Serving God is not the same as Altruism

And when the scribes and the Pharisees saw Jesus eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”-Mark 2:16-17

Every Monday evening, volunteers from different religious and social agencies take time off their busy schedules to feed countless number of homeless adults and children in the red light district. These groups are well organized. They come in their vans or trucks and serve nicely packaged hot meals. Their distribution method is immaculate. They take less than a hour to feed about hundred to two hundred people and then they move on to the next location. These volunteers get nothing out of this service except perhaps the knowledge that they have done a good thing. This is altruism in action in our context. It is a good thing.

However, it is not what the Lord was talking about when He said,
“And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”-Mark 10:44-45

In altruistic service, the action alone is sufficient. Relationship between the giver and the recipient is not a necessity. Sometimes the homeless do not even know or recognize the people who provide the food and the altruists give without attempting to find out the names of those who benefit from their generosity. It becomes a dry and mechanical exchange between two parties where the humanity of both parties is hardly acknowledged.

Jesus sat and ate with the tax collectors and so-called sinners. The religious authorities criticized Jesus for doing this. I think the pharisees and scribes would not have minded if Jesus just preached and taught the tax collectors and the sinners. However, sharing a meal with them changes everything. Jesus wanted to become their friends. Sharing a meal is an intimate moment. Even in our present reality, it is rare that we invite people into our homes for a meal. It means bringing the relationship to the next level. It is moving from a superficial acquaintance to a potentially profound friendship. It is a movement from altruistic action to Christian ministry.

Friendship in the context of the New Testament time was considered to be one of the highest virtues. Almost all the influential philosophies in the Roman times considered a happy man as one who is surrounded by friends. This is because friendship is voluntary. It is the one thing that belongs to us which we can freely give to another.

One of the homeless teens once asked our team leader whether she was his friend because of the work or because he wants to be her friend. He said that it was both. His ministry in the streets opened the door to knowing her and it set the foundation for the friendship that they have now. Friendship can be based on many foundations. Jesus is the foundation of our friendship for those who are lost and lonely in this world. Jesus came to be our Friend.

“No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”-John 15:15

Jesus changed the nature of his relationship with the disciples because they had come to an understanding of the foundation of their friendship. It is to make the Father known. The best way to make the Father known is through our lives. The Father is not a concept that can be taught. He is person who lives within us. His presence and influence is seen through our lives. We cannot manifest the Father in our lives without being friends to those are friendless and lonely.

Christian Ministry begins with altruistic actions, but this is just the key that opens the door to a friendship. We cannot preach the gospel if we refuse to be friends with those to whom we minister. However, friendship alone does not make it a Christian Ministry. The goal is to make the Father known.




Redeeming our Individuality: An Easter Meditation

Mary said, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him,“Rabboni!” -John 20:13-16

There are a variety of ways of looking at the Resurrection. In a way, it is something that occurs daily in nature. Something dies giving life to something else. Life is always resurrected from death. The idea of resurrection is not foreign to us in some senses. However, it is strange and foreign that Jesus came back as Jesus. Not Jesus in a ghostly sense, but Jesus bearing the marks of His pain and suffering on His body. He remains the individual that died on the Cross but now, He is Alive.

Out of dust, we became an individual and we lose our individuality when we return to dust. This is the tragic state of humanity. We are aware of our individuality and we are also aware that it is fragile. We strive hard to be individuals. We want to be unique. We want to be special even if it is for one person. We want our individuality to be affirmed, but we also know that even if the whole world recognizes our individuality, it is pointless; we will eventually return to dust. This desperation and futility of life was expressed aptly in the Book of Ecclesiastes:

For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust. (Ecclesiastes 3:19-20)

Our struggle to assert our individuality makes us aware of the injustice and immorality of this world. We define anything that tries to destroy our individuality as evil. Well, the question of evil is closely related to our individuality. Buddha taught that our individuality was the problem. It was believed that we perceive evil  because we persist on our false idea of our individuality and the solution was to break free from our notions of self-identity. Still, this did not solve the problem. Our sense of individuality is still strong and despite the sufferings, we think that there is more joy in being an individual than giving it up altogether.

Jesus affirmed our sense of individuality. His disciples were fishermen and tax collectors, people who usually classed as a group and not as individuals. We don’t expect any prominence from these classes. He called individuals from these groups and made their names known throughout the world. Jesus affirmed the individuality of his female disciples in a time where their individuality was suppressed. Jesus, in one occasion, called an ailing woman to identity herself when she wanted to lost among the crowd. Jesus made people feel that their identity was relevant. They were important as individuals. His life was the hope that they could finally be someone and His tragic death robbed them of this hope. Only the resurrection could give them back this hope in a new and wonderful way.

