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POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Most Blessed Trinity; one in being with the Father and the Son, and equal to them in every respect. He is the Spirit of truth that helps us to navigate through the vicissitudes of life unscathed. As a matter of fact, He corrects and guides us along the way, and never leaves us lying on the ground when we sin or offend God. He pushes us to love, and to always do what is pleasing in the sight of God in accordance with the scriptures. Certainly, charisms that build up faith and unity in the Christian community, and lead to greater understanding, forgiveness and service, are true signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit. For wherever the Holy Spirit is, there is Liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17).

The Sacrifice of the Holy Mass

SOLEMNITY OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST, YEAR C

THEME: THE HOLY EUCHARIST: OUR SACRIFICIAL LAMB.

1st Reading: Genesis 14:18-20; 2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Gospel: Luke 9:11-17

Sacrifice is something one gives up, usually for the sake of a better cause. It is the offering of material possessions, animals or even humans, especially by a priest to a deity, as an act of propitiation or worship or thanksgiving. Moreover, it is a gift that a Priest offers to God as a sign that those offering belong to Him. The outward offering of the gift signifies the inward offering of the heart or consecration of one’s life to God. It is also an act of “giving” because one is thankful of what one has already received. Hence, thanksgiving is more than a verbal expression of gratitude.

Meanwhile, today the Universal Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Holy Eucharist or Holy Mass), which symbolizes and actualizes the sacrifice of the new Covenant so as to atone for our sins once and for all. It is the very sacrifice of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He instituted to perpetuate His redeeming sacrifice of the Cross throughout the ages until His return in glory. Thus, Christ entrusted to His Church this memorial of His death and resurrection, which is at the very heart of our Catholic faith, and the source and summit of the whole Christian life. The depth of its mystery is without limit, because it is the terminus a quo and the terminus ad quem of the Church’s activities.

Furthermore, the Holy Eucharist is the true Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ under the appearance of bread and wine. Certainly, Jesus Christ is really, truly and substantially present in the Holy Eucharist (Holy Mass) offered by the Priest; for through the Power of the Holy Spirit, the bread and wine would be transformed (Transubstantiation) into the real body and blood of Christ. The priest and the victim are the same; only the manner of offering is different.

Besides, the sacrifice of the Cross (in a bloody manner) and the sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist (in an unbloody manner) are one and the same sacrifice. During the Holy Eucharist, the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of His body (the Church). The lives of the faithful, their praises, offerings, sufferings, and prayers, are united to those of Christ.

In the first reading, Melchizedek, a Priest of the Most High God, offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God in form of bread and wine for the victory granted Abraham, who then gave him a tenth of everything (tithe) in return, which shows the superiority of his priesthood that is eternal like that of Christ. This is a figure of the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross (Holy Eucharist).

Unfortunately, so many Christians have been taught only to “share of their abundance.” This is a very shallow interpretation of giving. Sharing is not giving, because people share from their surpluses, that is, what they do not need. Such people will give only after they are satiated; and as we know, the human condition is encumbered with plethora of challenges; always feel in need.

However, true thanksgiving is an act of self-giving, which is made manifest by works. Tithing is a response, not a catalyst. Giving is a sacrifice, esteeming the other’s needs more needful than our own. For true giving requires sacrifice. A sacrifice of thanksgiving is not truly a sacrifice if it comes without any effort or expense. A worthy sacrifice of thanksgiving acceptable to God always comes with a costly prize. If it costs us nothing, it is not a sacrifice. That is why the Word of God speaks of the sacrifice of thanksgiving (Psalm 107:22).

Moreover, there is an undeniable correlation between the sacrifice of thanksgiving and the paying of vows. For King David said: “I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24). “I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows unto the LORD in the presence of all His people” (Psalm 116:17-18). Our willingness to sacrifice is an indication of our devotion to God. That’s the reason why St. Paul enjoins us to become living sacrifices, holy and acceptable unto God (Romans 12:1). For only through sacrifice can we become worthy to live in the presence of God and enjoy eternal life.

In the Gospel, Jesus Christ took the offerings (bread and fish) brought by His disciples, gazed up to heaven in thanksgiving to God, and blessed and multiplied them to feed the hungry multitude and also healed those who were sick. Thus, He satisfied and nourished both the physical and spiritual yearnings of the crowd who gathered to listen to His teachings. This is exactly what happens to us during the Holy Eucharist. We offer God our gifts of thanksgiving, and thus receive divine nourishment.

