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Matthew 7:13-28: Duality Two

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Bartolome Esteban Murillo: Return of the Prodigal Son – National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.

Yesterday we shared concepts from Hispanic life and culture as we explored the paradox of Jesus’ death and rising. Examining the dichotomy of humanity and divinity shared in one person, we invite visitors to share their own experience of duality in the comment bar. Today, part two of our post brings us more resources to search for clues to our own duality.

Golden Age mystics bring us liminal prose and poetry: Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross, and the trances of Teresa of Avila. One of Europe’s earliest and oldest universities with Fray Luis de Leon in Salamanca, moves education forward while horrific wars with the French, the Turks, the British, and the Americas give birth to an endless list of bifurcations.  Existentialism moves forward through the works of Miguel de Unamuno and his Atheist’s Prayer. If we ever want to meditate on choosing between two roads or living in multiple realities, we only need to dip into Hispanic culture.

In today’s citation we have just finished hearing Jesus speak about beatitude, and the fulfillment of the Mosaic Law with the new Law of Love.  We have just heard him say that he abides with the broken in spirit, heart and body rather than the wealthy, famous and powerful. We have heard him urge us to knock, ask and seek rather than to comply, give up, or remain silent.  Now, he points out to us the dualities that always lie before us. There are always at least two roads; false and true prophets either lure or teach us; real and unreal disciples urge to follow someone or something; evil and good shepherds kill or give life; and we might choose two types of homes to build in a kingdom we are invited to form.  We have choices to make, roads to travel, spirits to test and deeds to perform in Christ’s name.

When Christ calls, we will recognize his voice. Let us answer with courage and love.

When we call, Christ will recognize our voices. Let us persist in hope and fidelity as we share Christ’s Easter joy.

Francisco de Zurbaran: Saint Francis in Meditation – The National Gallery, London, U.K.

We must practice listening in the here and now for the shepherd’s voice.  We must practice calling out Christ’s name to ask for help.  We must rehearse how we will both receive and grapple with answers.  We must practice dialog with God. We must ask the Spirit’s help to suffer well so that others and we may live forever. For there is no other redemption, no other saving grace, no other blessing than following the Voice of the Shepherd. There is no other Way but to make a single harmony of the dual song of God’s Call and The Faithful’s Response.  Let us practice this duet with our God each day.

Today we are on the eve of the Fourth Sunday of Easter when we will revisit the parable of the Good Shepherd. Let us prepare to knock on the doors the world closes to us. Let us ask the difficult questions the world throws at us. And let us forever seek the merciful justice Christ shows us in the duality of his being.

We invite you to share dualities you find in your own lives in the comment bar. 


Adapted from a reflection written on January 12, 2009.

To find a definition of the word liminal, go to: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liminal

Visit John 10:1-18 for the parable of the Good Shepherd.

More information about the University of Salamanca is at: https://www.britannica.com/topic/University-of-Salamanca

Follow links here to learn more about how others lived their experience of duality.

To dive into the world of  Spanish artists in the Golden Age of abundance and scarcity, spend time with the art of three outstanding painters: Diego Velázquez, Francisco de Zurbarán and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.

Spain boasted five playwrights who equaled the style, power, and influence of William Shakespeare: Juan del Encina, Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, Calderón de la Barca, and Lope de Rueda. Choose one link and explore. Or learn more about Spain’s Golden Age of Literature in the Britannica online at: https://www.britannica.com/art/Golden-Age-Spanish-literature

The mystic poetry of Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila is in the same moment challenging and consoling. Explore here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/st-john-of-the-cross and https://www.poetseers.org/spiritual-and-devotional-poets/christian/teresa-of-avila/prayers-and-works/index.html 


Matthew 7:13-28: Duality One

Friday, April 20, 2018

Las siete partidas

We are about to close the third week of Eastertide, a time of dichotomy, paradox and challenge. How is it that Jesus the human lived and walked among us, was born of a woman, suffered, died and was buried, yet rose in divine form to show us his wounds and to remain with us forever? How do make sense of this seeming contradiction? How do we allow this incongruity to shape our lives? How do we share this surprising and healing conflict bring harmony to our lives? Today and tomorrow we reflect on these thoughts in a double post.

