Journeying in Christ

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 25 July 2020

Santiago de Compostela in Spain is one of the world’s oldest and most popular pilgrim sites where the body of the Apostle St. James the Greater whose feast we are celebrating today is believed to be buried in its beautiful cathedral.

I have not been there yet and despite COVID-19’s disruption of air travel expected to last until 2022, my hope remains that someday in God’s time I may finally do the “el camino de Santiago de Compostela” (the way of Saint James of Compostela), too.

But, with or without the el camino de Santiago de Compostela, this great Apostle from the very beginning had always been in a journey in himself into the kingdom of God – Jesus Christ – by showing us the way of transformation into a true disciple of the Lord.

He is called the Greater not because he is holier than the other St. James called “the Lesser”, son of Alpheus, but to simply indicate the different importance they received in the writings of the New Testament. In the gospel of Mark, he comes in second in the list after Peter while in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, he is ranked third after the brothers Peter and Andrew; he again comes in third in the Acts of the Apostles after St. Peter and his brother St. John.

It is from this book where we also learn St. James the Greater as the first bishop of the original Christian community in Jerusalem that during the persecution by King Herod Agrippa in 40 AD, he also became the first Apostle to be martyred (Acts 12:1-2).

His martyr’s death thus fulfilled Christ’s words to him that he would indeed “drink from his chalice” to be with him in his Kingdom, a journey that essentially began within this great apostle after leaving everything behind to follow Jesus.

The journey within self to Jesus Christ

St. James the Greater and his brother St. John the Evangelist and believed to be the same beloved disciple came from a middle class family with both parents still alive and most likely, very supportive of them as attested by some little anecdotes in the gospel accounts.

Money was never an issue for them because their father Zebedee could hire workers to work in their fishing business. He must have sighed with a great relief when James and John immediately left him after being called by Jesus to be his disciples.

Marker along the “el camino de Santiago de Compostela”.

Finally, his sons have found some directions in life following Jesus who was getting known then in Galilee as a powerful and credible Teacher unlike the Pharisees and scribes.

Jesus nicknamed James and John as Boanerges for “Sons of thunder” (Mk.3:17) due to their temperament like when they proposed that they send fire to burn a Samaritan town that have refused them passage during their journey to Jerusalem (Lk.9:54).

They have seen and experienced the tremendous powers of Jesus not only in preaching but most especially in calming the storms, walking on sea, exorcising evil spirits, healing all kinds of sickness, and even raising to life some who have died.

Most of all, St. James the Greater was privileged to witness along with his brother and St. Peter the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ on Mount Tabor, seeing all the glory of Christ conversing with Moses and Elijah. It was after this major event that their most controversial episode would occur when their mother came to ask Jesus that James and John be seated “one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom” (Mt.20:21).

The other ten Apostles “grew indignant” of the brothers James and John for being so ambitious but Jesus summoned them and explained things which all of them would heed except for one:

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be also among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give is life as a ransom for many.”

Matthew 20:25-28

This took place shortly before Palm Sunday when Jesus entered Jerusalem.

A few days later on the evening of Holy Thursday, Jesus again brought St. James the Greater with his brother St. John and St. Peter to accompany him pray at Gethsemane where Judas Iscariot eventually betrayed him to his enemies.

A pilgrim hugging from the back the statue of Santiago de Compostela after completing his el camino.

Here we find St. James the Greater being present to two major stops in Jesus Christ’s journey to the Calvary: first, on Mount Tabor for his Transfiguration and second, at Gethsemane for his agony in the garden. In both events in the life of our Lord, St. James the Greater was a privileged witness, first of his coming glory and then of his passion and death.

It would only be after Easter and the Pentecost when all these major stops in his personal journey with Christ when everything would become clear to him and the other Apostles.

All along their journey from the shores of Galilee to Jerusalem, St. James the Greater remained by the side of Jesus Christ, probably unaware of another journey with the Lord taking place right inside his heart to truly be a part of his Kingdom by sharing in his Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

For his faithful adherence to Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem, St. James the Greater again had the rare privilege like at Mount Tabor and Gethsemane in being the first to die as a martyr proclaiming the Gospel of Christ which is the meaning of the expression of “drinking from the chalice” of the Lord.

