“Be blessed and be a blessing to all”

            Last Sunday of Pentecost / Christ the King Sunday.

November 23, 2014

The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes

Today is the last Sunday of Pentecost. We are now entering into the season of Advent, a season to slow down and be more listening and paying attention to the coming of Christ the King.

Today, we also celebrate the feast of Christ the King. Jesus reminds us that He alone is our King. Those of us who consider ourselves as kings, or act as wannabe kings would do well to remember that on judgment day, all of us will be judged by our power, wealth, or stature, but by the good deeds we have done to one another.

It was said that the power behind every great husband is a smart wife. A story is told about husband who was boasting to his friends: “You know, in my house I am the king, and whenever my wife and I disagree, she would get down to her knees!” Upon overhearing this, the wife said: “You know why I kneel down? I kneel down to look for him under our bed where he is hiding!”

Today, I would like us to reflect on words of Christ who said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

When Martin of Tours, our patron saint (316-397 AD), a young Roman soldier who had been reluctant to embrace the Christian faith, met a poor beggar on the road who had no clothes to warm himself in the freezing cold, Martin took pity on him. He immediately got off his horse and cut his cloak in two and then gave half to the stranger. That night Martin dreamt he saw a vision of Jesus in heaven robed in a torn cloak just like the one he gave away that day to the beggar. One of the angels next to Jesus asked, “Master, why do you wear that battered cloak?” Jesus replied, “My servant Martin gave it to me.” Martin’s disciple and biographer Sulpicius Severus states that as a consequence of this vision “Martin flew to be baptized” to be united with Jesus and the members of his body – the body of Christ on earth and the communion of angels and saints in heaven.

That is the example we at Holy Child and St Martin are trying to emulate as we live out the baptismal vows we promised. We asked ourselves, “What are we here for? What purpose does God have for me?” I want you to know my brothers and sisters, that through your sharing the talents, time and gifts God has entrusted to you, you are doing exactly what God has called you to do. But I want you to look wider and broader on things we give back to God, for it is when we feel them and begin to be thankful that God has given you a chance to open your hearts and minds to the needs of this world, that you truly understand the purpose of your being and being a member of the family of God.

Tomorrow, our bread for the world volunteers will be in the streets of San Francisco to distribute food. The air is cold this days. I ask you, if you have scarves, gloves, socks, bonnets and blankets to give, please bring them this afternoon or tomorrow morning, and join us to find those who are vulnerable to the weather and sickness.

Next month, our youth have endeavored themselves to help feed the people at the Inn Vision Shelter in South Airport Boulevard.

Panera bread of Millbrae have given HCSM Sunday, Monday and Tuesday slots for bread donation pick up. We continue our Monday morning bread for the community. We are in partnership with Guadalupe Elementary School of San Francisco through the initiative of teacher Marcia Bowdish, and now we will supply Inn Vision Shelter with bread every wednesday. Would you be so kind to render your time and day to help in the distribution?
Our health and wellness clinic will meet in the coming days to re-envision our goals as a community of givers, of caring and loving, and begin to expand wider to our church partners and share the blessings of our humble beginnings and pray that they too will start a similar health center in their community. I ask you prayers for our volunteers and our donors.

There are many real people in need in our society. Let us give and share what we are blessed with. Jesus said, “Whatever you’ve done to the least of my people, you’ve done it for me.”

On a more personal reflection, I would like to share that if you want to get more out of life, try this: As you get up each morning, rather than trying to be blessed, do everything in your power to be a blessing to someone else. If you will do that for sometime, your life will be filled with so many blessings you won’t be able to contain them all.

I’ve discovered that if I meet other people’s needs, God will meet mine. If I make somebody else happy, God will make sure that I’m happy. Every day, we should look in the eyes of God and look for opportunities to be good to people. Maybe you can buy somebody’s lunch, or give someone a ride, Share your contaminating smile so others will smile as well. Get in a habit of doing some good for somebody every day. Don’t make the mistake of living selfishly. You were not created to be focused only on yourself, the Almighty God made you to be a giver. The best way for you to be fulfilled is to get your mind off yourself and reach out to others. Get up in the morning with this attitude: “Who can I be a blessing to today? Who can I encourage? Where is there a need that I can meet?”