I am accustomed to using the word duality in my AP Literature class with students since it is the over-arching theme and technique of Spain’s Golden Age – a time of great abundance and great depravity, great discovery and great abuse, great hope and great corruption.  The Inquisition was winding down, mystics seemed to come out of the walls, with Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila are prominent, while conquistadores wrote fantastical chronicles about the New World.  Art, music and drama made Spain the center of the universe. A baroque dance of intertwining, opposing, harmonizing threads counterpoint and imbue one another with a newness not seen in single lines of music, simple poems, or lonely themes. Golden Age Spain understood how to straddle the worlds of excess and scarcity, how to live in liminal space and thought.

Diego Velazquez: Las meninas – The Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain

We might name Spain the Crossroads of the World where northern Europe encounters Africa, the Middle East and the Orient, where the New World meets the Old.  It is a peninsula and a people in the habit of welcoming invading hoards: Celts, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Germanic tribes, the Moors.  Dramatic binary opponents are at work: the first democracy among the noble class with Fernando II is a counterpoint to the harsh Inquisition and the Counter-Reformation.  The noble and gracious ideas of Carlos I/V Holy Roman Emperor are nearly annihilated by the fascism of Franco in the 20th century.  The Jarchas are sung and written – beautiful love poems by women who yearn for their men at war.  Science and philosophy are both welcome guests to this peninsular people who encourage the study of medicine, astronomy. In the XIII Century, Alfonso el Sabio (X) calls all known experts to Toledo to record what they know to form an early encyclopedias (Las Siete Partidas). They recorded rules for the games of chess, checkers and other strategic games; and the stories we treasure as children from the Grimm brothers to Scheherazade make their way to the Western World through this gathering of knowledge. In the modern era, Raúl Pateras Pescara invents the first truly flyable helicopter.

In a further dichotomy of reason and faith, this culture spawns scientists, rulers, theologians and philosophers. Both the Roman philosopher Seneca and the emperor Trajan are born in southern Spain. Miguel de Cervantes writes the first modern European novel, Don Quixote. In the new world, Sor Juan Inéz de la Cruz eschews domestic life to enter the Order of St. Jerome and became one of the century’s most known and most loved poet/playwrights. Latin American writers present the world with groundwork for the Magical Realism movement, literature of deep fatalism and deep faith.

We invite you to share dualities you find in your own lives in the comment bar. 

Tomorrow, living a life of duality. 


Adapted from a reflection written on January 12, 2009.

To find a definition of the word liminal, go to: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liminal

Follow links here to learn more about how others lived their experience of duality.

To dive into the world of  Spanish artists in the Golden Age of abundance and scarcity, spend time with the art of three outstanding painters: Diego Velázquez, Francisco de Zurbarán and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.

Spain boasted five playwrights who equaled the style, power, and influence of William Shakespeare: Juan del Encina, Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, Calderón de la Barca, and Lope de Rueda. Choose one link and explore. Or learn more about Spain’s Golden Age of Literature in the Britannica online at: https://www.britannica.com/art/Golden-Age-Spanish-literature

The mystic poetry of Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila is in the same moment challenging and consoling. Explore here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/st-john-of-the-cross and https://www.poetseers.org/spiritual-and-devotional-poets/christian/teresa-of-avila/prayers-and-works/index.html 

Images from: https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/las-meninas/9fdc7800-9ade-48b0-ab8b-edee94ea877f and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siete_Partidas


Numbers 16: Rebellion of Korah

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Sandro Botticcelli: The Punishment of Korah and the Stoning of Moses and Aaron

We are much like the wandering tribes in the Numbers’ stories, grumbling and complaining when life’s plan does not go our way. We speak out against leaders, allowing jealousy and pride to govern us rather than any practical, or common sense. We believe the “grass is greener on the other side”. We say that life was better in “the good old days” when we know it was not. We rail against real and perceived injustice; but do we turn to God to ask for intervention? Today’s lesson of rebellion thwarted has much to convey to us.

