(Usus Antiquior) Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (II Classis) – Sunday, 7 September 2014 : Homily and Scripture Reflections

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Holy Gospel in which we heard about how Jesus Christ our Lord have made full ten lepers who were cast out from the society of their time because of their leprosy, and yet only one out of the ten healed lepers, a Samaritan, returned to Lord Jesus and gave thanks to Him, showing the faith that he had.

And in the Epistle we heard how St. Paul reminded the faithful in the Church in Galata on the inheritance of Abraham, and what God had in store for mankind, the descendants of Abraham, the father of nations, and who are also the children of God. St. Paul mentioned how the Lord tried to bring mankind back to His grace and love, and how He cared for these wayward children of His, that He desires to heal them from their afflictions, that is none other than sin.

For if the Gospel today talked about the healing of the ten lepers, who suffered from the physical condition called leprosy, then all mankind are also afflicted with leprosy, namely the leprosy of the soul, the corruption of our beings by sin and evil. These sins and darkness in the world are blemishes that keep us away from the goodness and perfection in the Lord, and prevent us from truly seeking Him and finding our way to Him.

We have to first understand, the importance and how leprosy was a serious condition and affliction for the people of Israel at the time. It was a contagious disease, one that caused someone to feel numb in the extremities of the organ, and eventually lose those limbs, be it fingers, toes, or even limbs without feeling the pain. And the leprosy disease also caused a visible change to the appearance of the parts that it infected, which allow others to tell of someone suffer from leprosy.

We now know that this condition is caused by a virus that affects and attacks the nervous system and the skin, which caused the symptoms shown above. And as such, this is also why this disease is contagious, as it can spread from one person to another. This disease was therefore seen by the society as a sign that someone is unclean and that these people should be cast out from the society to prevent them from infecting others.

Thus, if we look at the laws of Moses, in which the Lord made evident His Law and precepts to the people through Moses His servant, one dealt specifically with the issue of leprosy and what to do with those who were afflicted with them, the lepers. These people ought to leave their homes and their communities, and wonder away in the wilderness and the desert until they are healed, that is until when they no longer show a symptom of the disease.

If we look at it further, the purpose of the Law may seem to be quite harsh on the people, although indeed we can see how it is useful and beneficial for the society as a whole, as if not for this law and regulation, then more people might be affected and more lives might be lost, and thus the whole society itself might be affected. It is therefore there for a practical reason.

However, it over time led to the persecution and total rejection of these people afflicted with the disease, that even after they have been healed, the stigma would remain. In essence, this is no different from when in other societies, those who suffer from infectious diseases, some of them sexually transmitted, became a stigma in the society, and this stigma remains with them even if they are to be cured. They are ostracised and cast out of the society.

Thus, what Jesus today wanted to tell us is that all of the children of God are beloved by the Lord, as St. Paul mentioned, that everyone are the descendants of Abraham, and just as God had made the covenant with the faithful Abraham and his descendants, we too will enjoy the fruits of that covenant as long as we remain faithful to the Lord. And therefore, we should not be judgmental or be proud of our own achievements and goodness over others’ apparent lack or disabilities.

Lepers were highly looked down upon by the Jews of Jesus’ time, and the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in particular had very low opinion on them. They were not welcome at the Temples and people fled in fear when a leper came towards them or even when a leper was merely in the vicinity. But Jesus did things differently, and He did not mind at all to be approached by the ten lepers, who openly asked the Lord for mercy and healing, and that He granted them, making them whole once again.

He blessed them and made them whole, for indeed He had authority over all things, even all diseases and afflictions of the body and soul. But what is interesting is what came next after Jesus told them to go and present themselves to the priests. They were not immediately made clean and whole by Jesus, but they were made clean as they proceeded to the priests. Yet, as they realised their wholeness and healing, only one out of the ten turned back and give thanks to the Lord, to Jesus, who is Lord and God.

How many times is it in our lives that we are given goodness and blessings by the Lord, and we did not give Him thanks? And instead we spite Him and became angry at Him whenever we did not get what we wanted. We always demanded the Lord to listen to our pleas, and even to our desires and wants, and yet we never stopped to listen and to give thanks to Him whenever He did something good to us.

