn child were both unscathed. It is hard for me to tell this story without tearing up, because to me, it serves as a miniscule example of the immense sacrifice and love of Jesus Christ for us. You see, we are the beloved children of God for whom Jesus took the fall. Christ suffered on the cross and endured unimaginable pain for us. His is the greatest scar story ever told.

Christi O. Brown, Scars of Hope
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 Honey...It's Me 

Perhaps you've heard the story of the Yugoslavian judge who was electrocuted when he reached up to turn on the light while standing in the bathtub. No, I'm not cruel or weird, let me tell you the rest of the story. This guy's poor wife found his body sprawled on the bathroom floor. He was pronounced dead and was placed in a preparation room under a crypt in the town cemetery for twenty-four hours before burial.

Well, and this is the part I love, in the middle of the night, the judge came to. The judge looked around at his surroundings and suddenly realized where he was. He got pretty excited and rushed over to alert the guard. But instead of being any help, the guard was terrified and promptly ran off. 

Fortunately, though, the guard returned with a friend, and they released the newly-revived judge. The judge's first thought was to phone his wife and reassure her that he really wasn't dead. Unfortunately, he got no farther than, "Honey... it's me," when his wife screamed and fainted. 

So, he decided that the best course of action was to enlist some friends. He went to the houses of several friends; but because they all had heard the news from his distraught wife, they all doubted that he was really alive. They were all convinced he was a ghost.

Finally, in a last desperate effort, he contacted a friend in another city who hadn't heard about his death. And that person was able to convince his family and friends that the judge really was alive. 

That story almost sounds like one of the Gospel writers could have written it, doesn't it? It sure sounds like the passage from John this morning. 

Traditional Story. We have not been able to verify the veracity of this story.
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 God's Back 

It was Saturday, the day before Easter, and Joanne Hinch of Woodland Hills, California was sitting at the kitchen table coloring eggs with her three-year-old son Dan and her two-year-old daughter Debbie. She told her kids about the meaning of Easter and taught them the traditional Easter morning greeting and response, "He is risen...He is risen indeed!" The children planned to surprise their Dad, a Presbyterian minister, with that greeting as soon as he awoke the next morning. Easter arrived, little Dan heard his father stirring about in his bedroom, so the boy got up quickly, dashed down the hall and shouted the good news: "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, God's back!" 

David E. Leininger, "Laugh, Thomas, Laugh!"
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 End In Certainties

If a man will begin in certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties. 

Francis Bacon, Advancement of Learning (1605)1.v.8. (London: Oxford University Press, 1951), 41.
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