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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Mother Teresa’s Nuns Executed

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Mother Teresa’s nuns have a charism to tend the needs of the poorest of the poor. Friday, March 4, 2016, Muslim terrorists executed them.

Four nuns and ten civilians were killed. Msgr. Paul Hinder, apostolic vicar to Southern Arabia, spoke to AsiaNews about this morning’s “religiously-motivated” attack against the convent of the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, in southern Yemen. At 8:30 AM, the prelate said, “People in uniform stormed the compound where the Missionaries of Charity live. After they killed the security guard and all the employees that stood in their way, they came for the nuns and opened fire, killing four [sisters]. One (the superior) managed to hide and survive. Now she is in a safe place.” The victims are Sister Anselm from India, Sister Marguerite from Rwanda, Sister Judit from Kenya and Sister Reginette also from Rwanda.

The attackers seized Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, a Salesian priest who lived at the facility. At the time of the attack, he was in the chapel praying. Overall, 16 people lost their life: four religious and ten lay people, employees of the community that also housed senior citizens and disabled people. Msgr. Hinder said: “We knew that the situation was difficult and that the sisters were running a certain risk. They decided to stay no matter what because this was part of their spirituality.” Groups linked to al Qaeda and jihadist militias linked to the Islamic State group are active in the country, which adds to the spiral of violence and terror.

The Pope & Questions About Poverty, Politics & Popularity

SIMON: Hello, Father!  In the beginning I have to mention that I try to be a devout Catholic every day. I believe the Pope is the Father of the Church appointed by Christ. But sometimes I have those thoughts, which keep eating at me inside. I’m very sorry in advance as I know these are not appropriate thoughts for a Catholic to have. I feel guilty for that. I pray that these thoughts would go away and leave me alone; but they keep coming back (sometimes even during the Mass, which is quite frightening for me).

FATHER JOE: It is okay to ask questions.  As believers, we should focus on matters of faith and seek to grow in the Lord.  As for attending to the Mass and better participation at worship, maybe a better understanding of the elements and prayers of the liturgy would help keep your mind from wandering?

SIMON: I sometimes think: 1)  If we are followers of Christ then as the Church teaches, we should try becoming more like Christ every day. Christ lived modestly, as we know, and even in poverty. How is it that so many people today are in hunger and poverty while Pope is an extremely rich man provided with everything that he needs. He even has (or had) a Harley-Davidson. Many people could feed their children from the money of Vatican administration. People in poverty could live for a year from the money you would get by selling a Harley-Davidson bike.

FATHER JOE: First, the Pope is “personally” very poor and most everything he has belongs to the Church. Pope Francis, in particular, has very simple tastes. Second, the motorcycle was given the Holy Father from the Harley-Davidson Company to celebrate their 110th Anniversary. The Pope sold it at auction for the Caritas Roma Charity. It went for $327,000. In addition, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle jacket signed by the pontiff sold for $77,485. Money from the sale of the two items went to benefit a hostel and soup kitchen at the Termini train station in Rome. We must be careful not to make allegations that would misjudge the Holy Father. We would not want to add our voices to those who wrongly condemn. Third, the Church is a worldwide organization and as such she must have income to sustain buildings, pay salaries and operate. While there are isolated cases of hypocrisy, many critics wrong the Church which does more globally for the oppressed, poor and hurting than any other institution.

SIMON: 2) Christ was open to everyone he met. How come it is almost impossible to meet the Pope? It seems sometimes like his time is only reserved for “more important” people. In front of God and Christ, shouldn’t every life be equally worthy?