In this, the ten lepers were different, in that only one of them were truly made clean and whole by Jesus our Lord, that is the Samaritan. The Samaritan recognised what God had done for him, and consequently, returned to give thanks first in joy to the Lord, and rejoice together with Him, while the other nine lepers went happily on their way, thinking that they have been made clean.

The other nine lepers represented many of us in this world, who are still often plagued not by the leprosy of the body and the skin, but by the leprosy of the soul, that is sin! And indeed, mankind are truly vulnerable to this leprosy of the soul, which is equally if not more contagious than the physical leprosy. Desire, greed, pride, arrogance, anger, wroth and other negative emotions and things in life are only some of the aspects of this leprosy.

Thus the nine other lepers did not return to give thanks, because in the leprotic state of their hearts and souls, their pride and selfishness grew strong, and therefore they were loath to lower themselves to give thanks to God for their healing. Instead, they gave in to their joy and pleasure, and forgot about God, just as many of us often did. We often became so engrossed in our joy and in the pleasures of the world, so as to forget the love of God, who so generously gave us everything we need.

And lastly, why the Samaritans are always portrayed on the good side? If we remember last Sunday’s readings on the Good Samaritan helping the man attacked by bandits on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho, while the priest and the Levite walked pass him by, and then link it to today’s readings on the grateful Samaritan, then we can see indeed, that Jesus wanted to make an example to others.

As we all should know, the nation of the Samaritans, known as the region of Samaria, was once the heart of the northern kingdom of Israel. It was where the ten tribes of Israel, the lost ones of the Lord were plucked out of their homes and cast into exile by the King of the Assyrians, who destroyed the northern kingdom seven centuries before the birth of Christ.

In their place, many nations conquered by the Assyrians were resettled on the area, together with some leftovers of the ten lost tribes of Israel. They intermingled and eventually became known as the Samaritans, based on where they resided in, in the land of Samaria. The Jews were the descendants of the exiles of the kingdom of Judah, the southern kingdom, who were jealously and proudly proud of their orthodoxy and in their vigilance in maintaining the faith of their fathers.

As such, they despised heavily the Samaritans to the point that no one ought to talk to them, and they were considered as pagans, barbarians and lesser than humans, to the point that they were seemingly condemned to oblivion and damnation, while the Jews thought of themselves as the chosen race of God and thus the only ones worthy of salvation. What Jesus did and what the example of the Samaritan served to break all that prejudice and false ideas.

As St. Paul put it clearly, that transgressions and sin had caused our separation from the Lord and His love, and it is this love that made God to send no one else other than Jesus, His own Son to be the Saviour of all mankind, to make whole again an entire people tainted by sin. It was stressed that salvation comes through the Mediator, who is Jesus Christ our Lord, who through His sacrifice on the cross had made us worthy, but only to those who believe in Him.

And the Samaritan believed, and he returned to give thanks, acknowledging what God had done for him, and in that he was saved. The others did not believe what God had done to them through Jesus, and as many others, including many of us whose actions do not represent our status as the children and servants of God, and therefore we are in danger of being cast out of salvation which God reserved only for those who truly believed and those who truly loved the Lord with the fullness of their heart and soul.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we gather together and celebrate with the Lord His sacrifice on the cross, let us all examine our own actions and deeds in this life. We have to ask ourselves, on whether we have lived according to the way the Lord had pointed to us, or whether we acted more like the nine other lepers who gave in to their carnal desires and to the temptations of the world? Shall we not rather do our best to resist the corruption of this leprosy of the soul that is sin?

Remember brethren, that this world is full of challenges, and although our divine inheritance is waiting for us, the covenant which God had established with us through Jesus, but we cannot be complacent. We must be ever vigilant, that our faith should remain strong and that we remain closely guarded against all the lies and temptations of the evil one, that we may not fall into damnation. Remember the Lord always in all things, giving Him thanks when it is due, for all the goodness He had showered us with.