Sometimes in life, we just have to make “sakay” as my generation used to say, “sakay lang ng sakay” or “ride on, man, ride on” without really knowing where our trip would lead us. St. James just made “sakay” without knowing Jesus was already fulfilling his wish of “drinking from his chalice”.

Photo by Fr. Gener Garcia, sculpture of a pilgrim’s feet at Santiago de Compostela museum, 2019.

St. James the Greater was truly great not because of the distances in miles or kilometers he had covered with Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem and all the way to Compostela in Spain; we honor him today because of that great journey he had undertaken within him, in his heart to remain always at the side of Christ even if had to smoothen his many rough edges as a person, and cleanse his heart as a sinner like us.

That is the most important journey we are all taking in this life, the journey within us.

The longest journey in life is the distance between the heart and the mind.

Former UN Sec.Gen Dag Hammarskjold in “Markings”

My friend Fr. Gener Garcia last year went to Santiago de Compostela to follow the el camino with our kababayan Bishop Bart Santos of Iba, Zambales and Fr. Jaypee Avila assigned as a chaplain for OFW’s in Milan, Italy.

He is so generous to share with us his photos of their pilgrimage as well as his experiences and realizations in life. According to him, on the four sides of the sculpture of the pilgrim’s feet in front of the museum of Santiago de Compostela is the following quotation:

Marker along the el camino de Santiago de Compostela.

Camino recto, camino erguido, camino buscando un sentido. Camino porque tengo un objetivo, y no parare hasta alcanzar mi destino.

(I walk straight, I walk upright, I walk looking for meaning. I walk with a purpose and I won’t stop until I meet my destiny.)

The pilgrim’s journey is the same one you and I are on. Know your goals and understand your challenges. Face them head-on, tackle them with intention, and never give up.

Do you know what your purpose in life is? What would you say if someone ask you what your destiny was?

Santiago de Compostela Museum of Pilgrims

Have a blessed Saturday everyone!

*All photos by Fr. Gener Garcia, 2019.

Where is God?

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 23 May 2019
Our fellow pilgrims to the Holy Land who made it to the top of Mt. Sinai in Egypt, 06 May 2019. Photo by Atty. Grace Polaris Rivas-Beron.

A catechist asked her class, “where is God?”

A small boy right away raised his hand and boldly answered “God is in our toilet!”

The catechist was shocked with the boy’s answer but did not want to put him on the spot so she asked, “how did you know God is in your toilet?”

And he said, “every morning I see my dad knocking at our toilet door, asking, ‘my God, are you still there?'”

The shore of Lake of Galilee in Capernaum where Jesus used to visit the synagogue nearby. Photo by author, 02 May 2019.

Main reason I always encourage people to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land is to experience God.

The Franciscans who safeguard the holy sites in Jordan, Israel, and Egypt teach that the Holy Land is the “fifth gospel” after Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John found in our bible. In the Holy Land, one can surely experience God speaking and conversing with you in the very places where he had appeared to the great prophets or had come in Christ Jesus and did wondrous deeds to his people. There is a different level of understanding and appreciation of the many stories found in our bible when you go to the Holy Land that can really be life-changing depending on your personal disposition.

There are two instances where we experience God in the Holy Land: first in the country of Israel and second in the churches at the holy sites.

Israel, the Promised Land.

How could God call this country “the Promised Land” when it is so small and sits on a vast tract of limestone and desert? Technically speaking, a desert is an area that receives an average rainfall of 25 centimeters or ten inches annually. That is why it is barren and desolate.

But not Israel.

Once you see the greenery abounding at Israel’s desert, you immediately feel God’s presence there, fulfilling his promise of blessing the land “flowing with milk and honey” as the bible says. Aside from their local date and fig trees with so many other varieties that are the best in the world, plants and trees imported from abroad like bougainvillea and acacia thrive so well in the Israeli desert. From the Philippines, they have imported and improved our mango trees that bear more fruits, yielding higher income to their farmers. Interspersing the greenery on their desert are the colonies of greenhouses that shine in their silvery color during the day while producing many varieties of fruits and vegetables inside. Likewise, exports of Israeli wines and dairy products are steadily growing due to increasing demand from abroad.