Everyday, we hear a lot about success and about the good things that God wants to do for us, but let’s not forget we are blessed so we can be a blessing. We are blessed so we can share God’s goodness wherever we go. If you want to make an impact on somebody’s life, you don’t necessarily have to preach a sermon to that person, or go about telling everyone you spend that much for him or her; just be good to that person. Your actions will speak much louder than your words. You can say, “I love you and I care about you, just as God cared for me by giving His Son Jesus Christ who is a compassionate and merciful King of my life.” When you say those words, do them. We demonstrate true love by what we do. If I love you, I’ll go out of my way to help you. True love turns words and feelings into action.

May we be more loving and giving in the coming season and everyday for God loves a cheerful giver. Amen.

 

“Which Kingdom we live in?” Rev. Rebecca Goldberg

23 Pentecost

November 16, 2014

Judges 4:1-7, Psalm 123, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11,
Matthew 25:14-30

Which Kingdom Do We Live In?

When I was a very young girl, about 10-11 years old, I remember marching into the living room toting a large Bible and announcing that I was going to go through the whole thing and read it cover to cover. My mom looked up from her reading and smiled, and said “yes dear”, much as she did when I made other youthful announcements, such as that I was going to be a stage actress when I grew up, or a “lady baseball player.” I said, “no, really, I’m going to do it.” And I went through it, fascinated by the Old Testament stories of the Flood, the parting of the Red Sea, David and Goliath, and Jonah and the whale. I dozed with boredom at the begats, but I dutifully read them all. I loved the Gospels and the stories of Jesus. Paul, with his long paragraphs of theological rhetoric, had me sleeping once more, but the fire and excitement of Revelation grabbed my attention again. I remember the story of the servants and the talents bothered me, even then. Why did the master only give 1 talent to the last servant, that didn’t seem fair. And then, just because he didn’t have any more talents to present to the master, they took what he had and gave it to the others, who had more to start with. That just doesn’t seem right. Is God like the master? Is God fair? I asked my mom and my Vacation Bible School teachers what this story meant, and they told me it was a parable, and I would understand more about it when I got older.
Well, here I am, quite a bit older and I still struggle with some of the same questions. Why would Jesus tell us such a hard story? What might it have to teach us today? Our collect for today bids us to “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest, to feed on the scriptures, so that we may hold fast to the hope of everlasting life.” What is there to feed on in this passage? I wonder if in this parable, hard as it is, Jesus might be holding up a vision of how we are to live in the Kingdom of God?
It is important, first, to understand a bit of the context of the story. Over the past several weeks, we have been following Jesus on his final journey to Jerusalem. On his way to his eventual passion, death, and resurrection, he first teaches his followers the primacy of the commandment to love, both God and neighbor. He warns against the hypocrisy of religious leaders who put their own authority and importance above the command to love God. Then his focus begins to shift to the importance of being ready for the inbreaking of the reign of the Lord- with the story of the Master who comes home suddenly to find the servants unprepared, and the foolish bridesmaids who let their oil run out and were not prepared to enter the marriage feast with the bridegroom. Now the emphasis is on being ready, being accountable before God, of being mindful that we are living in the Divine Presence that is constantly breaking into our world and calling us to surrender our lives and hearts.
At the time this Gospel was being written, Matthew’s community was struggling with developing an identity as a Jewish-Christian body that honored the roots of its tradition, yet was reaching out to Gentiles and seeking to become more universal in its welcome of people who were coming to follow Jesus. The temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed, and there was tension between the Jewish Christians and the Jews in the synagogue who did not accept Jesus as the Messiah. There was a sense of urgency about the mission to spread the Gospel. Apocalyptic, or end-time beliefs, were common. Many people probably believed that Jesus would come back soon, so the importance of being ready, of being prepared, could not be stressed enough. People were given work to do in preaching the Gospel and working for the Kingdom, and those who were believed to be unproductive in these tasks, such as the servant who buried the talent, were judged. In the ancient world, the talent represented something of great value that was entrusted to the servant. Apparently, a talent could be worth as much as a year’s wages. Perhaps the lesson was to be diligent and fruitful in working for the spread of the Gospel.
