Engaging the Gospel – Luke 21:5-19

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 21:5-19

While last Sunday’s Gospel focused on the resurrection at the end of time, today’s passage braces us for the wars, disasters, and persecutions that must be endured before the Lord comes again. But whatever suffering we experience, Jesus promises us that by our “perseverance” (sometimes translated as “endurance”), our lives (or “souls”) will be saved.

We should ask God for the gift of final perseverance. As St. Augustine (d. 430) observed in Admonition and Grace,

God willed that His saints should not…glory in their own strength, but in Himself, who gives them not only such assistance…but He also works in them the will to persevere….Aid, therefore, is brought to the weakness of the human will, so that it might be affected firmly and invincibly by divine grace (12, 38).

A current scholar of Augustine, Benedict XVI, has also spoken of the saint’s view of perseverance:

I return to St. Augustine: at first he was content with the grace of conversion; then he discovered the need for another grace, the grace of perseverance, one which we must ask the Lord for each day…

It seems to me that we must have trust in this gift of perseverance, but we must also pray to the Lord with tenacity, humility and patience to help and sustain us…and to accompany us day after day to the very end, even if our way must pass through dark valleys.

Address of February 17, 2007.

Question for reflection: When have I learned the value of perseverance?

Engaging the Gospel – Luke 7:11-17

10th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 7:11-17

Jesus’ raising of the widow’s son from death is a great miracle that illustrates His power over the natural order. But as St Augustine comments, it is also symbolic of the Lord’s raising us from spiritual death to new life through grace.

Pope Francis expands on this theme:

The mercy of Jesus is not only an emotion; it is a force which gives life that raises man! Today’s Gospel also tells us this in the episode of the widow of Nain (Lk 7:11-17). With His disciples, Jesus arrives in Nain, a village in Galilee, right at the moment when a funeral is taking place. A boy, the only son of a widow, is being carried for burial. Jesus immediately fixes His gaze on the crying mother.

The Evangelist Luke says: “And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her” (v. 13). This “compassion” is God’s love for man, it is mercy, thus the attitude of God in contact with human misery, with our destitution, our suffering, our anguish. The biblical term “compassion” recalls a mother’s womb. The mother in fact reacts in a way all her own in confronting the pain of her children. It is in this way, according to Scripture, that God loves us.

What is the fruit of this love and mercy? It is life! Jesus says to the widow of Nain: “Do not weep” and then He calls the dead boy and awakes him as if from sleep (cf. vv. 13-15).

Let’s think about this, it’s beautiful: God’s mercy gives life to man, it raises him from the dead. Let us not forget that the Lord always watches over us with mercy; He always watches over us with mercy. Let us not be afraid of approaching Him! He has a merciful heart! If we show Him our inner wounds, our inner sins, He will always forgive us. It is pure mercy. Let us go to Jesus!

Angelus of June 9, 2013

Question for reflection: How have I experienced new life in Christ?

Engaging the Gospel – Third Sunday of Easter

3rd Sunday of Easter (Year C): Gospel – John 21:1-19

In a scene that calls to mind Peter’s previously denying Jesus three times, the Risen Christ asks Peter three times if he loves Him. Peter responds with three declarations of love, and each time, Christ charges him to care for His flock.

St John Paul II reflected on the meaning of this exchange in Ut Unum Sint, his encyclical letter On Commitment to Ecumenism:

It is just as though, against the backdrop of Peter’s human weakness, it were made fully evident that his particular ministry in the Church derives altogether from grace. It is as though the Master especially concerned Himself with Peter’s conversion as a way of preparing him for the task He was about to give him in His Church (91).

As the heir to the mission of Peter in the Church, which has been made fruitful by the blood of the Princes of the Apostles, the Bishop of Rome exercises a ministry originating in the manifold mercy of God. This mercy converts hearts and pours forth the power of grace where the disciple experiences the bitter taste of his personal weakness and helplessness (92).

Associating himself with Peter’s threefold profession of love, which corresponds to the earlier threefold denial, his Successor knows that he must be a sign of mercy. His is a ministry of mercy, born of an act of Christ’s own mercy (93).

Saint Augustine, after showing that Christ is ‘the one Shepherd, in Whose unity all are one,’ goes on to exhort: ‘May all shepherds thus be one in the one Shepherd; may they let the one voice of the Shepherd be heard; may the sheep hear this voice and follow their Shepherd, not this shepherd or that, but the only One; in Him may they all let one voice be heard and not a babble of voices…the voice free of all division, purified of all heresy, that the sheep hear.’