All these produced at the desert!

Resort at the Dead Sea area, April 2017.

Like any Filipino pilgrim to the Holy Land, one then remembers what foreigners say that our country is literally a paradise with the right amount of rain and sunshine throughout the year with very fertile soil when we cannot even have enough rice to feed our people? How tragic that we have to import rice from Vietnam and Thailand, our two neighbors in Asia that sent their farmers to Los Banos 40 years ago to learn growing rice scientifically! And it is not only rice that we import but even other basic food stuffs like onions, garlic, and fruits that include cut flowers lately. Drive for two hours outside Manila and you find vast tracts of land with so much grass but we have to import beef, chicken and pork to satisfy our local cravings even for the simple chicharon (pork cracklings) because our local farmers cannot meet the demands.

Where is God?

God has blessed our country with wide arrays of flora and fauna, more amazing beaches and mountains, and friendlier climate and weather. But, God is nowhere to be found because we have lost him in ourselves. We have lost him in our hearts that we took our country for granted, molesting and abusing her like Boracay or the Manila Bay. God dwells among the people, not on the land. Pope Francis reminds us in his encyclical about the care for the environment “Laudato Si” that “we have only one heart and every act of cruelty against nature is contrary to human dignity.”

If we wish to find and experience God blessing our own land, we have to be like the people in Israel who kept him alive in their hearts by thinking bigger than themselves.

Our group posing with two 19-year old Israeli female soldiers at the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized. It used to be a part of Jordan that Israel had occupied after the 1967 Six-Day War.

God in the noble simplicity of a church.

For us Catholics, God is truly experienced present in the Holy Land through the many churches – all beautiful – spread out throughout Israel. But, what really makes the churches and chapels or oratories in the Holy Land so special and unique is not only the fact they are on the very sites or near the areas where Jesus had stood to preach or performed a miracle. Aside from the aesthetic factors that make these churches so beautiful and moving that you experience God inside is because of their “noble simplicity”.

The inside of the modern main chapel of Our Lady of the Milk Grotto in Bethlehem, 05 May 2019.

Unlike the churches here in our country that have become so kitschy that look like cheap cakes with too much decorations and scandalous colors, those in the Holy Land are definitely clean cut, no clutter whatsoever. There is always the sense of the holy right upon entering every church and chapel despite the great crowd present. Most of all, with the church’s noble simplicity, there is always that sacred space for God to be encountered.

When the church is so cluttered and so mixed up, signs that should point to God fail miserably, leaving the church banal and empty of any transcendence or sense of the holy. And I must confess we priests are so guilty of this liturgical abuses when we have made our churches the extensions of our very selves and eccentricities, totally disregarding Jesus Christ. We have evicted God from our church as we priests lorded it over among people with us becoming more known and popular than Jesus Christ.

Can you really feel God present in your parish with all the tarpaulins and giant flat screens around with matching giant fans above? What would Jesus do if he comes today in our churches and finds all kinds of stores, not only those selling religious articles that are sanctioned and even maintained by priests right inside our church premises?

Inside the beautiful Church of the Beatitudes, April 2017.

What a church looks like indicates the kind of pastor and parishioners it has. No matter how big or small a church is, its true beauty lies on the sense and feeling of sanctity or sacredness it creates, not popularity or mass appeal. And as always, like anywhere else, holiness comes only from God who dwells on his people who pray together, moving as one body in the Holy Spirit.

Recently I guested in a radio talk show hosted by some former colleagues in the news who lamented at how our churches have become very “showbiz” with all the pomp and pageantry of telenovelas. So true! It is a reality that unconsciously shows how we in the Church are slowly losing that touch with the holy when everything has gone down to human level despite our pretentious claims of artistic expressions.

When God appeared in a burning bush at the Sinai desert, he asked Moses to take off his sandals for he was standing on sacred ground.