Meanwhile, all the essential aspects of humanity: body and Soul, can only be alive to function effectively if they receive their proper nourishments. For instance, the food of the body is Physical (ephemeral): bread or meat, and water or wine. On the other hand, the food of the Soul is Spiritual (eternal): Body and Blood of Christ (John 6:35). These help to boost our energy levels (physically and spiritually) to work efficiently. When we are starved, we become weak, sick and can even die without food. This implies that, for any aspect of our being to be alive, we must always nourish it with its proper food.

Undoubtedly, the Holy Eucharist is the medicine of immortality as well as a powerful divine nourishment for our souls, which when one eats and drinks, will no longer hunger nor thirsts nor die spiritually, but lives eternally (John 6:51). It also helps to detoxify our whole being whenever we worthily receive it in faith, that is, after genuine repentance (Sacramental Confessions). Thus, only then can we experience Christ’s healing touch. Unfortunately, many people are not only physically sick, but spiritually, emotionally, psychologically sick and dead, because they hardly go to Healing Centre (Confession) before receiving the Holy Eucharist. It is just like eating a healthy or nutritious food with a poisonous plate.

In the second reading, St. Paul reemphasized the true meaning of the Holy Eucharist, which was directly revealed to him by Jesus Christ Himself. At the Eucharistic Celebration, we become partakers in the One Bread (1 Corinthians 10:17), sharing in Christ’s Divine Nature. Through the anamnesis of His death and resurrection, we all become united in Christ. We who receive the Body and Blood of Christ worthily, partake of the eternal life He has gained for us.

Finally, out of love, Jesus Christ left us the Holy Eucharist as a visible sacrifice, in order to represent continually that which was once accomplished on the Cross, and to apply the fruits of it to our souls. Many Saints had strong recourse to the Holy Eucharist, which really sustained them in their life journey. Thus, they offered their lives as living sacrifices to God in response to His Divine Love, and at the end, gained eternal life. Therefore, let us emulate them by offering ourselves as living sacrifices acceptable to God, and for the good of humanity. In as much as we struggle for the physical food to keep our body moving, may we also worthily seek and desire more of the spiritual food which leads to eternal life.

PRAYER:

May the Holy Eucharist heal every maladies challenging your life, and whatever is dead in your life, may it be restored back to life, and enable you to make sacrifices for the good of others and to the glory of God, and at the end, may you gain eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.

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Holy Trinity

SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY, YEAR C

THEME: THE HOLY TRINITY: A LOVE COMMUNITY

1st Reading: Proverbs 8:22-31; 2nd Reading: Romans 5:1-5; Gospel: John 16:12-15.

Today, the Universal Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. The Doctrine of the Trinity (TRINITAS), which was first used in Christian Theology by Tertullian (AD 160–220) signifies the central and quintessential dogma of the Christian religion. It is the fundamental beliefs and the most sublime in all of Christianity. It holds that: “there is One Eternal God who exists in three Divine Persons – Father (Creator), and the Son (Redeemer) and the Holy Spirit (Sanctifier).” These three Divine Persons live in perfect unity and communion with each other, which is bond by LOVE.

Meanwhile, our knowledge of God as humans is limited due to the mystery of His Divine nature. As a matter of fact, no one has ever seen God, but through faith many people believe in the existence of One God. However, the notion of three Divine Persons (hypostasis in Greek) in One God is a profound mystery that is beyond human comprehension. Nevertheless, we can only deduce this nature of God through the revelations we get from Jesus Christ, through the scriptures. Although the relationship of the TRINITY is a mystery, but we can make references through these Biblical quotations (please tap on the Bible verses to view): Gen. 1:26, Gen. 2:7, John 10:30, Luke 1:35, John 1:1, John 14:23, John 14:9-11, Matt. 28:18-20, 2Cor.13:14, etc.

However, many people do not see the importance and significance in their lives, or in the world. Moreover, the real crux of the matter for some persons in the early Christianity was this: how can Christians witness the presence of God, which they experience in Jesus the Christ, and still maintain their belief in God as one? Since Christianity is firmly rooted in Judaism and is a monotheistic religion and not a polytheistic religion, the struggle has always been to articulate the faith that Jesus is the Christ (anointed one) of God and at the same time to maintain that there is only one God.