The mission of the Bishop of Rome within the College of all the Pastors consists precisely in ‘keeping watch’ (episkopein), like a sentinel, so that, through the efforts of the Pastors, the true voice of Christ the Shepherd may be heard in all the particular Churches…

This primacy is exercised on various levels, including vigilance over the handing down of the Word, the celebration of the Liturgy and the Sacraments, the Church’s mission, discipline and the Christian life…He has the duty to admonish, to caution and to declare at times that this or that opinion being circulated is irreconcilable with the unity of faith (94).

Question for reflection: When has the Lord given me an opportunity to make amends?

Engaging the Gospel – Fifth Sunday of Lent

5th Sunday of Lent (Year C): Gospel – John 8:1-11

Benedict XVI has commented on this Gospel passage of the adulterous woman, in which human sinfulness and Divine Mercy “come face to face.” As the Pope Emeritus explained,

The pitiless accusers of the woman, citing the law of Moses, provoke Jesus – they call Him ‘Teacher’ (Didáskale) – asking Him whether it would be right to stone her. They were aware of His mercy and His love for sinners and were curious to see how He would manage in such a case which, according to Mosaic law, was crystal clear. But Jesus immediately took the side of the woman…‘Let him who is without sin among you (He uses the term anamártetos here, which is the only time it appears in the New Testament) be the first to throw a stone at her.’

…Augustine added that with these words, Jesus obliged the accusers to look into themselves, to examine themselves to see whether they too were sinners. Thus, ‘pierced through as if by a dart as big as a beam, one after another, they all withdrew.’

…When they had all left, the divine Teacher remained alone with the woman. St Augustine’s comment is concise and effective: ‘relicti sunt duo:  misera et Misericordia, the two were left alone, the wretched woman and Mercy.’…

Dear friends, from the Word of God we have just heard emerge practical instructions for our life. Jesus does not enter into a theoretical discussion with His interlocutors on this section of Mosaic Law; He is not concerned with winning an academic dispute about an interpretation of Mosaic Law, but His goal is to save a soul and reveal that salvation is only found in God’s love…only divine forgiveness and divine love received with an open and sincere heart give us the strength to resist evil and ‘to sin no more,’ to let ourselves be struck by God’s love so that it becomes our strength. Jesus’ attitude thus becomes a model to follow for every community, which is called to make love and forgiveness the vibrant heart of its life.

Homily of March 25, 2007.

Question for reflection: How has my acceptance of God’s mercy helped me to extend mercy to others?

Engaging the Gospel – Second Sunday of Advent

Second Sunday of Advent (Year C): Gospel – Luke 3:1-6

John the Baptist proclaims a baptism of repentance, and in so doing, prepares the way for the coming Messiah, Jesus.

“In John, the precursor, the Holy Spirit completes the work of making ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Catechism paragraph 718).

At the same time, with John, “the Holy Spirit begins the restoration to man of the divine likeness, prefiguring what He would achieve with and in Christ” (720):

The human heart is heavy and hardened. God must give man a new heart. Conversion is first of all a work of the grace of God Who makes our hearts return to Him….This same Spirit Who brings sin to light is also the Consoler Who gives the human heart grace for repentance and conversion (1432-33).

Benedict XVI elucidates today’s Gospel with the help of two sublime Church Fathers — Sts Ambrose and Augustine:

Tomorrow will be the liturgical Memorial of St Ambrose, the great Bishop of Milan. I take from him a comment on this Gospel text: “The Son of God,” he writes, “before gathering the Church together, acts first of all in His humble servant. Thus St Luke rightly says that the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness, because the Church was not born from people, but from the Word.”

Here then is the meaning: the Word of God is the subject that moves history, inspires the prophets, prepares the way for the Lord and convokes the Church. Jesus Himself is the divine Word Who was made flesh in Mary’s virginal womb: in Him God was fully revealed, He told us, and gave us His all, offering to us the precious gifts of His truth and mercy. St Ambrose then continues in his commentary: “Thus the Word came down so that the earth, which was previously a desert, might produce its fruit for us.”

Angelus of December 6, 2009.