Jesus bore the marks of His torture and pain. His torture and pain were once tools used to threaten his individual existence, but now they set Him apart from the rest. The resurrection changed the meaning of his suffering and death. It showed us that nothing can steal our individuality in this world. Our Individuality is not an invention of cultural conditioning or rational thinking, but it originates in the mind of the One who has the power to resurrect us. It always brings a new understanding of our lives here. Jesus bore the marks of hatred and death on His body, but His love overcame them and changed their meaning for eternity.

We know through Jesus that all will be resurrected (I am aware of the various debates on this subject). However, this has to change how we live our lives now. What we do with our body will be reflected in our resurrected body. Our bodies can be instruments of Love or Hatred and the marks of our choices are worn eternally on our resurrected body. Jesus reveals to us the most excellent way to shape our bodies and soul for eternity. He shows the most excellent way to cultivate our individuality.

Have a Blessed Easter. Christ is Risen!


Self-Destruction or the Truth: A Good Friday Meditation

And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.”- John 11:50

Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”- John 18:37
Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”- John 8:32

Caiaphas thought that he was saving the nation when he persecuted Jesus. We often overlook this part but the High Priest believed that he was doing something good and he ended up trying to destroy Life itself.

This is not just the unfortunate paradox of Good Friday, but it is the tragic reality of life. People who desire to lead a happy and free Life are the very ones who engage in a self-destructive lifestyle. These are not your drug addicts or common criminals. Caiaphas and the crowd that shouted, “Crucify Him!” were not such people. They were people who wanted the best things in Life and they ended up destroying the only One who could lead them to Life itself. They were not evil people: they were blind to the Truth. They refused to listen to the Truth.

Pilates asked, “What is the Truth?”-John 18:38

Jesus never answered Pilate. Jesus was not ignoring him. The question was a good question but Jesus did not have an answer to it. For Pilate, the Truth is a “what”. Pilates was expecting a teaching or a a doctrine.  However, for Jesus, the Truth is a person. You cannot teach a person to someone. They have to meet the person who know him or her. The Truth is a person.

Until we meet the Truth, we will engage in self-destructive habits. We will settle for false notions of happiness because only Truth can lead to freedom and happiness. When we talk to the crack addicts or the homeless children, as well as adults, they will say that they are the only ones who have freedom. For them, they think true freedom and happiness is being able to do what one pleases. There are some who engage in criminal activities because they want money to buy fancy clothes and have the latest technology. For them, true happiness is having possessions and being respected for what you have. They are no different from your average person except that we can see the self-destructive consequences of their mentality in a clear and distinct way. The affluent are able to hide their self-destructions more effectively. In the gospel account, the religious authorities were walking the path of self-destruction because they believed that the path of happiness was in upholding religious doctrines. Being religious, whether Christian or otherwise, is not a guarantee of the knowledge of Truth. If we believe that the truth is a “what”, then we won’t be able to recognize the Truth that is a “who”.

Today we remember that the Truth was hanging on the Cross. It seems like an irony that the Truth that set us free could not set Himself free. It is a stumbling block and it sounds like foolishness. However, before we receive the Truth, we need to know that Life without the Truth is a life that leads to death. It is a life of self-deceit. It a life that is full of contradictions. Jesus was the Truth that sets us free from our lies and we need to see the consequences of our lies in order to embrace the Truth. The truth is that our lies destroy the very essence of Truth in our midst. However, Truth is greater than the power of lies. In order to discover this, we first have to go to the foot of the Cross.


The Silence of Jesus

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.-Hebrews 4:15

And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” But Jesus kept silent.-Matthew 26:62-63

Jesus kept silent. His silence was perhaps a judgment or perhaps it was an acceptance of the way things are. The trial was unjust and there was nothing Jesus would say or do to change the outcome. Perhaps, silence was the only appropriate response.

Just outside our apartment building there is a small group of homeless adults. The people have grown accustomed to their presence here and consider them to be part of the neighborhood. They don’t beg for money. They do odd jobs to help them buy food and clothes. One of them is called Natal which means “Christmas”. He is a 40 year old man and has been homeless for so long that he has given up hope of ever living in a house. Natal and his friends have their own bed cushions and they even have a small cabinet with pots and pans which they bought or had given to them. Every weekend, they cook in the streets and when we walk by they always invite us to have a meal with them. Last week, the police came by and took everything that belonged to Natal and his friends, including their pots and pans and their cushions and blankets. We met Natal after the fact and of course, he was upset and depressed. He looked resigned as well. This was his life. The only thing he said was that they stole his personal belongings purchased with his own money. It was his property. However, it seems like the homeless have no rights to personal property. There was nothing Natal could do, except to remain silent.