“You have gone too far! All the members of the community belong to the Lord, and the Lord is with all of us. Why, then, Moses, do you set yourself above the Lord’s community?” 

Once embroiled in a dispute, we hang on no matter the evidence to a contrary view. We dig in and rally friends. We make lists of our foes and plot their overthrow. We say, “All is fair in love and war”. We “go for broke”. We double or hedge our bets. We build castles of defense and refuse to listen to fact or reason. We call down heaven on our enemies; but do we ask for God’s counsel or wisdom? Today’s story of upheaval has much to teach us.

Then Moses sent for Dathan and Abiram, but they said, “We will not come! Isn’t it enough that you have brought us out of the fertile land of Egypt to kill us here in the wilderness? Do you also have to lord it over us? You certainly have not brought us into a fertile land or given us fields and vineyards as our possession, and now you are trying to deceive us. We will not come!”

In the clash between Moses and Aaron versus Korah, Dathan and Abiram is severe. Families step forward with paternal heads. Lines are drawn in the sand. Threats fly. Oaths and curses punctuate the conflict. Turbulence envelopes the people; but do they pay heed to God’s presence among them? Today’s story of cataclysm has much to reveal to us.

Suddenly the dazzling light of the Lord’s presence appeared to the whole community.

The outcome of this rebellion is frightening when we look at this story with New Testament eyes.

The ground under Dathan and Abiram split open and swallowed them and their families, together with all of Korah’s followers and their possessions. So they went down alive to the world of the dead, with their possessions. The earth closed over them, and they vanished. 

We look for the justice suffused with mercy we are accustomed to seeing in Jesus’ hands. We try to find the Spirit’s healing presence we experience each Eastertide. Today as we reflect on these verses from Numbers that describe a dualistic response to Moses’ challengers. As we reflect, let us consider the blessing of the Good News we tell and re-tell each year; and let us give thanks for God’s grace that softens hard hearts and unbends stiff necks.


When we compare other translations of this story to this GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION, we open ourselves to the grace and hidden blessing of the rebellion of Korah.

Image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korah 


Philippians 3:12-16Forward in Christ

Via Egnatia in Philippi

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

I do not claim that I have already succeeded or have already become perfect. I keep striving to win the prize for which Christ Jesus has already won me to himself. 

These verses refer to our spiritual maturity, our willingness to empty our selves in order to allow Christ to enter. It is a common theme in Paul’s writings: being a slave for Christ.

Of course, my friends, I really do not think that I have already won [the prize]; the one thing I do, however, is to forget what is behind me and do my best to reach what is ahead. So I run straight toward the goal in order to win the prize, which is God’s call through Christ Jesus to the life above.

So many times we look at ourselves, at people and at situations and we see only the defects, the weaknesses, the lacks, the wants. We will feel less frustrated and anxious if we accept what is before us, and pray for those impossible potentialities that we perceive. I believe that is what God does with each of us. God creates us with a maximum and minimum. When we fall, God stoops to raise us up, still dreaming of our best self. We need to dream of our best selves as well, and leave God’s work to God.

All of us who are spiritually mature should have this same attitude. But if some of you have a different attitude, God will make this clear to you. However that may be, let us go forward according to the same rules we have followed until now.

In Eastertide, we celebrate God’s presence in a special way. Today we have the opportunity to explore our response to Christ. When we are unable to rise to our potential, we call upon God for strength and renewal. When we find joy in our lives, we thank God the creator who has made us, Christ the Redeemer who saves us, and God the Spirit who heals us. When we consider our strengths and weaknesses as children of this loving God, we realize that God wants nothing more than for us to run with joy toward the goal of great union in Christ.