Surprisingly, the incomprehensibility in the notion of the Trinity engendered heretical assumptions by some Christian bishops, Priests and theologians like Arius (256-336 AD): “that Jesus Christ is not God and not of the same Substance with the Father; and the Holy Spirit is of lower rank than the Father and the Son.” For them, it would appear as if there are 3 different Gods that have operated in different eras in the history of humanity. Consequently, the COUNCILS OF NICAEA (325AD) and CONSTANTINOPLE (381AD) were convoked in order to resolve and affirm the natures of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit respectively. Hence, these brought forth the definition and formulation of the Doctrine of the Nicene Creed (or Apostles Creed) which we profess in the Church today.

THE IMPORTANCE AND SIGNIFICANCE OF THE HOLY TRINITY TO HUMANITY.

The Trinitarian God has been working together as one God throughout the history of the world. However, in the scriptures, one may observe that the Old Testament seems to be the era of the Father, early first century AD of the New Testament seems to be the era of the Son, and after Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven, also from the Apostolic era to our contemporary era seems to be the era of the Holy Spirit.

Certainly, this was made possible due to the Love that exists among the triune God. For out Love, God never allowed humanity to perish after the fall of Adam, rather He sent His only begotten Son to reconcile humanity back to His friendship. So that, anyone who believes in Jesus Christ, and thus, is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and then keeps His commands, will be saved (Matthew 28:19). This is the wisdom of God which He has hidden from the mind of humanity as enunciated in the first reading. For Juicy fruits flow from docility to wisdom’s instruction on genuine love. No wonder St. Irenaeus opined that Jesus and Holy Spirit (Word & Wisdom) are the two Hands of God working in creation process.

Furthermore, Jesus Christ also gave His disciples a glimpse of the relationship that exists among the trinity when he told Philip: “…to see me is to have seen the Father… I am in the Father and the Father is in me (John.14:9-10).” Also, “I and my father are one(John. 10:30). He further affirmed this in today’s gospel: “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own, but will speak whatever He hears, and will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because He will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that He will take what is mine and declare it to you(John 16:13-15).

Undoubtedly, it is the Holy Trinity that fortifies and consoles us whenever we are suffering or passing through difficulties in life. For St. Paul averred this in the second reading, that “through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us(Romans 5:1-5).

As human beings, we come from different backgrounds and cultures, with different temperaments and opinions, and belong to various groups by birth or affinity. These differences, in human considerations alone, give rise to rivalry, jealousy, competitiveness, discord and conflict. But as Christians, we are called to take the Holy Trinity as the model for our interpersonal relationships.

Our differences, instead of being a cause of division, become a richness to be accepted, encouraged and celebrated. Our varying gifts become charisms to be used in collaboration with others, for the good of all. For what makes us the children of God according to St. Paul is the Spirit of God in us (Romans 8:16), which binds us in Love and Communion with one another; just as the TRINITY are bond by LOVE and live as United Family or in Perfect Communion with one another.

Finally, the trinity is the unity and communion of the Triune Godhead as three distinct yet interdependent persons. A community of love that extends God’s love to humanity. So, when the doctrine of the Trinity says that one God exists in three Persons, it means that God is a Community of three Persons in a relationship of love. The Father loves the Son in communion with the Holy Spirit. The Son loves the Father in communion with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit loves the Father and the Son. Therefore, although we have different faces, characters, nations, but we are all created in the image and likeness of one eternal God. Our calling is for a purpose: to be in Communion with God, living in peace and unity with one another, and then bearing good fruits that will foster good community living, which is bond by LOVE.

PRAYER:

May the Love that bond the Holy Trinity together envelope and bind you and family, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.

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Doves 🕊 with the letters Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the Faithful

HOMILY OF THE PENTECOST SUNDAY, YEAR C

THEME: THE HOLY SPIRIT EMPOWERS US TO DO GOOD.

(1st Reading: Acts 2:1-11; 2nd Reading: Romans 8:8-17; Gospel: John 14:15-16, 23-26)

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Today, the Holy Mother Church celebrates in a very special way the Pentecost Sunday; the decent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and Blessed Virgin Mary! It is a celebration in honour of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Most Blessed Trinity; one in being with the Father and the Son, and equal to them in every respect.