I have witnessed this scene several times. A grave injustice is committed against the homeless, whether adults or children, and all they could do is lower their heads in submission and remain silent. Anything they say would only aggravate the situation. They can only remain silent.

Jesus allowed Himself to be in the shoes of those whose rights are ignored. In fact, Jesus did not imagine that He had any rights when questioned by the authorities. Jesus understands how Natal felt. Or rather, Natal might be able to understand what the Lord went through better than us. However, it does not end just with the silence. The silence is a recognition that the justice in this world is an imperfect justice. However, the One who is epitome of Justice understands how Natal feels and He has experienced what Natal is experiencing. The Silence of Jesus is a not a sign of defeat. His silence exposed the so-called justice of this world. It reveals its limitations. Natal got back what he lost the next day. The police did not return his things. The people in the neighborhood gave Natal their cushions and pots and pans. We saw Natal smiling. He said God is my advocate. He is right. Jesus knows what Natal felt and only Jesus can bring true justice for the Natals in this world.


Jesus of the Palms or of the Passion

And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: 

“Hosanna to the Son of David!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Hosanna in the highest!”- Matthew 21:8-9

Pilate said to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”They all said to him, “Let Him be crucified!” Then the governor said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they cried out all the more, saying, “Let Him be crucified!”-Matt. 27:22-23

At first Jesus was accepted joyfully.  They thought Jesus was a problem solver. They wanted a Jesus that would heal their illness, they wanted a Jesus who would be a political reformer, they wanted a Jesus….. They wanted a Jesus who would solve their problems. Jesus actually did all these things in his ministry but they wanted him to just do these things. The real Jesus had much more to offer. He is much more than just a solution to a crisis.

There is a danger in our ministry to preach “Jesus, the crisis manager”. The needs of the homeless are so overwhelming that there is temptation for us to present Jesus as a solution. However, this would be watering down the gospel to the level of marketing. The church is called to sell the Jesus product. Jesus is more than a product. Some people argue that we can use the tools of marketing in evangelism. I think we can only use these tools when we preach a different Jesus. The Jesus of the gospel was not selling anything. He won’t be reduced to the level of a product. A product is only good until it fulfills its purpose. This is what happened after Palm Sunday. Jesus was no longer necessary for the people’s purpose and He had to go. They killed Jesus because He outlived His utility for the people.

This is the problem with the “Jesus, the crisis manager”. Once the crisis is over or unsolved, Jesus loses His purpose. We cannot preach this Jesus to the homeless children and adults. It would be kinder to leave them in the streets than to give the false hope that Jesus is their crisis manager. Jesus does not want to fulfill this role and He won’t do it. Jesus is much more than this.

Who is Jesus then? Only Jesus can answer this question. The best we can do is to walk with people to the foot of the Cross. This is why I am a priest of a liturgical church. Good liturgy teaches me the meaning of evangelism. It is not convincing people that they need Jesus but it is walking with them to the foot of the Cross as we do symbolically during this week. The answer is at the foot of the Cross. Jesus came to fulfill one purpose and this was to hang on the Cross. St. Paul was right when he said that this sounds like foolishness to the world. It is a disappointment for those who are waiting for a social or political reformer. Yet, for those who can see and hear the Holy Spirit, they can testify with the centurion, “ Surely He was the Son of God.”

The best we can as do in our ministry is to walk with the homeless to the foot of the Cross and experience the Living Presence of God hanging on the Cross. This Jesus on the Cross is not a disappointment.







Life Gets Harder

Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. Acts 14:22

“When I was involved in crime, everything came easy to me and now that I decided to leave that life behind me, everything is hard.” Estello was smiling when he said this.

I was doing first aid on a wound that he sustained on his head while going through the trash for recycling materials. We met Estello and his wife living near Cracolândia in a small shack made out of recycling materials. He has been clean for a year or so. It is amazing that he is living in the midst of the drug culture and yet he was not tempted to return to the lifestyle. I asked him what brought about the change. Without any hesitation he said, “God.” When we told him that we were from the church as well, he smiled and said that he just learned that God is Love. This was the truth that captured his heart. It was his turning point. He attends a Pentecostal church close where he lives. He does not really consider himself a pentecostal or belonging to any denomination. He just wants to learn about this God who is Love. He recognizes that everyone that comes in Love to serve the poor and forgotten are sent by God.