FATHER JOE: I am perplexed by this assertion.  This is the Pope that takes great personal risks in going out to people. He is only one man and there are a billion Catholics. He could never knock on every door.  Are you upset that you have not met him?  Do you feel that this somehow makes you unimportant?  I can assure you that the Pope and the Church cares about you and everyone else.  Everyone has value.  All life is incommensurate.  This is the Pope that washed the feet of juvenile delinquents for Holy Thursday. This is the Pope that served food at a shelter. Similarly, other Popes reached out to the crowds, kissed babies and showed that they care. The late Saint John Paul II even got shot because he wanted to be visible to his flock. Do you understand how vulnerable this makes them? As for our Lord, he did go out to the marginalized, the poor and the oppressed. But he was also silent when placed before Herod. His words might mean conversion, mercy and life. His silence passed a deadly judgment upon the tetrarch. We will all be judged.  Because of this, we must all be careful in judging others.  Do we have the mind and heart of Christ?  Are we unselfish?  Can we see past our own sins?  Is our own posture that of utter humility?  I would not want to judge the Holy Father either from ignorance or malice. He is Christ’s Vicar on earth.

SIMON: 3) Why is Pope dealing with politics? I understand his intentions for a better and more peaceful world but isn’t it bit unfair— in front of God’s face— to take sides? Jesus never dealt with politics— did he?

FATHER JOE: What do you think got Christ crucified? The charge is even placed over his head on the Cross, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” The crowd disowned him and shouted, “We have no king but Caesar!” Pilate was not the servant of the Jews but the procurator for the empire of Rome. When Jesus told them to love their enemies and to forgive those who hurt them, he was speaking a morality that was immediately translated into politics. After centuries of persecution, the Church would arise as the religion of the state. The Pope is the sovereign leader or head of the smallest country on earth, the Vatican, which rests in the heart of Rome. He even has his own representatives at the UN. More importantly, he is the visible head of the Catholic Church and it is vital for Christianity to make an impact upon world politics. The Church speaks against persecution, slavery, abortion, injustice, unwarranted aggression, poverty and oppressive economic systems, etc. She defends human rights, including religious liberty. Our faith must touch all the elements of human existence. We are not just Christians when within the walls of our churches. Ours is a jealous God. The testing of the coin is often misunderstood. Christ is asked if it is right to pay the tax to Rome or not. Rome was the occupying power and government. Jesus never answers the question but takes a coin and asks, whose face is upon it? The people answer, “Caesar.” He says, “Then give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar but give to God what belongs to God.” Ask yourself, what belongs to God? The answer is everything. It is wrong to expect the Pope and the Church to stay out of politics. There may be a separation of Church and state (in terms of a national religion), but they should still work for the common good. It would make no sense for the Church to remain passive or silent, especially as our religious liberty is being compromised both here in the U.S. and around the globe. The Church must have a voice and a part to play in the public forum.

SIMON: 4) Pope should be a servant like Christ used to be and actually on that one I am quite happy with current Pope Francis who seems to be very humble and willing to serve. But still, the Pope is being praised like a rock star. Is that really something that Jesus or St. Peter would have wanted?

FATHER JOE: Jesus was pursued by vast crowds and they cried Hosanna when he entered Jerusalem. While some would turn against him, he was the celebrity or rock star of his time. Thousands wanted to see and hear him. Vast throngs of people sought him for healing. Have you never read the Gospels? Jesus called Peter or the ROCK of his Church and gave him the keys to the kingdom.  He is made the chief shepherd.  Tradition gives him the title, “Servant of the Servants of God.”  As this unique shepherd, the honor given the Pope reflects upon the dignity and place of our Lord, Jesus. The Pope is Christ’s instrument of universality and order in the world.

SIMON: As I mentioned earlier, I know that those thoughts are condemned.

FATHER JOE: I would not use the word “condemned.” Ours is a faith seeking understanding.  We seek to root out ignorance and bigotry.  Only you can answer the quandary as to whether there is a hidden animus against the Holy Father and the Church? If there is resentment, from where does it originate?

SIMON: But I can’t seem to get rid of them. Maybe if I could get rational answers for these questions, then perhaps with the help of God those would leave me alone.

FATHER JOE: I cannot say what the cause of your issues might be.  But we should never be a people who resent the authority and popularity of the Pope. Critics of this sort often display a poor sense of self-worth and want to feel more important themselves. Maybe they are rash and quick to judge others? In any case, I hope the response here helps.