So what is the lesson for us, so many years later, so far removed from the ancient world of the Gospels? Much has changed, but the really important things remain the same. What might this parable tell us about what it is like to live in the Kingdom of God, here and now? I believe this story asks us to take a hard look at whether we live in a world of abundance, or one of scarcity, whether we live in faith or fear, and whether we accept our life as a gift to be gratefully shared with the world.
In the story, the servant who buried his talent was acting from a spirit of scarcity. He didn’t trust the master and sought to hold on to what he had, and he missed the opportunity for the multiplication of new life and growth. If we look at the world around us, our culture operates from a principle of scarcity. Think about it—we are always hearing that there is not enough to go around for everyone. Companies lay off scores of workers to make up for budget cuts, programs to feed the homeless or house seniors are eliminated, and we are afraid to stretch ourselves and contribute because there might not be enough left for our families. We tend to look to protect our own interests and our own individual needs, and while to a degree, this is necessary, we miss out on the joy of living with a spirit of unbounded generosity. For I would challenge you that there is indeed MORE than enough for everyone- more financial resources, more love, more purpose, more fulfillment, more life in all its abundance because it has its source not in ourselves but in God, who is ready to bless us and share that plenty with us. Throughout the Gospels we hear about the mustard seed that becomes the mighty tree, about faith that moves mountains, about streams of living water, not trickles–about loaves and fishes that are multiplied. And remember that in the stories of the feeding of the multitudes, there was not just one basket full of the leftovers, there were many—brimming with food! The truth is that if we seek first the Kingdom of God in community with our brothers and sisters in faith, we will find more than enough material and spiritual riches to transform our world and begin to make the Gospel promise of abundant life a present reality.
Do we live in a spirit of faith, or a spirit of fear? In the story the first two servants had faith that they would be able to take the gifts they had been given and use them to bring about abundant life and growth. Their gifts multiplied. The last servant, however, was guided by his mistrust, his fear of the master, and played it safe by burying his talent in the ground and protecting it. Being human, we probably live out of both fear and faith. I know I do. At times I don’t want to take a risk and respond to a call to a new challenge or ministry because I am afraid I will fail. I would rather play it safe. It took me years to respond to the call to be ordained as a priest because I was afraid of what would be asked of me. It is natural to feel fear, but we are not called to live from that place of fear. Instead, we are called to live from a place of faith, knowing that God loves us and longs for us to experience abundant life. Fear can overcome us when we rely on our own strength, our own resources, instead of trusting in the power of God and the support of our brothers and sisters in the faith.
Finally, I believe today’s Gospel invites us to understand our lives who we are, and all that we have, as gifts. I remember reading somewhere that “our life is a gift from God, and what we do with it is our gift back to God.” I don’t recall where the quote came from, but it stuck with me. And we can also say, our life is a gift from God, and how we live out who we are is our gift back to God. How will we live out who we are, both individually and as a community of faith here at Holy Child and St. Martin Church? We have been given the precious gift of God himself in Jesus Christ, who died that we might have abundant life that lasts forever. What an amazing gift! How can we give thanks for that gift in servant ministry to a world that is in such need of faith, of love, of hope, of encouragement?
In this season of stewardship ingathering, I would ask, Which kingdom do we live in? Is it the kingdom of scarcity, or the kingdom of abundance? Do we live in a place of fear, or of faith and hope? Do we receive our lives, both as individuals and as a community, as a gift to be shared in gratitude with a spiritually hungry and thirsty world? I see great abundance of life in the community of saints here at Holy Child and St Martin Church, and a lot of hope and faith. Look around, we can learn so much from each other as we listen to each other’s stories, laugh, cry, work, play and pray together. There is great life in our shared journey. May we continue to grow in love, hope, joy and faith, and service in our life together in Christ!
Amen. ​

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What choices have you made?