Today and all days, let us run straight toward the goal to win the prize. Let us run forward in Christ.


Adapted from a favorite written on May 1, 2007.

When we explore the story of Philippi, we learn that many retired military lived in the city. Perhaps it is for this reason that it was seen as a small version of Rome. Knowing this, we begin to see why Paul writes this letter in the context of competition and prize-winning. How might we put ourselves in this place, with these people, to hear the Word as spoken through Paul? How might we take in these verses to strength our resolve to run the good race? 

When we compare translations of these verses, we are patient with our weaknesses and we bolster our resolve. 

Click on the image to learn more about this ancient city. Image from: https://www.ancient.eu/Philippi/ 



Isaiah 32:15-17: A Fruitful Field

Spring Wildflowers In Anza Borrego Desert State Park, California

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

In this season of Eastertide, we open our hearts to the possibility that justice will bloom in the desert.

But once more God will send us his spirit. The wasteland will become fertile, and fields will produce rich crops. Everywhere in the land righteousness and justice will be done. Because everyone will do what is right, there will be peace and security forever. (GNT)

In this time of renewal in the northern hemisphere, and season of harvest in the southern hemisphere, we open our hearts to the possibility of new hope in renewal.

[When] the Spirit from on high is poured out on us. Then will the desert become an orchard and the orchard be regarded as a forest. Right will dwell in the desert and justice abide in the orchard. Justice will bring about peace; right will produce calm and security. (NAB)

In this cycle of dying, transforming, and renovation, we open our hearts in fidelity to the Spirit that dwells in the desert, waiting to convert stony hearts and soften stiff necks.

Till the Spirit is poured out on us from above,
and the desert becomes a fertile field,
with the fertile field regarded as a forest.
Then justice will dwell in the desert,
and righteousness abide in the fertile field.
The effect of righteousness will be peace;
the result of righteousness, quiet trust forever. (CJB)

In these days of resurrection and rescue, we open our hearts to the mystery and wonder of Christ.

Yes, weep and grieve until the Spirit is poured
    down on us from above
And the badlands desert grows crops
    and the fertile fields become forests.
Justice will move into the badlands desert.
    Right will build a home in the fertile field.
And where there’s Right, there’ll be Peace
    and the progeny of Right: quiet lives and endless trust.
My people will live in a peaceful neighborhood—
    in safe houses, in quiet gardens.
The forest of your pride will be clear-cut,
    the city showing off your power leveled.
But you will enjoy a blessed life,
    planting well-watered fields and gardens,
    with your farm animals grazing freely. (MSG)

In our evenings of reflection and fruition, we open our hearts to the awe and majesty of God.

When we compare these and other translations of these verses, we know with certainty that the desert blooms, and the wasteland becomes a fruitful field in Christ.


Enter the words desert bloom into the blog search bar and explore possibilities with God. 

Image from: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/california-desert-wildflowers-bloom_us_58bb0fc6e4b0b9989417ffcb 

For more about desert blooms, or to learn more about the California desert, click on the image and explore. 


Numbers 14:8: From Grumbling to Peace

Monday, April 16, 2018

Route Map of the Israelite Exodus

If the Lord is pleased with us, he will take us there and give us that rich and fertile land. 

In Numbers 14, we hear murmurs among the people as they tire of wandering in the desert in expectation of a promised land where the faithful will flourish to pass down their fidelity to God through many generations. Although scholars find little evidence of this difficult, 40-year desert pilgrimage, we appreciate the desert wanderings of the twelve tribes of Hebrew peoples. Not only do they suffer physical hardship, they suffer mental distress as well. They wonder why they have left the comfort of a home where although they lived in slavery, they knew what to expect each day. Now in the desert, searching for water and food, and evading bands of marauders, they question the wisdom of following leaders shown to them by The Living God.