SIMON: Thank you, Father! And please pray for me! Sincerely yours, Simon

FATHER JOE: You are welcome.  Peace!

No Where to Run, the Church & the World

It is argued that the Catholic Church has lost the contraception fight and now must move on. Similarly, I am today hearing the same said about other issues. Pope Francis is asked about homosexuals and he says, “Who am I to judge?” Critics rashly interpret this as a change in the Church’s stance and a leading gay magazine names the Pope as “Man of the Year.” A special synod is called on the family and revisionists suggest a coming change regarding the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried Catholics. But the Pope is still Catholic and I think the dissenters are in for a big surprise. It may be that we cannot judge the souls of individuals, but we can make moral distinctions between right and wrong. Those who commit serious sin are not in a proper disposition for the sacraments. The Pope is the servant of the Word, not its master. He cannot invalidate either divine positive law or natural law. Of course, what might happen is that many Catholics will become accustomed to an ever permeating silence— about birth control, about gay relationships, about invalid marriages, and God-forbid, even about the murder of unborn children. Here again with this last point, too many make too much of papal remarks about there being other moral concerns beyond abortion. The fact is the Church is facing conflict from every angle, including the martyrdom of Christians by ISIS swords.

An essential thrust to Vatican II was a dialogue with the world, not so that the Church might be converted to the world but that the world might be more receptive of Christ’s kingdom. Many of us feel that this remains an important mission for the Church. However, critics can rightly point at instances of impotency and weakness toward a hostile world that seems to be more successful than we are at winning hearts and minds. The Church faces a mocking atheistic secular modernity on one hand and a radical militant Islamic extremism on the other. The Church is not only caught in the middle but old friends have changed alliances.

Can the Church engage cultures that feign courtesy when we are on the same side of its agenda but otherwise find ourselves targeted for extinction? Fight against the death penalty for the guilty and we are applauded; but then we are commanded to lay down our arms in the battle against aborting children and euthanizing the sick and elderly. The bishops are praised for supporting healthcare but condemned for not wanting to provide free contraception and abortifacients. The Church was once rendered accolades for her orphanages and adoption services; but today is shut down for refusing adoptions to homosexuals and lesbians. The Islamic world once protected Christian minorities, and utilized them in government and in schools of higher learning; after all, they were the one minority that was so small it would never be a threat to the ruling powers. But today, fanatics will not rest until every drop of Christian blood is spilt or the men are converted. From the Islamic East to the Secular West, there is nowhere to run and no place to hide. It is for this reason that I fear silence. Peace today will only lead to worse wars tomorrow. Silence will be interpreted as assent, or worse still, retreat.

Donate to Help Victims of Typhoon in Philippines

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Sustained winds of 150-195 miles per hour (with gusts of up to 235 miles) makes Typhoon Haiyan one of the most powerful storms on record. Even though it moved quickly, it has caused much devastation. Many prayers for the people who have endured so much… first an earthquake and now this. I know many of my parishioners are worried about friends and family at home. Stay strong, you are not alone.

I have yet to hear anything from the Archdiocese but here is a link to Catholic Relief Services. 80% of the Filipino population is Catholic and Catholic Relief Services is on the ground and trying to help. You can assist by going to their website and making a donation to assist the hurting people in the Philippines. Millions are suffering and homeless. 10 to 12,000 are dead. Let them know that the we care. They are not alone.

http://emergencies.crs.org/typhoon-haiyan-help-philippines-survive-and-recover/

With Typhoon Haiyan striking the Philippines, the Supreme Council of the KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS has already approved $250,000 for humanitarian relief. Knights and their families throughout the Order are urged to remember in their prayers all the people affected by the massive storm. Speaking to many friends in the Knights, you can also donate for this relief through the K of C.

http://www.kofc.org/un/en/charities/articles/disasterrelief.html

Dear Jesus, we ask you to give strength and hope to your people who trust in you. Blessed Mother, please intercede for your children in this dark hour.

Fannie Mae Walk for the Homeless

Come and join us tomorrow.  I am offering the Opening Prayer and YES, I am walking, too!