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25 / Matthew 25:1-13
The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes
November 9, 2014

In everything that we do in life, we make choices. Whether we prioritize to go to church or just stay in bed because there is a game or party we are preparing to attend on a Sunday. Whether we dress good for Church or only when we go for a wedding or a banquet. We make choices whether we sit with someone we haven’t sat for a long time and share story, or just stay with the group whom we are comfortable sitting with. Whether we give and pledge for the programs of the Church or spend it somewhere else in the blink of an eye. It’s all about choices. We need to set priorities

It was by choice that I chose to follow the voice of God when he called me to enter seminary in 1990, until I was ordained to the Diaconate in 1994 and eventually to the Priesthood in August of 1997. It was by choice that I left my full time Nursing career to serve full time with Holy Child and St. Martin 6 years ago in november of 2008. It was your choice to keep me in this Church that I made it thus far. But when we look from a wider and broader perspective view, God chooses us all to grow and flourish in this Church and this community. It will then be our choice if we let it die or we value the gift God has given us and endeavor to take care of it as good stewards of God and begin to enter into a new haven where God commanded life, even life forevermore.

Three years from now, we are being challenged to make choice whether we continue to be a comfortable Mission station or grow and explore possibilities of becoming a self supporting, self reliant, self governing and self sustaining parish. If I am to choose where HCSM should endeavor to travel, I would choose to explore new roads where no one or few have travelled, and start anew with fresh vision and mission.

In the Old Testament reading this morning, Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. Joshua said to the children of Israel, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” The children of Israel were about to enter the Promised Land. This was a drastic change in their lives. They had spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness. They had lived in tents and were about to begin living in houses. Their entire way of life was about to undergo a drastic change.

That is so with us. When our lives change, choices have to be made. You know people are more likely to get involved meaningfully in a church when they have recently moved. Joshua knew this. Many of their ancestors had worshiped the gods in Egypt. They had worshipped the one true God in the wilderness. But the people of the land they were entering worshipped a whole different set of gods.

What would they worship: the gods from Egypt, the gods of the Canaanites, or the one true God? They needed to make an intentional decision. They would end up worshipping something. They needed to set their standards and priorities before circumstances pushed them into choices they would regret.

At the end of the reading we learn that they made the right choice. They said, “We will serve the Lord for he brought us out of slavery and cared for us in the wilderness.” But this was a big choice. Did they really mean it? Were they taking this decision seriously or would they forget it when they settled down in a house and their neighbors were worshipping the gods of the land?

So Joshua forced the issue. He said “No, you can’t be serious. God will take you seriously and there will be consequences if you go back on your word.”

It is very important to understand that the decision to serve God is a serious one. If you decide to serve the Lord it will affect your whole life. It is not just a commitment to show up to church once in a while if it is convenient. It means that every day every action every moment is to be lived for the Lord. Sometimes that commitment can be inconvenient or even painful to live out. It means that you no longer belong to yourself, you belong to God!

Despite Joshua’s protests the people insisted, “We will serve God.” Joshua said “Mark your own words, and remember this choice.” So Joshua made a covenant with the people to serve God and God alone. There on the verge of entering the Promised Land the people made a promise to themselves and God. They made the choice to serve God.

That is so with us. Choose this day whom you will serve. Will you serve the gods of this world: the gods of materialism and hatred? Or will you serve the one true God of the Universe who gave the only begotten Son for your liberation. You have to make a choice. Not choosing is itself a choice that will lead to some other god.

We are then challenged with the question, whom will you serve? This is a serious choice. It is not to be taken lightly. To follow Christ is not always a glorious experience, it may also shake the very foundation of your faith. But if you will only persevere, it will change your life. Everything you do, everything you say, will be for God.

Choose this day whom you will serve, as for me and my house we will serve the Lord!
Let me leave you thoughts to ponder as we begin to embrace change in the way we approach service and commitment:

First, I ask you to see things in the eyes of God. Let us see things at Holy Child and St. Martin where everything is possible with God. Trust in God who called us to be in this community for a reason. Be part of the volunteers in our Community Health Clinic. There is so much that we can do in this program such as marketing and letting the community know that we are here for them for free health services such as health education, Blood pressure and other vital sign monitoring, as well as referral program.