It is quite common to hear people use religious jargon in the streets. Sometimes the worst drug dealer uses religious rhetoric but there was something different about Estello. You can literally see the joy in this man’s face when he shared about his newfound faith. He is really transformed by an genuine experience of God’s love. However, life has become tougher for him since he found his faith.

I would also like to follow up on another person’s story whose life got remarkable tougher after she decided to do the right thing. I shared the story of Suely in a previous posting. I wrote that her long-lost mother showed up pregnant and drugged out at her doorsteps. Suely is expecting a child soon and she and her husband are taking care of her two siblings and a young child. They work all day and are paid salaries barely sufficient to keep their heads above the water.

Suely’s mother went to the doctor for her pre-natal check up only to discover that she was not really pregnant. It was a cyst that was causing the symptoms of pregnancy. She had it removed and she decided that it was time for her to sober up. She asked for our help to find a drug rehabilitation program. This is good news but it does not mean that Suely’s life is going to get easy. Her mother is mentally unstable which makes it hard for her to keep a job. She needs help and she is willing to get help. Suely is the only one who could help at this moment. Suely wants to do the right thing. This means she is going to carry an extra burden. Her mother has nobody else except her daughter.

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.(Proverbs 14:12)

Looking for the easy road is what brought many of the adults and children to the streets. It is the easy path to self-destruction. Life is not easy and easy has never been associated with Good. Putting our faith in God does not open the pathway to an easy life. Our faith is not a solution to our problems. It is an answer to a burning question in our soul: the answer that we need to face the challenges of this world. It is the strength that comes from within to give us courage to face the harsh realities of life and know that they cannot overcome us. It is the wisdom that reveals to us that nothing can separate us from the Love of God.

Suely and Estello can smile despite their challenges because they have discovered this Faith that is the foundation of their joy.


Link to my original post about Suely:


O Patio do Colegio

Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. -Philippians 1:6

On the 3rd of April, there was a big celebration in the local Catholic churches because Pope Francis canonized Fr. José de Anchieta, a Jesuit missionary who is considered as one of founders of the city of São Paulo.

Fr. José was originally from the Canary Islands, Spain. He came from a wealthy family but decided to leave everything behind to answer his call to the priesthood. He eventually became ill while he was a novice and some sources say this was due to his excessive austerity. The Jesuit Order decided to send him to Brazil hoping that the weather would help his health. He did not particularly have a call to serve the people of Brazil. He came here because of illness and God used this to transform this man into an apostle of the gospel here.

Fr. José and several Jesuit missionaries arrived in the coastal village of São Vicente. There they heard about a small settlement of indigenous people inland who had been exposed to systematic violence and exploited by the Portuguese colonists. This settlement was caught between two worlds; their tribal heritage and the world of colonists. Some of the children of these indigenous people were of mixed heritage. The Jesuits being strong educationalists, they did what they know best: they founded a school. However, the school was just a premise for them to protect the indigenous people against the colonists. The Jesuits missionaries eventually developed a genuine love for the people and they even risked their lives for the well-being of these people. Even though we know that historically the Jesuits were not all saints and I don’t think even Fr. Anchieta was an exception. However, Fr. Anchieta is known today for not for his faults, but for the his willingness to be God’s instrument of love and justice despite his personal faults.  When he died, thousands of indigenous people mourned for him.

The place where the school was founded is called “Pátio do Colégio”. It is also known as the birthplace of the city of São Paulo. It is located in the old city center where we work. After five hundred years, the Pátio do Colégio still is a haven for those who are forgotten and treated with disdain. In the evenings, several hundred homeless people sleep in the square of this historic school. The homeless come here for two particular reasons. It is a safe place and throughout the night several religious groups bring warm meals to these people. Among these homeless, there are about a hundred children.

O Pátio do Colégio today.

O Pátio do Colégio today.

The Pátio do Colégio has been a good contact point for us. We have met many children here over the past few months. These children are new to the streets. Most of them come from a neighborhood that near the center. Sad to say, the Pátio do Colégio is safer than their own neighborhood. These are children are truly lost; they don’t have many options. They are looking for a safe place. They are feeling lost and abandoned.  The Jesuit priests started the school to help the indigenous people know God did not abandon them. It was not just an academic center but it was a center where people learned that they were precious beings who have much to offer to this world.

It is humbling for us to know that we are not here to start anything new. We are merely continuing the work the Holy Spirit started five hundred years ago. Fr. Anchieta and the Jesuit missionaries set the example for us. Now it is our turn to take up the fight and preach God’s gracious love to the lost and forgotten of this generation.  

Last week, after five hundred years, Fr. Anchieta was remembered in this world. He died a simple missionary who learned to love a people that everyone despised. I think this was sufficient for him. We hope to follow in his footsteps.