If you cannot walk you can follow the link and donate for yourself or under the name of a walker, like me!

You can register online ahead of time for Catholic Charities at http://www.catholiccharitiesdc.org/hth

We can now encourage everyone to register early – that way 100% of the donation goes to Catholic Charities.

But everyone who comes to register at the park will be very welcome and appreciated!  And it’s a joint fund-raiser – so all three organizations (Catholic Charities, Community Crisis and United Communities Against Poverty) will share those registrations and funds.

Registration on site begins at 9:30 AM (Allen Pond Park, Bowie, MD).

First 300 kids get free basketballs.

  • 09:30 AM – Jesse Buggs, Welcome
  • 09:40 AM – Mayor Fred Robinson
  • 10:05 AM – Councilwoman Ingrid Turner
  • 10:15 AM – County Executive Rushern Baker
  • 10:25 AM – Father Joseph Jenkins, Holy Family Church
  • 10:30 AM – Laila Riazi of PG Cares
  • 10:35 AM – Wizards Cheerleaders
  • 10:45 AM – Walk Begins

Wegman’s is providing food for the event.

Reflection Upon the Holy Family

Although I offered a reflection upon the Holy Family at the beginning of my book on prayer, I would like to return to this subject in this post. Reflecting upon the Holy Family, we are not only guided as to what a Christian family should be, but stand convicted in our lives over what it is not. While the modern concept of liberty is often moral license, theirs was responsibility and fidelity. We cater to individualism and a preoccupation with self that runs counter to the claims of familial bonds. The immediate family in the time of Christ was expanded to include aunts, uncles, cousins and others. (Indeed, the brethren of Christ were precisely these other relations.) Catholics realize, or at least should, that our relationship to God and to one another is in the context of family. We are not alone.

While these brief words can only offer a quick brush-stroke on the subject of “family,” a few thoughts might be beneficial. Something is wrong. No amount of beating around the bush or a pretense at greater enlightenment can take away this nagging perception in all segments of society. Determining what is wrong, and for that matter right, is where public debate becomes quickly frozen and polarized.

Politicians clamor about “family values” and then argue about what this means in a pluralistic society. Advocates of alternative lifestyles seek through the media and legislatures to socially engineer the family into something past generations would think unimaginable. It is in the midst of this confusion that we come to terms with that most central of human relationships. If it were not hard enough, even our traditional family units are plagued by communication that is absent or dysfunctional.

God sends his Son that repentant children might be added to his family and given eternal life. And yet, in our sinfulness, we can and often do offer a counter-witness to this truth. I know a couple whose girl ran away at seventeen. She eventually realized her foolishness and sought to return home. However, she discovered the locks changed. Her father had told her that if she went out the door she would not be welcome back. He gave away her clothes and personal things to charity. He would not allow his wife to display her picture. It was as if she had never been born. This couple, with their older daughter, were active in the parish and regularly at Sunday Mass. When their youngest returned to Mass, they refused to sit beside her. They even maligned her to neighbors. I overheard one of her father’s parish friends tell her, “You did it to yourself. You made your own mess, now you have to live with it! This is what tough love means!” Well, yes and no. Tough love means discouraging selfishness and nurturing self-reliance. This was not that at all; it was cruelty. The girl, as it turned out, was not only a foolish teenager, she suffered from bipolar disorder. When I first met her, she was just out of a mental institution and living with her boyfriend and his grandmother. It was either this or the streets. She had nowhere else to go. She had no job because employers did not want a “crazy” girl working for them. When informed of an upcoming family reunion, she decided to attend. Her mother dismissed her at the back door: “You will just embarrass us. I planned long and hard for this party and I will not have you ruin it. Go away.” When her boyfriend smacked her around, she again tried to go home. But they were gone to Europe. The wife confided that with the younger daughter gone, they had regained their freedom, and could finally live for themselves.