Be part of our Bread for the World and feeding the hungry ministries. We do this every monday from 7:30 am to 9 AM, then we continue with dance exercises until 10 am. This ministry is being led by Romy Mijares, Lois Downs and Sobrena Somebang who consistently come early to open the door or pick up the bread every Sunday Night. We have now extended our partnership with Panera bread of Millbrae to service Guadalupe Elementary School in the Excelsior district from the bread Kevin Haas pick up on Tuesday night. I got a report from Teacher Marcia Bowdish that 200 hundred families lined up at the first wednesday bread distribution in that school. Both Monday and Wednesday pick up at Panera Bread are done weekly.

Our youth are preparing to plunge themselves with preparing food and feeding Inn Vision Shelter residents in SSF in December. We will also be in partnership with Daly City Mental Health Clinic in their feeding program supported by the Rev. Dr. Lynn Bowdish.

Be part of ministries God blessed in this Church. The Altar guild led by Lydia Sawachi, Lois Downs and Eloise Milanes are gaining in membership, yet there’s more to do other than setting the flowers, the altar, the pews, the oil and even ironing the linens and vestments. It will be easier if we all put our sleeves together. Our Building and grounds are visited by people everyday by just sitting at the benches or smiling at the beautiful lawn and flowers around. Our Junior Warden Bernard Dayrit is a man of few words but his actions speak a lot when much of our unforeseen building maintenance are taken cared by him unnoticed. Our men’s group led by Fr. Jurek are gaining popularity as they take care of those stuff men of muscles can do such us cleaning up the storage room and preparing them for disaster or emergency purposes. Our seniors led by Maja Milanes, Marietta Flores and Rev. Dr. Lynn Bowdish continue with their bus excursions and arthritis exercises on Monday morning. Ruth Hoppin and Deacon Tricia Rosso are having a powerful educational Bible Study on Saturdays. Deacon Rebecca and our Sunday School Teachers Haidee Oakes and Mirella Pumacayo are having wonderful interactive Sunday School class. Today, we will be recognizing our acolytes and altar servers for their faithfulness in serving at the altar.

Our music ministry need more choir members. We are thankful to be able to incorporate all songs from cultural musics and generational music. However, we need to learn more new songs. With your commitment, we will be able to help our music director. I have asked the Rev. Dr. Lynn Bowdish and Sheri Rubi to chair the stewardship and fundraising committee to study and help boost our budget campaign for the ensuing year. There are many more ministries that you can possibly be part of, if you only see things in the eyes of God.

Lastly, in everything that we do, pray and be thankful. Whether our petitions are answered or being delayed, or not the way we wanted it, pray and be thankful. A lot of times we neglect to pray and be thankful. We are like that student who upon receiving his monthly allowance, he forgets everything and spend it lavishly. When it’s gone, he asks for more without even thanking. In everything, give thanks.

It gives us honor to see some of our veterans in our midst today. Thank you for your service to our country and the world. Thank you for setting us an example worthy to emulate for the cause of freedom and democracy. We remember those who have gone before us, who fought for our freedom. We salute all the men and women in uniform. May God bless you and may God bless this country and all the country we represent.
Amen.

All Saints, All Souls

All Saints and All Souls Day
November 2, 2014
The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes

Matthew 23:1-12

Early this morning, I received a text from our music director, Sadjie Guillermo that his mother passed away in the Philippines. Let’s take a moment of silence and pray for hope and healing in their family. Amen. She now belong to the stars in the heavens.

Today, we celebrate all Saints Day and All Souls Day.

I remember as a child, I would get up to our roof on a clear sky at night and look up to the heavens while lying on my back. I would intentionally find figures I was taught in science about big bears and other forms of constellations. I remember in the movies of people counting the stars so I did too, one at a time. One, two three, fifty, oh wait I counted that already. Oopps, the other fell and disappeared. It reappeared! Oh I can’t count them all. They are billions. Somebody told me that each star represents those who have gone to heaven. They are watching over us, as we dream of having a place there when our time comes to join them. They are the Saints in light. People who earned their shining stars because of their good deeds are being displayed in the heavens to remind us that we too deserve the merit and display our good deed among all people and the rest of God’s creation on earth. I am making a resolve today that I will strive to do what God requires me to do while I am living and aim to be one of the stars in heaven. I hope that I won’t fall and disappear from shining. God is my help to keep my light bright and shining here on earth as it is in heaven. And so are you. God calls us all to be part of the family of Saints. Count yourself in, it’s free. The only requirement is to strive to do what God requires us to do, to do justice, love, mercy and walk humbly with God.