Jesus Takes His Time

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” …though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. (John 11:1-45)

In moments of crisis, we want God to act and act immediately. For many, this is the decisive moment of their faith. It is the moment where we know whether our faith in God is real or just a theoretical notion. Martha told Jesus that she believed that Jesus was the Messiah. It was not enough. She needs to make the transition from theory to reality. She needs to know that the God she believes in is not just a concept but a reality. It was an intense moment. In fact, the whole gospel passage is very intense. If we stop thinking about Jesus as some spiritual superhero for a moment and think of Him as a human being, we can sense the intensity of the text. Everyone was putting God on the line including Jesus. Jesus took a big risk when He waited.

Lazarus has been dead for four days. There is a common belief in the East even today that the spirit of the dead remains around for at least three days before leaving this world. Whether there is any foundation to this belief is not the issue. The people believed this and Jesus waited for more than three days. When Jesus arrived there, no one believed that there was anything that could be done at this point. Everyone had exhausted all their physical and emotional resources. There was only one thing to do now.

“Jesus wept.”-John 11:35

We weep because we are helpless in the face of the human tragedy. Even Jesus wept, He was truly human and only humans can know their limitations. Only humans can sense that there is something greater beyond their reach. We don’t weep just because we are sad. We weep because we are too weak do anything. We need something different. We need to have new strength. We need something to change the meaning of the tragedy in our lives.

This new change is the Resurrection. 

Martha knew the theory of the Resurrection but now she experienced its reality. This transition cannot occur unless we are willing to acknowledge the limits of our humanity. In order to this, we need to follow the example of Jesus, we need to take a risk. Without risk, we never discover the reality of our God. Without taking any risk, we are settling for a comfortable existence of theoretical religion. It is a religion that never realizes the meaning of the Resurrection for the here and now. Lazarus was resurrected in the here and now. We know that he eventually died but it changed the way he understood Life.

The gospel text addresses the issues of death, mourning and fear. All these make for the tragic elements of Life. These are things that most of us make every effort to avoid. Yet, Jesus deliberately faced these things because He waited to go to Lazarus. Because he waited, He helped his disciples including Mary, Martha and Lazarus have a new understanding of the Resurrection.

Jesus took a risk for us so that we can experience the new reality of the Resurrection. It is a reality where God comes piercing through our darkest moments to bring new Life. And He will wait for the perfect moment to do this.



Remembering a Life

He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.-Isaiah 40:11

Natasha has been in the streets for almost six years. The team has known her since she first came to the streets. She always kept to herself and was unresponsive to us. In fact, sometimes she would be downright unfriendly. She was never said anything rude to us. She would just simply ignore us. She was quite a difficult person. About a week ago, we had a volunteer come out to the streets with us. For some reason, Natasha decided to engage her. She opened up about her past and her family. She said that her mother left her house and disappeared one day and this was her catalyst to coming to the streets. This was the first time she has ever shared anything personal.

Last Monday, we went to the streets in the evening and the first news we heard from the teens was that Natasha had passed away. They were quite disturbed and shaken by it. She had been sniffing paint thinner and then all the sudden she just collapsed and was unconscious. They rushed her to the hospital but it was too late. She was sixteen years old.

Her family claimed her body and buried her immediately. There were only four people at the funeral. She is laid down to rest in an unmarked grave. No one in the streets was informed or welcomed to the funeral. The teens were quite devastated.  They wanted to say their final farewell to their friend. They were visibly affected by her death. They caught a glimpse of their own mortality. They saw how easy it was to be gone and forgotten without a moment’s notice. They did not want their passing to to be like Natasha who was buried without a tear shed and maybe in a few weeks she won’t be remembered anymore.

No one would claim that Natasha was an angel. However, despite her faults and shortcomings, she was still a gift from God to this world. We cannot just simply ignore this fact. Every Life is a gift from God. A Human Life is God’s gift to reveal His Love to us in a rational manner. Therefore, it is precious and important. Perhaps Natasha never understood that she was precious to God. Most likely she did not think she was worth anything to anybody. However, she had something to reveal to us about God. Now she is gone. That something about God that only she can show us is also gone with her.

Natasha never lived to her full potential. She never realized that she had a potential. However, we want to acknowledge before God that we appreciate the gift of Natasha in this world. We want to remember her as such. Her death has made us mature in the understanding of ministry here. We are God’s instruments to let these children and adults know that they are not biological mistakes but God’s precious gifts to this world. They have something to offer to this world and they need to allow God’s love to help them express this gift to the world clearly.