As a pastor of souls I have heard many variations of this story. The happy ending of the prodigal son parable is not always revisited in the lives of those who claim to be Christian, and yet, it is precisely the witness that our Lord gave us from the Cross. We read in Colossians, “Because you are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness, and patience . . . Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you” (Colossians 3:12-13). This is the challenge and the transformation for those who would truly be Christian. Neglectful parents today might have astonished the worst sinners and unbelievers of yesterday. Our Lord says, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13; see also Matthew 7:9-11). A rhetorical question is now a frighteningly real one.

Among those who call upon the saving name of Jesus are those who engage in unlawful sexual activity and infidelity, destroy children in the womb, and discard those labeled defective. Instead of a forgiving love, they harden their hearts against those who share their blood and their name. This is the way it is, not the way it should be, and definitely not the way true believers should want it to remain.

Sirach 3:2-6,12-14 points, not to the parents’ obligations, but to those of children, particularly regarding the 4th commandment stipulation of honoring (obeying) one’s father and mother. But increasingly preachers are forced to confront parents. How can a child honor parents if they are dishonorable? When Jesus demanded, “Call no man your father,” (Matthew 23:9), he precisely meant that true fathers, indeed parents of either gender, are only worthy of the title when their role is reflective of the loving and merciful fatherhood of God. Parents have responsibilities toward those whom they give life. Many churches have to offer remedial instructions for uncatechized but baptized Catholics. Their parents failed to take them to Sunday Mass, to teach them their prayers, and to transmit to them our holy faith. This implies that parents themselves do not believe; nevertheless, they are still culpable for the damage to their children’s immortal souls. Such neglect is a form of child abuse and ranks with murder in the hierarchy of sins.

In return, just as we read in Sirach, children have a lasting obligation toward their parents. When parents grow older and need the support of grown children, it is not merely a matter of charity but of duty. However, such a turn-of-events is increasingly considered an unwarranted burden. I know of cases where the children fight each other, no one wanting to take the personal and immediate responsibility for an elderly parent. The children, in some cases, have learned from the example of their parents all too well. I also know good parents who did little or nothing wrong in raising their children; and yet their brood contains both the holy and the wicked.

Familial roles are not limited to a few years but have lasting consequences and obligations. Mary followed her Son and quietly emerges at various stages of the Gospel and in the public life of Jesus. She was his mother at the Annunciation, at the Nativity, indeed, all the way to the Cross. Love brings with it responsibility and often much worry. Jesus was disowned by many of those who knew him; Mary’s testimony of love and loyalty is one that needs to be ours. She always claimed him. Jesus claims her and gives her to us, his new family, on Calvary. As for good St. Joseph, tradition has it that he died in the loving arms of Jesus and Mary. Perhaps this was God’s greatest gift to this noble man? After all, as our Gospel relates, when an angel told him that Herod was seeking Jesus “to destroy him,” Joseph sought refuge for them in Egypt until it was safe to return. The aged guardian of Mary and Jesus might have found it impossible to remain passive when his adult Son underwent his betrayal and passion. When his earthly role was finished, the foster father to Christ was taken from this world to await his Son and Savior in the abode of the righteous dead.

We need to put on the mind of Christ regarding family life. Can we conceive of God being well pleased with parents who killed their children through abortion? Along with contraception that breeds distrust between spouses, the abortion holocaust has attacked the very nucleus of family life. Pregnancy, once called the “blessed state” is now considered a disease to be medicated away. There is no reconciling such a mentality with that in Psalm 128:1-5 where the psalmist praises the wife as “a fruitful vine.” The child, instead of being prized as a precious gift from God, is considered a tragic accident, a problem to be disposed of as quickly as possible. Freedom, or rather license, as well as economic and upward mobility, is all hindered by the presence of a child. We are forced to think of another’s needs and wants before our own. Some just do not want to do this. Sex is recreation, nothing more. Such a mentality is inherently opposed to the Gospel. When such is the point of view of believers in Jesus, one has to wonder if even their concept of God is counterfeit?