Walk humbly with God. I like the Gospel today. It reminds us to walk humbly with God. It reminds us that in the kingdom of God, one needs to be humble to be able to get a sit at God’s reign. One can not say, “Hey, I’m guaranteed a sit at the table of God, but you? I doubt it” Neither one can say, “My Church is the true church and there is no salvation outside it” We need humility in service.

One day, a bus driver was driving a bunch of seniors – people in their 70’s and 80’s. They call themselves club 20 because they get 20% discounts in restaurants and pharmacies and even transportations. Soon, the little lady in the front row tapped the shoulder of the driver and gave him a bag of peanuts and the driver was thankful and ate them. Ten minutes later, she handed him another bag of peanuts and munched all of them again. Another ten minutes later, the old lady gave him another bag of peanuts. The driver said, “Thank you, they are delicious, but I’ve had enough, I finished two bag of peanuts.” The old lady said, “Oh, I didn’t want you to eat them, I just wanted you to throw them away for us.” “Throw them away? the driver asked, “Why don’t you eat them?” “All of us don’t have teeth anymore.” “So why do you but them?” He asked.
She said, “Oh, we like the chocolate around them, and after sucking them, we throw away the peanuts.”

Humility confuses a lot of people because it’s just like the chocolate covered peanut. We’ve mixed humility with other stuff that doesn’t belong to humility. We need to remove the chocolate. The Gospel says, “The greatest among you will be your servant. Al who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Let us take the context of humility as we celebrate All Souls Day and remember our love ones who have gone before us.

I remember back in the Philippines, a week before All Souls Day, our family would go to the cemetery and weed out the surrounding of the tomb of our love ones. Repaint the names and the color of the cross. Stick a candle on the head or the foot of the tomb and patiently wait for the priest to come around and bless the tomb. As a child, I remember asking the question “Why do we still visit the tombs of our love ones and pray?” Yesterday, I was asked by some members to visit their love ones in the cemetery for prayer. That same question came to the surface. “Why do we pray for the dead?” I then remember humility and love. You see, when you visit the graves of your family member, you get down on your knees and clean out the surroundings, offer flowers and pray thanking them for all the good things they have done which helped you to become who you are now. It is also because of Love that you visit them. When St. Paul said, “Faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.” He was talking about love that transcends beyond the grave through the boundless realms of eternity. Love does not end, as faith, hope do. On earth, we need faith in God, the hope of the resurrection and the love of God. But when we get to heaven, we don’t need faith and hope anymore because we come face to face with God in whom our faith and hope are offered. But love continues from earth to heaven. That is why love is the greatest. It is this same love that we pray and remember our love ones who have gone to where our Lord Jesus Christ have promised to prepare for us so that where he is, we may be also.

Just as we love and respect our living ones, so do we love and respect those of our loved ones who have departed this life. And just as we pray for the living that the Grace of God may be upon them, so do we pray for the dead that they may become worthy of the vision of God and be counted in the stars in heaven. Only by God’s grace that become partakers of the heavenly kingdom. Living or dead, we all need the mercy of God, thus we pray. The Church is composed of the living and the dead. We are all bound together by one faith, by common love. It is our duty to ask God as One Church, to be merciful toward the sinful souls of both the living and the dead.

Death and burial can not sever the Christian love which united the living with those who died. We continue to love our parents even after death. We continue to express love for them and it becomes real when we commemorate them in our prayers. We can communicate with the faithful departed in a spiritual manner only through prayer, in which we ask for the forgiveness of their sins and for their establishment in God’s heavenly mansions. We pray for them in the spirit of Love and forgiveness. Someone said to me one day, “Oh God, no, I don’t want to pray for him to be in heaven, he is the least thing I would like to see when I get there! I curse him to be in hell” I said to the person, “You are missing the point my friend. In heaven, there will be no pain nor sorrow, no more hatred but only everlasting love. Now, if you can’t picture that, you might as well prepare for hell”

My dear friends, the Gospel says, “The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

It is better to walk with humility, with mercy and love.

Let us all strive to be Saints in light, here on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.