May Almighty God clean us and make us whole once again, casting out the leprosy of our soul, that is sin which tainted our heart and mind, so that our body and soul cleansed, we may together rejoice in the Lord and be accepted with fullness of gladness and joy at the end of our road, when the Lord welcomes us back into His loving embrace, to enjoy the inheritance He had promised us through Jesus. Let us all do our best to live righteously and courageously, and to proactively protect ourselves and avoid committing any forms of sin that mag corrupt our soul. May God bless us forever and ever. Amen.

(Usus Antiquior) Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (II Classis) – Sunday, 7 September 2014 : Offertory, Secret Prayer of the Priest, Communion, and Post-Communion Prayer

Offertory

Psalm 30 : 15-16

In Te speravi, Domine, dixi : Tu es Deus meus, in manibus Tuis tempora mea.

English translation

In You, o Lord, I have hoped. I said, You are my God, and my times are in Your hands.

Secret Prayer of the Priest

Propitiare, Domine, populo Tuo, propitiare muneribus : ut, hac oblatione placatus, et indulgentiam nobis tribuas et postulata concedas. Per Dominum…

English translation

Look with favour upon Your people, o Lord, look with favour upon their gifts. That, being appeased by this oblation, You may give us pardon and grant us what we ask. Through our Lord…

Communion

Wisdom 16 : 20

Panem de caelo dedisti nobis, Domine, habentem omne delectamentum et omnem saporem suavitatis.

English translation

You had given us, o Lord, bread from heaven, having in it all that is delicious, and the sweetness of every taste.

Post-Communion Prayer

Sumptis, Domine, caelestibus sacramentis : ad redemptionis aeternae, quaesumus, proficiamus augmentum. Per Dominum…

English translation

Having received Your heavenly sacraments, o Lord, we beseech You that we may profit unto the increase of everlasting salvation. Through our Lord…

(Usus Antiquior) Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (II Classis) – Sunday, 7 September 2014 : Holy Gospel

Sequentia Sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam – Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke

Luke 17 : 11-19

In illo tempore : Dum iret Jesus in Jerusalem, transibat per mediam Samariam et Galilaeam. Et cum ingrederetur quoddam castellum, occurrerunt ei decem viri leprosi, qui steterunt a longe; et levaverunt vocem dicentes : Jesu praeceptor, miserere nostri.

Quos ut vidit, dixit : Ite, ostendite vos sacerdotibus. Et factum est, dum irent, mundati sunt. Unus autem ex illis, ut vidit quia mundatus est, regressus est, cum magna voce magnificans Deum, et cecidit in faciem ante pedes ejus, gratias agens : et hic erat Samaritanus.

Respondens autem Jesus, dixit : Nonne decem mundati sunt? Et novem ubi sunt? Non est inventus, qui rediret et daret gloriam Deo, nisi hic alienigena. Et ait illi : Surge, vade; quia fides tua te salvum fecit.

English translation

At that time, as Jesus was going to Jerusalem, He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee, and as He entered into a certain town, there He met ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off, and lifted up their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”

And when Jesus saw them, He said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were made clean. And one of them, when he saw that he was made clean, went back, with a loud voice, glorifying God. And he fell on his face before His feet, giving thanks and he was a Samaritan.

And Jesus answered, saying, “Were not ten made clean? And where are the nine? There is no one found to return, and give glory to God, but this stranger.” And He said to him, “Arise, go your way, for your faith had made you whole.”

(Usus Antiquior) Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (II Classis) – Sunday, 7 September 2014 : Gradual and Alleluia

Psalm 73 : 20, 19, 22 and Psalm 89 : 1

Respice, Domine, in testamentum Tuum : et animas pauperum Tuorum ne obliviscaris in finem.

Response : Exsurge, Domine, et judica causam Tuam : memor esto opprobrii servorum Tuorum.

Alleluja, alleluja.

Response : Domine, refugium factus es nobis a generatione et progenie. Alleluja.

English translation

Have regard, o Lord, to Your covenant, and forsake not to the end the souls of Your poor ones.

Response : Arise, o Lord, and judge Your cause. Remember the reproach of Your servants.

Alleluia, alleluia.

Response : Lord, You had been our refuge, from generation to generation. Alleluia.