Our Old Testament thinking is binary; when we behave as God asks, God rewards us. When we do not, we expect punishment. Our New Testament thinking removes the fear of ancient ancestors as we remember Jesus’ words as recorded by John: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:7)

God says: I know that you worry each morning as you rise about the thousands of details you tend to as you support a life of work, play and prayer. I know that you move through the day and into the evening juggling people and circumstances, numbers and facts, opposites and equals, clarity and confusion. I know that you think of me each night as you set up your evening tent and tuck into your bed. I know that you keep your eye on me as you traverse the deserts in your life; and for this I love you more than you can imagine. When you grumble, I hold you close. When you cry out, I am at your side. When you weep, I dry your tears. I am with you always. As Jesus tells you, do not let your hearts be troubled. Do I not go before you each day as a pillar of smoke? Do I not follow you each night as a pillar of fire?

In the Moroccan Desert

Although we fear, we move forward in confidence. Although we complain, we step into each day with conviction. Although we doubt, we follow Christ with steadfastness. In this way, we allow God to convert our grumbling and fear into Christ’s calm and loving peace.

During the day the Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud to show them the way, and during the night he went in front of them in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel night and day. (Exodus 13:21)


For a reflection on the Book of Numbers, visit: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-torah/numbers-arrangement-of-the-tribes/

For a reflection on Numbers 14:1-4, enter the words Back to Egypt into the blog search bar.

To read about scholarly opinions on the Sinai wanderings, visit: https://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/03/world/africa/03iht-moses.4.5130043.html

Images from: http://wildmorocco.com/cosmic-fireworks-from-the-sahara-desert/ and http://www.bible-history.com/maps/route_exodus.html

 


John 20:19-31: Beyond Locked Doors

Third Sunday of Easter, April 15, 2018

It was late that Sunday evening, and the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors, because they were afraid.

How can we doubt the love of God when Christ moves through locked doors to console his followers?

Jesus came and stood among them. “Peace be with you.”

How can we turn away from the hope God brings to us to conquer our fear?

The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord.

How can we refuse to unlock our hearts when Christ offers love so astounding that it overcomes all obstacles?

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.”

How can we close ourselves off from Christ’s compassion?

Jesus said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

How can we reject God’s gift of self in the person of Christ, in the presence of the Spirit?

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.”

On this third Sunday of Easter, let us willingly take up this gift, and let us share the good news of Christ’s fidelity, hope, love and joy with others.


When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to explore other translations of these verses, we invite Christ to open the locks with which we have closed our hearts. 

Images from: https://demetriusrogers.com/2014/09/06/closed-doors/ and https://www.adventure-journal.com/2012/02/25-more-awesome-hearts-found-in-nature/ 


Mark 16:9-15: A Prayer for Unbelief 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

José de Ribera: The Penitent Magdalene or Vanitas

In this second week of Eastertide, as we conclude our exploration of Easter Week Gospel readings, we challenge ourselves to decide where we stand in the Easter story. How many times does Christ approach us to share the good news that our freedom is won? How often do we panic because we have forgotten the Easter miracle of restoration? How frequently do we give thanks to God for the goodness in our lives and then turn to go out to share this good news?

Now after [Jesus] rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. 

We may be the mourning Mary who experiences rejection when she shares her hope-filled story with others, or we may be those who scoff at her joy.

After this [Jesus] appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

We may be the Emmaus disciples who spend a day and share a meal with the risen Christ, or we may be those who are content in their skepticism.

Later [Jesus] appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.

We may be one of the eleven who huddle in the upper room, afraid to leave and afraid to stay, persisting in our unbelief. Or we may take in Christ’s rebuke, and then go out to join all of creation in praising God.

And [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.”

We may be one of those who persists in the bitterness of disappointment, or one who neither doubts nor believes but who chooses to stand in some in-between world of detachment.