The whole Earth is a sacred ground, a holy land created by God. The challenge is for us to let go of ourselves and let God. And that is when we discover where God is.

A blessed day to you!

Facade of the St. Katherine Monastery of the Greek Orthodox at the foot of Mt. Sinai, Egypt. Inside is a chapel built on the site of the burning bush of Moses. At the back is the staging point of pilgrims’ ascent to Mt. Sinai where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.

Coming and coming

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe, Saturday Easter Wk. III, 11 May 2019

Thank you very much Lord for the gift of pilgrimage to your Holy Land. Thank you for the gift of experiencing you, meeting you not only at your holy sites but among our fellow pilgrims and the people we have met.

Most of all, thank you for a glimpse of you in our hearts, in our selves and being. There is something we cannot express or say for they are too deep for words.

Like Simon Peter, all we can say is, “Lord, to whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn.6:68-69).

Life is a series of coming and coming. Every time we leave, we also come. We leave the Holy Land to come home.

But home is where the heart is and where our heart is, there our treasure is.

May you remain in us Lord Jesus and let us come to you always. Amen.

Top photo mosaic of Joseph’s dream to bring Mary and child Jesus to Egypt outside Church of St. Sergius; above, the flight to Egypt of the Holy Family at entrance to the Cavern Church where they stayed. Both churches are Coptic Catholic.

Things we quarrel

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Friday of Easter Wk. III, 10 May 2019

Our loving Father:

The city of Cairo reminds me of your story of creation – of how order comes out of chaos!

One of the things I have learned here in Cairo is to be more patient with our traffic situation in the Philippines.

Cairo is a bedlam where pedestrians and drivers alike seem to be blind, guided only with their horns. Yet nobody seems to quarrel because of the traffic.

Our readings today Lord teem with instances of quarreling. Saul in the first reading is on his way to Damascus to arrest Christ’s followers. It was a big quarrel! More so when you called Saul to spread the Way?! I could imagine the big quarrel with that but, nothing much as told by Luke except the issue of circumcision.

In the gospel, John tells us “The Jews quarreled among themselves” after Jesus declared his Flesh is true food and his Blood is true drink.

So often we quarrel among ourselves, but never with you.

We quarrel with others – not with you – because we can always insist with others what we want. The more others do not give in to our desires, the more we quarrel, the more we insist.

We do not quarrel with you because you do not “insist” on us. You always invite. And wait.

No insistence, no quarrel. Like here in Cairo. They just blow their horns but never their tops.

Teach us Lord to always give in to your will, to always step back and let you lead the way like Ananias who welcomed Saul. Most of all, Lord, let us not quarrel with anyone by learning to give way to others, even by deferring to them if what they insist are nothing at all but simply a power trip of our ego. Amen.

Traffic at Cairo; the peaceful Nile River. Photos by the author.

Going down with Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Thursday, Easter Wk. III, 09 May 2019

Dearest Jesus:

In today’s readings, I was struck by the verb “to go down”.

The first reading tells us how the Ethiopian eunuch “went down into the water” to be baptized by your Apostle Philip on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza (Acts 8:38).

In the gospel, you mentioned twice Lord that you are “the bread that comes down from heaven” (Jn.6:50-51).

It is something very opposite with our mindset today when we all want “to go up” and rise, to be on top, always the best, the most.

We believe more in ourselves than believing in you our Lord and our God.

Make us realize Lord Jesus that you chose to come down to show us the way up to you by always going down in humility and simplicity. Help us rediscover that beautiful reality of having someone and somethings above us always, that it is coming down, in being lowly in you Lord are we truly exalted. Amen.

Top photo chapel of the third station of the Cross at Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem (Jesus falls the first time); above is part of the Sinai Mountain range.

Sharing Jesus, Our Bread

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Easter Wk. III, Wednesday, 08 May 2019

Praise and thanksgiving to you, O Lord Jesus Christ as we enter the final stretch of our Holy Land pilgrimage today.

It is very different experience to be in the wilderness of the Sinai desert – so cold, so barren, most of all, so isolated.