(Usus Antiquior) Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (II Classis) – Sunday, 7 September 2014 : Epistle

Lectio Epistolae Beati Pauli Apostoli ad Galatas – Lesson from the Epistle of Blessed Paul the Apostle to the Galatians

Galatians 3 : 16-22

Fratres : Abrahae dictae sunt promissiones, et semini ejus. Non dicit : Et seminibus, quasi in multis; sed quasi in uno : Et semini tuo, qui est Christus.

Hoc autem dico : testamentum confirmatum a Deo, quae post quadringentos et triginta annos facta est lex, non irritum facit ad evacuandam promissionem.

Nam si ex lege hereditas, jam non, ex promissione. Abrahae autem per repromissionem donavit Deus. Quid igitur lex? Propter transgressiones posita est, donec veniret semen, cui promiserat, ordinata per Angelos in manu mediatoris.

Mediator autem unius non est : Deus autem unus est. Lex ergo adversus promissa Dei? Absit. Si enim data esset lex, quae posset vivificare, vere ex lege esset justitia. Sed conclusit Scriptura omnia sub peccato, ut promissio ex fide Jesu Christi daretur credentibus.

English translation

Brethren, to Abraham were the promises made, and to his descendants. He did not say, and to his descendants, as of many, but as of one, and to your descendant, which is Christ.

Now this I say, that the testament which was confirmed by God, the Law which was made after four hundred and thirty years, did not annul, and to make the promise of no effect.

For if the inheritance of the Law, it is no more of promise. Why then was the Law? It was set because of transgressions, until the descendant should come, to whom He made the promise, being ordained by angels in the hand of a Mediator.

Now a Mediator is not of one, but God is one. Was the Law then against the promises of God? God forbid. For if there had been a law given, which could give life, verily justice should have been by the Law. But the Scripture had concluded all under sin, that the promise by the faith of Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

(Usus Antiquior) Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (II Classis) – Sunday, 7 September 2014 : Introit and Collect

Introit

Psalm 73 : 20, 19, 23, 1

Respice, Domine, in testamentum Tuum, et animas pauperum Tuorum ne derelinquas in finem.

Exsurge, Domine, et judica causam Tuam, et ne obliviscaris voces quaerentium Te.

Ut quid, Deus, repulisti in finem : iratus est furor Tuus super oves pascuae Tuae?

Response : Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto, sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper : et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

English translation

Have regard, o Lord, to Your covenant, and forsake not to the end the souls of Your poor ones.

Arise, o Lord, and judge Your cause, and forget not the voices of those who seek You.

O God, why have You cast us off unto the end? Why is Your wrath enkindled against the sheep of Your pasture?

Response : Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Collect

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, da nobis fidei, spei et caritatis augmentum : et, ut mereamur assequi quod promittis, fac nos amare quod praecipis. Per Dominum…

English translation

Almighty, eternal God, grant us the increase of faith, hope and charity; and that we may deserve to attain what You did promise, and make us to love what You did command us. Through our Lord…

Sunday, 7 September 2014 : 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we come together to be with the Lord on this holy day of His, we are called together as the members of the Church of God to be responsible, loving and caring for one another, so that each one of us may help one another in our effort to seek our Lord and God, and so that all of us may be saved and be freed from the tyranny of sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Scripture readings of this day called us to ponder and reflect on the attitude we adopt in this life, and in how we live our faith in this life. Mankind are by nature a social creature, and we often need others around us as we live and as we face the daily challenges and opportunities presented before us, and how we behave would certainly be greatly affected by who we interacted with and what we did together with others around us.

That is why today in the readings, the main theme that we heard is in fact on the nature of the Church, and on how the Church should work together to ensure the salvation of all of its members, that means all of us gathered here this day, and also many others who have fallen along the way. The Church here does not refer to just the buildings and the institution of the Church as we know it. The Church of God as a whole, is the assembly and the gathering of all the faithful ones in Christ, united to His Body, as a member of the same Body by which we are made one, and made righteous in the Blood of the Lamb of God.

That is why in the Church, the whole Church refers to the entire body of the faithful, all over the world, from the greatest to the least, from the Pope to the common layman, from the ordained ministers and the religious brothers and sisters to all common faithful ones like us, and from the youngest ones to the oldest, and both the newly baptised and those who had been long counted among the faithful.