Meanwhile, on the day Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven, He promised to send His disciples the Comforter, the Power 💥 of the Most High God, who will be with them till the end of time (Acts 1:8). Consequently, that promise which Jesus made to the disciples just as in today’s Gospel: “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you… But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you(John 14:18, 26), is being fulfilled today in our lives.

This is a memorial day that the Church was born in order to continue the salvific mission and to courageously bear witness to the risen Lord, Jesus Christ. Moreover, the actual birth of the Church was on Calvary, while Jesus Christ hung on the Cross, in fulfilment of His prophecy: “…when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself(John 12:32). But, Pentecost Sunday marks the day that the Church was first introduced to the world, that is, the first public outing of the Church.

Today, there is a major renewal of interest in the Holy Spirit and spiritual charisms. In the first reading, the disciples were inundated by the Power of the Holy Spirit, which engendered mutual love, forgiveness, peace, generosity and unity in diversity among many people of diverse cultures present, without any discrimination or confusion that was witnessed at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. Unfortunately, many gifts of the Holy Spirit are restricted to spectacular, extraordinary and momentary phenomena which often become a cause of rivalry, conflict and division.

Undoubtedly, the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in us may not manifest unless we are, first of all, aware of that presence and that action, and secondly, we make ourselves available for their manifestation in us. For wherever the Holy Spirit is, there is Liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17). So, how do we recognize His presence and be sure that we are truly led by Him? Certainly, the litmus tests are: only when we love (sacrifice) sincerely, forgive no matter the offence, instigate unity in our community, show compassion, detach ourselves from earthly possessions as well exhibit other fruits of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise we should pray and invite Him to possess us.

The second reading describes a consequence of the presence of the Spirit. Each of us has been given gifts by the same Spirit and they must not be a source of competition, but must rather be put at the service of unity. The Holy Spirit is the new law, the force that leads us to do good, which pulls down barriers, and wherever it enters it destroys sin. He will never tell us that everything in our journey of life will be smooth and without hitch at all.… No, that is the deceptive voice of the evil spirit. For life is not a bed of roses, but imbued with plethora of challenges.

As the scripture says: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit Himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him(Romans 8:15-17).

However, the Holy Spirit helps us to navigate through the vicissitudes of life unscathed. As a matter of fact, He corrects and guides us along the way, and never leaves us lying on the ground even when we sin or offend God. Rather, He takes us by the hand, comforts us and constantly encourages us (Proverbs 24:16). He makes us weep for our sins; pushes us to frequent confessions, genuine repentance and change of heart; that is, to fight against our lies, deceptions, hatred, rivalry, disunity, wickedness, etc., even when that calls for hard work, interior struggle and sacrifice.

Furthermore, the Holy Spirit pushes us to love and to always do what is pleasing in the sight of God in accordance with the scriptures. Certainly, charisms that build up faith and unity in the Christian community, and lead to greater understanding, forgiveness and service, are true signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, the Holy Spirit is sent for a purpose: to remind the disciples of the teachings of Jesus Christ and to instruct them further; to invest the apostles with the authority to forgive sins (John 20:22-23); to build up the faith and unity of the Christian community through various gifts of the Spirit, rejuvenates the Church and teaches her to be an open house of unity without walls of division. Hence, as Christians, who are now the present disciples of Christ and the embodiments or temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), we are now charged with the responsibility of propagating the Power of God beyond the frontiers of the earth through love, peace, kindness, unity, forgiveness, generosity, etc.

PRAYER:

Therefore, as the heavily dew🔥 (Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Fortitude, Counsel, Piety, Holy Fear) falls on the disciples today, may the Power 💥 of the Most High God penetrate your inmost heart and reinvigorate, strengthen and fortify you and your entire family so as to produce more Fruits 🍇🍓🍅 of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, generosity, self-control, modesty and chastity), in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

Rev. Fr. Benjamin Okala, C.S.Sp.

HAPPY FEAST OF PENTECOST!!!

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ONLY THE HOLY SPIRIT CAN UNITE US TOGETHER IN TRUTH!

HOMILY OF 7TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C

THEME: ONLY THE HOLY SPIRIT CAN UNITE US TOGETHER IN TRUTH!