Today, as we consider that Christ leaves not one of his sheep behind, let us choose to believe the Easter miracle and take up Christ’s gift of new-born joy rising from pain. Let us admit that we have the freedom to choose to ignore or to react to Christ’s presence in our lives. And let us put aside our unbelief to join all of creation in praise of God’s persistent love. And so we pray.

Good and gentle Jesus, you know what to say to us so that we might believe. We thank you for your hope. 

Gracious and generous God, you meet our fears with your mighty persistence. We thank you for your fidelity.

Giving and merciful Spirit, you calm our fears and soothe our anxieties. We thank you for your love.

Amen.


Today’s verses are from the NRSV translation of Mark’s Gospel. When we open other translations, we also open ourselves to Easter belief.

Images from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/ , http://www.jesusplusnothing.com/studies/online/roadtoemmaus.htm and http://www.beliefnet.com/espanol/20-asombrosas-palabras-de-jesus-para-ti.aspx?p=9


John 21:1-14: It Was Already Dawn

Friday, April 13, 2018

James Tissot: Jesus Appears on the Shore

In this second week of Eastertide, we continue to find new life in the Easter miracle of our resurrection as we re-visit the Gospel readings for the Easter Octave. Today we return to the Sea of Tiberius with Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John and two other disciples. Discouraged, frightened, needing employment, or wanting to go back to familiar rhythms and themes of life . . . we do not know why these followers return to the waters of Galilee. But we do know that this is where they encounter the risen Christ. It was already dawn, John tells us.

This imagery reminds us that when we believe our night of suffering and striving is endless, we – like these disciples – will look up from draining work to discover that it is already dawn. Perhaps we – like these disciples – meet Jesus when we are at our lowest. Perhaps we are the two unnamed disciples who take up nets and oars with our comrades to shove out into deep waters to see how we might survive. Perhaps we believe our lives have brought us disappointment again. First, there was the death of Jesus, and now we have been fishing through the night yet have caught nothing.  Unexpectedly, a stranger calls out to us from the shoreline, urging us to cast our nets once more . . . but on the starboard side of the boat.

This is how it happened . . . When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. (NABRE)

How could this possibly matter, we wonder? What difference can it make to change the side of the boat? We have strained ourselves to the limit and we have no more strength.

They did what he said. All of a sudden there were so many fish in it, they weren’t strong enough to pull it in. (MSG)

With this, Peter leaps from the boat and we question his actions as he flails his way to the shoreline; yet it is there – when the dawn is upon us – we realize that Christ has been with us all along.

When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”  (NABRE)

We see that Jesus is already baking fish on the open fire, but we add our own fish from the new catch, finally understanding that we are to join Christ in his work. A memory flickers through our minds of the 3 fish and 5 loaves that Jesus divided so that five thousand might eat. And as we settle around the warmth of the fire to take in this meal, we realize our work, we hear Christ’s call. Despite our discomfort with the unfamiliar, we know that we must return to Jerusalem to continue the discipleship Jesus has begun in us.

Regardless of our fatigue, we lean into our nets again. In spite of deep waters and dark nights, we leap from our small boat to thrash ashore so that we might share a meal with Christ. Although we have thought our suffering and fears went unnoticed, Christ has been with us, waiting with baked fish and bread to erase our exhaustion and nourish our hope. And suddenly the night slips away . . . . almost without our noticing . . . for it is already dawn.


When we compare other translations with the ones in this post, we begin to understand that despite the length of the night and the frustration of the work, Christ invites us to join him in our own renewal.

To read Matthew’s accounting of how Jesus feeds 5000, read Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-34, Luke 9:12-17 or John 6:1-14. Matthew (15:32-39) and Mark (8:1-9) also describe the feeding of 4000. 

Images from: https://www.dominicanajournal.org/burning-coals-for-breakfast/ and https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/cooking-steckerlfisch-over-an-open-fire-high-res-stock-photography/56298235

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