Lord, we are tired and longing for home. Now we can imagine the extreme difficulties and hardships of your people in the desert.

But you are so loving and merciful, so generous that you gave them bread from heaven, manna.

Now we have you Jesus as our bread, our life.

Like your first followers who were scattered following Saul’s persecution of the Church, they still went preaching the word – YOU.

We pray for more strength and courage to remain faithful to you, Lord, when we go through our desert in life. Let us share you as our bread to nourish the weak, gladden those who are sad and tired so that we may all persevere to meet you like Moses in the burning bush. Amen.

First photo is the Mt. Sinai mountain range at sunrise while the one above is the enclosed site of the burning bush Moses saw now under the care of Greek Orthodox monks at the St. Catherine Monastery.

I forgive only when you remember

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 07 May 2019

We are now traveling to the Mt. Sinai area to cross into Egypt. As I have been telling you, this is my third time in the Holy Land and Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial of Israel. I shall write later of my reflections but below is my email written the first time I came here:

23 June 2005
Shalom everyone!
Until now, I could still feel the impact Yad Vashem had on me.
 I would just like to add here a story shared with us by Ronnie before our tour….
 Accdg to Ronnie, he acted as a guide to a group of young Americans at the Yad Vashem last summer.  They met a Jewish woman who survived the holocaust after their tour and told them firsthand her own experience from the Auschwitz camp.
The young tourists were so touched with her story, of how she had lost her parents, siblings and friends.  As she wiped her tears, a young man asked the survivor:  have you forgiven the people who killed your family?
And Ronnie said, the woman replied this way: I could only forgive if you would always remember.
We were also so touched with the story and the woman’s declaration:  I could only forgive if you would always remember.

One of my favorite philosopher is Martin Heidegger, a German existentialist who, unfortunately, was blinded by Hitler’s rhetorics in the beginning but later denounced Nazism.
According to Heidegger, we are all “beings of forgetfullness”; he explained that this is the main reason why we always lead “inauthentic living.”
And that is true.  We always have to remember the past not to take tally of how we were hurt or maltreated by others; we remember the painful past so that we would not repeat it and do them again onto others.
It is so sad that in our lives, we keep on remembering how we got inflicted with wounds so that we could wound others; hence, what we have is a vicious circle of violence and retributions.
That I think is the essence of “learning from history”—-of not repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
This is often at the root of many of our problems in our dealings with other people:  parents, priests, teachers, supervisors or almost anyone who always remember the difficulties they have gone through when they were younger; we are sometimes guilty of harking at our painful past and get even with those presently under us.  And the pains and the hurts increase, forgetting the lessons that could have been learned.
Our country is in deep, deep, deep crises because we are mostly “beings of forgetfullness”—we have a poor sense of history, we can’t remember the lessons of the past because we did not learn at all or just maybe, preoccupied with getting even or vengeance.
Forgiving does not mean forgetting because that is impossible; God programmed us to always remember so that we could become more loving, more forgiving, more understanding, and more like Him in seeing what’s good in everyone.
At the back of Yad Vashem is a breathtaking view of Jerusalem below.  After seeing and somehow experiencing the horrors of the Holocaust, I can’t help thinking how come God could accept and allow the Jews, Moslems, and Christians live together in His old city when we can’t even stand the sight or the smell of the person next to us because he is not of same color or creed with us?
God bless!
With my parishioners the other day at Yad Vashem. Many cried at the sights in the museum but we were all touched with the personal story and reflections of our guide, a 70 year old man we fondly call Lolo Mendy. Will write his stories later.

Jesus our life

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Receipe for the Soul, Tuesday Easter Wk. III, 07 May

The crowd said to Jesus: “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do?” (Jn.6:30)

Thank you Lord Jesus in bringing us here to your Holy Land, for seeing the places you have visited to preach and to heal. Most of all in being one of us to bring the Father closest to us.

Long before we have come – and douted God – you have been here. Everything was created in you, with you.

When I look at the barren desert and wilderness with old cities and oases still there, the more I see your signs of presence.

You are life, Lord.