(1st Reading: Acts 17:55-60; 2nd Reading: Revelation 22:12-14, 16-20; Gospel: John 1:20-26)

In our contemporary society, most times, to express what one sees as the “truth” could be detrimental, especially when it threatens long-standing norms. For instance, if you tell the truth that conflicts with political or religious ideologies and principles, conventional and professional opinions, you will be marginalized, rejected, attacked, ridiculed and criticized even by members of your own religion or those with vested interests in the opinion you uphold; or you may be killed, despite guarantees of freedom of speech which is stipulated in our country’s constitution. Sequel to these undeniable facts, many people seldom speak the truth for fear of being rejected or even killed, thereby allowing things to go wrong. But should we compromise the truth so as to avoid criticisms or persecutions?

In the first reading, Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, courageously highlighted the historical truth of the scriptures concerning Jesus Christ, and thus confronted the Jews for obnoxiously killing the ancient prophets as well as their resistance of the Holy Spirit. Subsequently, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus Christ standing at the right hand of God. These statements infuriated the Jews, which led to his killing.

Surprisingly, while they were stoning him, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them(Acts 7:59-60). What a compassionate request! This was exactly what Jesus Christ did during His Crucifixion! Of course, the Holy Spirit was instrumental to this extraordinary reaction, otherwise Stephen would have cursed or prayed for God’s vengeance upon his enemies.

Undoubtedly, trials and tribulations are sufferings resulting from oppressions or persecutions. They are basic elements that make up the negative valence of affective phenomena. Most times, they can help one to grow to the full stature of maturity or perfection. Unfortunately, many people think that those who are always encumbered with a lot of tribulations are accursed. It is not always the case!

As a matter of fact, Jesus Christ said to His disciples: “I have told you all this so that you may find peace in me. In the world you will have tribulations. But be courageous; I have conquered the world(John 16:33). However, the kind of tribulations that are meritorious are the very ones we suffer for the sake of love of Christ. For our sufferings and struggles of this present life, even torture and death to our bodies, are nothing compared to the glory that awaits us (Romans 8:18).

Moreover, our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world for the redemption of the whole human race without any discrimination or segregation. His aim was to reconcile and unite every person to God, so that there would be one family of God, or sheepfold with one Shepherd. He wanted unity and love for His followers so much, and that was the reason why in today’s Gospel, He prayed seriously for His disciples as well as those who would believe in Him through their words. The climax of this Priestly Prayer comes as He prays that all believers may be one as He and the Father are one:  “May they become perfectly one so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me(John 17:23).

Unfortunately, the disunity among Christians has been a veritable scandal, because it was not willed by Jesus Christ. Although the Universal Church established “ecumenism” to promote dialogue with Christians of other denominations, which is aimed at progressively narrowing the divisions among Christians until we become one again, in accordance with the intention and prayer of Jesus Christ for His followers. Yet, there seems to be more divisions, hatred, acrimony, rejection of truth and also persecutions among Christians. The evidence is clear; “many Christians lack the Holy Spirit, and do not care to invite Him to take control of their endeavours.” For the Holy Spirit engenders brotherly love, peace, patience, faith, hope, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, justice, equity, fairness, unity, trust, etc.

In the second reading, Jesus Christ stated categorically: “I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he or she has done.” I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates(Revelation 22: 12-14).

Therefore, since all our actions will be judged accordingly on the last day, then we should strive daily towards fulfilling our LORD’s wish and prayer of unity and love among believers anywhere we find ourselves. Also, ensuring that we have cordial relationships with God and our fellow human beings; and by promoting justice, equity, fairness, love, peace, unity, forgiveness, etc. in our society. However, we can only succeed when we constantly seek the intervention of the Holy Spirit in all our endeavours.

Finally, since Jesus Christ earnestly desires the unity and love of all believers, then we should strive daily to make it a reality through our constant prayers, words and positive attitudes towards others, even our enemies (Luke 6:27). As Christians, we cannot but speak the truth always, for God is truth, and truth is life. Compromising the truth in order to please people implies that we prefer to follow the devil, the father of lies.

Though people may attack us for proclaiming and upholding the truth, but once we trust in God Almighty, He will surely vindicate us through the Power of the Holy Spirit. So, let us not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which we were sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). For only Him can unite us together in truth, peace, harmony and love.

PRAYER:

May the Power of the Holy Spirit penetrate your innermost heart so that you can courageously proclaim the truth at all times, and always live in unity, peace, harmony and love with one another, and at the end of your life, may you gain eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

Rev. Fr. Benjamin Okala, C.S.Sp.

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