Following the tradition and teachings established by Jesus as we read in the Gospel today, the Church indeed rightly should be concerned on the fate of the faithful and the salvation of their souls. Why is this so? This is because mankind are by nature disobedient, restless and easily manipulated, and we are also easily tempted by our own personal ego, pride and other emotions, which in many cases likely resulted in us drifting away further and further from God and into damnation.

That was why over the course of the past two millenia, since the establishment of the Church and the faith, countless peoples have tried to subvert the faith and to corrupt it to suit their own purposes. And worse still, they did so not just for themselves, but they also spread their false ideas and teachings to many others around them and thus condemning and risking not just themselves, but also many others who are around them and even those entrusted to their care.

Among these could be counted the ranks of princes, kings, lords, even priests, bishops and the top hierarchy of the Church at times, and also among the laity, the educated, the rich and the poor. What they have thought about, spoke about and taught about were incompatible to the faith and what Jesus had taught to His disciples. In time, the Church came up with varieties of words to describe their actions, that is anathema, heresy and many others.

Those who studied the history of the Church and the faith must have been surprised by the staggering number of times the punishment and measure known best as excommunication, had been used. And in fact, excommunication remains to be used this day to correct the behaviour and awaken the spirit of repentance of those whose ideas and teachings are in direct or indirect contradiction to the faith and to the teachings of the Church.

Many detractors of this measure had argued and even became violently opposed to the actions of the Church both in the past and in the present, so that they criticised the use of excommunications as a tool to remove opposition to the Church and to gain more influence for itself. And some even alleged that the Church used them to silence the voice of those who wanted for reform or change in the Church.

Yes, it is true indeed that sometimes, excommunication had been used inappropriately, but in most cases, they have been intended not to punish, but to awaken the spirit of repentance and genuine desire to seek forgiveness from the Lord, which is that desire to admit their errors and return to the full embrace of the loving God through His Church.

We have to first understand the history of how excommunication come about, using what we know from the Scriptures and from what we heard today in the readings, especially from what Jesus mentioned in the Gospel today. In the past, during the time of the people of Israel, after the Exodus, God gave them His laws, commandments and precepts through Moses.

In that Law, some dealt with how certain people should be treated. Those who were found to have the disease of leprosy were obliged to leave their houses and the community of the faithful, and they have to wander outside the community, in the barrens and the desert until they are healed or cured. And when this was so, they had to show themselves to the priests who would certify them to return once more to the society.

Indeed, it was inevitable that those who contracted leprosy at that time to be ostracised and intimidated against by the rest of the society. They were considered to be uncleaned and as leprosy can spread from one person to another, this helped the exclusion and the bad treatment of the leprosy patients, even after they had been cured from their afflictions. But God did not intend for this to happen.

And in a similar spirit, the Lord Jesus told us through His disciples precisely how to deal with those among us in the Church who had contracted the same ‘leprosy’. This leprosy no longer refers to the physical disease that affects the body, but in fact refers to the leprosy of the soul, that is the degeneration of the state of our faith and soul to the point that we become defiant and unwilling to listen and to obey the teachings of the Church and the fundamentals of our faith.

We have many peoples such as these, and what I am going to mention to you are not the only ones there are out there. The Gnostics of the second century after the birth of Christ mixed the teachings of the faith with the contemporary pagan religions, idols and philosophical pursuits that ended up as a syncretic movement and faith totally incompatible with our true faith.

Then came the Arians, the Donatists, the Monophysites and others who taught doctrines incompatible against the faith, and who tried to subvert the faithful to their cause, telling them lies and inaccurate statements about the faith, on the nature of Jesus our Lord Himself, so that the people who were confused were easy to lure into their corrupting hold. As such, many were led away from salvation in God and into damnation, despite the best efforts by those in the Church to resist and fight back against their corrupting influences.

Then we have many others like the the Albigensians or the Cathars, the Hussians, the Bogomils, Paulicians, Iconoclasts who taught numerous lies and confused theology to the faithful, ending up in corrupting the people in the same way, pulling them away from salvation in the Church into damnation and eternal suffering in hellfire. Those people were misguided by many who thought that their human wisdom were better than the teachings of the Lord preserved in the traditions of the Church and the faith.