Problem is when we destroy nature rather than enhance it like the farmlands here in the Dead Sea area.

Worst of all Lord when we hide you from the people because of the elaborate designs of our churches that have become so kitschy or baduy.

Teach us to appreciate your noble simplicity and beauty like the many churches here in the Holy Land.

Teach us priests especially to keep in mind your church is your house of prayer and encounter, not of show and comfort.

Let us decrease so that you will increase! Amen.

It is the Lord!

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Easter Week III-C, 05 May 2019

Of all the great things one can truly experience in a Holy Land pilgrimage, it is the gift of “internal recognition” of the Risen Jesus Christ that must be most touching, most wonderful because it always brings peace and joy within.

Like the beloved disciple in our gospel this Sunday, it is when we recognize Jesus internally that we “softly exclaim” deep within “It is the Lord!” (Jn.21:7).

It is the ordinary moment that happens so sudden during prayer, in the Mass, or simply being at a holy site or seeing a beautiful sight when tears suddenly roll in our eyes, something cold or warm envelops you, or your hair rising because you remember and feel the Lord coming to you. According to our guide here, the 153 large fish caught by the apostles in that third appearance of the Risen Lord at Tiberias is significant: 153 in the Hebrew alphabet means “I Am GOD.”

And that’s what we feel not only in a pilgrimage but in ordinary life when we remember God filling you like a net with large fish like in Tiberias. In an instant even very fleeting, we realize we have been so blessed even if we have sinned and failed to recognize Jesus by the shore.

Here at the Holy Land, whether it is your first or second or third pilgrimage, there is always something new to discover, to realize, to experience, and to see. It is like that experience at the shore of Tiberias when Jesus appeared for the third time to his apostles after Easter where he awaits you for breakfast, with “a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread” (Jn.21:9). Here it is beyond doubt our God is a God of surprises.

Yesterday we had our Mass at the Chapel of Flagellation at 130pm at the Via Dolorosa. Immediately after that, we had via crucis or station of the cross. By 330pm we were already inside the Holy Sepulchre Church climbing towards Golgotha, the Crucifixion site. Exactly while lining up, the church was closed and we were told there would be no veneration because the Patriarch was coming for incensing the whole church.

Everything stopped and I felt a bit sad for my group. But lo and behold! What a beautiful experience not only to witness an Orthodox ceremony! While resting outside the only Roman Catholic chapel, I asked the Franciscan if we can pray inside. He asked me to wait and after 20 minutes, he let us in. I celebrated Mass there in 2005 with 14 other priests and two bishops from the Philippines. I could not recall the name of the chapel so I asked the Franciscan. He told me it is the chapel of the Easter meeting of Jesus and his Mother – the Salubong or Encounter we celebrate early morning of Easter Sunday. It was a new discovery for me!

In the gospels, Jesus first met Mary Magdalene but according to St. Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises, it was Mary his mother whom the Risen Lord first met because she was the first to try believe Jesus is the Christ! Most of all, Mary is the first to truly love Jesus most. And that is why we have the Salubong.

Today in the gospel Jesus asked Simon thrice, “do you love me more than this?”

It is the same question Jesus is asking us this Sunday. We have to first love him in order to follow him. We have to first love him in order to meet and see him, even with our imperfect love like Simon Peter.

You are loved and you are prayed for always. Have a blessed Sunday and week ahead! Amen.

Jesus lord of the sea and darkness

Happy birthday, Lord Jesus!

Happy birthday to us all too!

Every year we await our birthdate to celebrate life. But more than that we await most Christmas without really realizing why.

Yesterday afternoon at five we entered your Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. After more than three hours waiting in line, we reached your birthplace.

Thank so much for the grace to touch your birth site. We were so touched because we touched base with our very selves too. We felt your love for us, the joy of being alive,

Most of all, like the joy of being born, of being brought forth into the world that is dark and very cold – hostile like the apostles crossing Tiberias in today’s gospel without you in sight – your still come.

You actually stay in us, among us, and with us.

Teach us like the Eleven apostles to concentrate praying your word as we serve the needy. Let us stay in you, stay with you. Amen.