Can we suppose that God cares little about marriage vows made in his name “to death do us part?” No, and yet divorce is at an epidemic high. Alternative living arrangements, including polygamy and homosexual liaisons would dismiss it entirely. Some critics argue that the dilemma is not the loss of the traditional family but rather because we are trying to force old codes of behavior (like the commandments) and expectations upon new forms of familial relationships. This post-Christian group insists that transitory unions are ideal and most reflective of modern experience. Some actually say that people live too long for lasting relationships. Prenuptial agreements posit a theoretical doubt in the permanence of a marriage bond, already. Certain states are considering marriages with easy escape clauses and some have even suggested built-in term limits. Logically, if spouses can separate at will, it would seem that offspring might have similar rights? Several years ago a child attempted to divorce his parents.

For more such reflections, contact me about getting my book, CHRISTIAN REFLECTIONS.

Share Your Bread with the Hungry

“Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; Clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed” (see Isaiah 58:7-10).

“You are the light of the world” (see Matthew 5:13-16).

These passages are very meaningful and challenging, maybe more so than is immediately evident. In the seminary I was a member of a social justice committee and such passages as found in Isaiah inspired us. We really are called to share our bread with the hungry, to shelter the oppressed and homeless, to clothe the naked, and definitely NOT to turn our back on our own. But even if we were to be advocates of all the social justice platforms offered today, this alone would not make us faithful to this passage or a true light to the world.

Jesus and Jesus alone is the true light. Apart from him any flicker of light we might offer to others would be swallowed by the shadows. Sharing your bread with the hungry is a noble task, but the trouble is, the one given bread today will be hungry again tomorrow. We have many good-natured fellows who make others dependent upon them, unable to stand up for themselves with full human dignity. Or, we have just the opposite, those who feed their brothers and sisters once and feel no further obligation. And, on top of all this, we can forget the real hunger that is out there– that needs to be fed– that can only be satisfied in Christ. Christ comes to us in the bread of life, the Eucharist; he transforms us into himself, a bread which must be broken if it is to be given to others. It is not enough simply to care for the hungry; we have to LOVE them– some of whom are in our very families or groups of friends. Not all the hungry are on the street. They know who they are. Some may be in our midst right now. Do any of you sense it? Is there emptiness inside you? Is the belly of your soul crying out for nourishment? Don’t be afraid to ask for help, come– be fed– there are priests and other Catholics waiting to hear from you– to help you, come. Christ is waiting.

Isaiah also speaks of sheltering the oppressed and homeless. That is what the house of God is about. Sometimes when I am in church, I imagine I can feel an external oppression. I envision it pressing upon the outer walls. When our values of action and of belief are openly ridiculed and distorted, then we are oppressed.

Our Church is a shelter from all the wiles of a world intent upon our destruction. There are hurts out there– come in and be healed. There are lies out there– come in and hear the truth. There is violence out there– come in and receive peace. There is coldness out there– come in and be warmed by the flame of Christ’s love. There is darkness out there– come in and become a part of that light which is the Lord.

It is sad when someone hears the call of Christ and misinterprets it or only goes part way. There was a man in Washington, DC, who generously devoted his life to the care of the homeless. That is to be applauded. But, like so many, I have to wonder if he heard the call clearly. Why? He sold all he had, gave up his job, and did things reminiscent of what our Lord asked of the rich man in the Gospel. However, he also abandoned his wife and family to enter upon his crusade. He was my friend, but this always bothered me. Can we renounce one responsibility for another? Can we exchange one set of mouths to be fed for others? Can we cause homelessness in order to give a home for others? I do not want to judge anyone, but the very Scriptures which speak of so many deeds of mercy also remind us not to turn our back on our own. In Christ, and only in Christ, you are the light of the world. When does this light shine? It shines when a husband and wife love each other unselfishly, open to the gift of new life. It shines when a brother tells his sister, “I’m sorry, forgive me.” It shines when a father welcomes his alienated son back home. It shines when a couple loves each other so much that they discipline their love in chaste giving. It even shines when one friend gives another a scarf or sweater for Christmas. Done in Christ, all things great and small make the light of Christ shine all the brighter.

For more such reflections, contact me about getting my book, CHRISTIAN REFLECTIONS.