Then lastly came the great heresy of the Protestant ‘reformation’, where many of the faithful came to take it on themselves to rebel against the authority of the Church and by willingly splitting themselves from the Church, a rebellion which continues even to this day. Yes, we have so many Protestant denominations, to the point that it may not be wrong to say that there are as many denominations, or splinter groups as there are heads.

People like King Henry VIII, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Zwingli and many other prominent persona of the Protestant ‘reformations’ like many others before them, Arian, Jan Hus, and others were truly the one mentioned by Jesus as the brethren who refused to listen to reason and chose to break away from the Church. They walked their own path, in open rebellion against God and the Church, leading and guiding many people into their rebellion and thus condemned countless souls to damnation.

The effects of their actions can still be felt today. Many remained separate from the Church and thus from the grace of God, and the lies perpetuated by those leaders mentioned earlier and their successors continued to poison their thoughts and that is why many remained with great contempt to the Church and all it represented.

The Church excommunicated them as well as many of the earlier members of the Church, who even included high ranking nobles and clergymen, and even kings, as they have erred in their path. However, as I have mentioned earlier, the purpose of this move was not to punish those afflicted, but rather to make them realise of the gravity of their errors, so that they may come to understand how their actions had caused grief wounds on the fabric of the Church and the faithful.

And thus, many of those who had been excommunicated had returned to the Church in penitence and seeking God’s forgiveness. A famous example would be that of the excommunication of Emperor Theodosius I of the Roman Empire, who was cut off from the communion of the Church by the famous St. Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan, for the Emperor’s implicit and direct role in a massacre of the city of Thessalonica, where thousands of the faithful were ruthlessly murdered and the city ransacked.

The meaning of excommunication itself was to exclude the person afflicted from the Communion of the Church, and if this word sounds familiar, that is indeed what we receive in the Holy Communion, which is none other than the Most Precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Real Presence of the Most Holy Eucharist. All of us in the Church belongs to the Church, that is the Body of Christ precisely because all of us received the same Eucharist and thus are united to each other through our unity with the Lord.

And when a person is excommunicated, like that of the Emperor Theodosius and many others, they were severed from this unity and communion, and thus they were not able to receive the Eucharist, as they were also in a state of sin, and they were not able to exercise anything pertinent to the faith. Thus, that was why Jesus mentioned that those ought to be treated like a pagan or a publican, that means outside the Church, just like the lepers of old.

However, once again, the focus here is on mercy, and on the desire to see these people attaining forgiveness and justification, becoming once again a member of the Church and thus capable of attaining salvation once again. And to wrap up the story on the Emperor Theodosius, the Emperor went on to make a public display of humility and penance, wearing sackcloth to the Church and was once again welcomed into the Church by Bishop St. Ambrose.

That is, brothers and sisters in Christ, the purpose and intention of excommunication. Not as a punishment, but as a means through which the wayward ones and the staunchly rebellious among us may find our way back to God through the Church, through sincere repentance and penitence. Sadly, of course, many of those names and groups mentioned earlier never repented their sins and continued in their rebellions, some of which continued even today.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on these readings of today, let us recall the words of God to the prophet Ezekiel, how the faithful are tasked with the guardianship of the faith of one another, which means that we should be ready to intervene whenever we see around us there are those who begin to veer away from the path of the Lord.

It is only then if the person persisted in their rebelliousness, then we should refer it to the Church as a whole, and if he or she continued to persist to disobey the Lord, only then they should be cast out of the assembly of the faithful, in what we know as the excommunication, hoping that the person may in that time that remains for him or her, found his or her way back to the Lord and repent.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore work together to maintain the unity and the faith in the Church. May Almighty God guide us in our endeavours and help us to keep this faith alive and well. Let us all renew our commitment to the Lord and awaken in one another the love we truly should have for God, casting away all impurities and unworthiness. Let us all not reject and condemn those who have sinned and erred, and those who had been excommunicated, for indeed, many saints too were once sinners and excommunicants, who returned to the Lord and be reconciled with the Church. May God bless us all. Amen.