St Augustine comments: “John is the voice, but the Lord is the Word Who was in the beginning (cf. Jn 1:1). John is the voice that lasts for a time; from the beginning Christ is the Word Who lives for ever. Take away the word, the meaning, and what is the voice? Where there is no understanding, there is only a meaningless sound. The voice without the word strikes the ear but does not build up the heart.”

Today it is up to us to listen to that voice so as to make room for Jesus, the Word Who saves us, and to welcome Him into our hearts.

Angelus of December 9, 2012.

Question for reflection: In what ways have I experienced a call to repentance?

Engaging the Gospel – Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

Jesus warns us to avoid sin

“Before being against a law or a moral norm, sin is against God, against your brothers and sisters and against yourselves,” wrote St John Paul II, who described sin as our refusal

to let ourselves be loved by the true Love: the human being has in fact the terrible power to be an obstacle to God Who wills to give all that is good…

Today, unfortunately, the more people lose the sense of sin, the less they have recourse to the pardon of God. This is the cause of many of the problems and difficulties of our time.

Message for the 14th World Youth Day.

“Sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives” us (Catechism 387), a “failure in genuine love for God and neighbor” that “wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity” (1849). Moreover, “sin creates a proclivity to sin” (1865).

As St Augustine wrote, we must not ignore the cumulative effects of even small sins: “A number of light objects makes a great mass; a number of drops fills a river; a number of grains makes a heap. What then is our hope? Above all, confession”(1863).

The Lord is always eager to welcome us in Reconciliation. JPII urged us to “approach trustfully the sacrament of Confession” and “receive with a grateful heart the absolution given by the priest…The Source of love regenerates and makes us capable of overcoming egoism and of loving again, with greater intensity” (op. cit.).

Question for reflection: What efforts do I make to overcome my habitual faults?

Engaging the Gospel – Mark 9:30-37

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 9:30-37

This Gospel passage illustrates the problems engendered by selfish pride, as the disciples argue about who is greatest among them.

Pride can give rise to envy of another, which St. Augustine saw as “the diabolical sin” (Catechism 2539).

As St. Ambrose wrote, “Pride transformed angels into demons; humility makes human beings into saints.”

Jesus counsels the disciples to practice humility and self-giving: whoever wants to be first, should be the servant of all.

In this way we will achieve “victory,” but not “in triumphalistic terms,” Benedict XVI explains:

Christ suggests to us a very different road that does not pass through dominance and power. Christ speaks of a victory through suffering love, reciprocal service, help, new hope and practical comfort given to the lowliest, to the forgotten, to the outcast.

For all Christians the loftiest expression of this humble service is Jesus Christ Himself, the total gift that He makes of Himself, the victory of His love over death, on the cross, that shines in the light of Easter morning.

Only if we let ourselves be transformed by God, only if we undertake to convert our life and if the transformation is brought about in the form of conversion, can we share in this transforming ‘victory.’

General Audience of January 18, 2012.

Question for reflection: When is it most difficult to put aside my selfishness?

The Power of Prayer: Saints Monica & Augustine

St. Monica provides a powerful case study of the value of intercessory prayer.

This devout Catholic woman, who lived in Roman North Africa in the fourth century, was grievously worried about her son Augustine. Living in a persistent state of grave sin, fallen into an heretical cult, and still not baptized, Augustine was a totally wayward youth in danger of losing his soul.

Monica poured out her heart to God, praying, fasting and weeping for her son. She kept up her persistent intercession over many years, despite all of her prayers appearing to go in vain.

But in fact, they were not in vain. Augustine eventually experienced a life-changing conversion, a heart-rending repentance. Washed clean in the waters of baptism, he not only turned away from sin, but sought the perfection of the monastic life and ultimately became the bishop of Hippo. Augustine turned his prodigious intellectual gifts toward the study of theology, leaving us a priceless heritage through his writings, and ranking as one of the most influential doctors of the Church.

We celebrate his memorial on August 28, the anniversary of his passing from this earthly life. But the Church remembers that there may well have been no St. Augustine without the constant prayers of his mother. Therefore we fittingly celebrate the memorial of St. Monica on the day prior, August 27.

Aside from giving hope to all mothers whose children are going in the wrong direction, Monica also offers an example to wives enduring difficult marriages. Her husband, a pagan named Patricius, was the cause of much suffering. But he was softened by her prayers and her steadfast Christian witness, and converted shortly before his death.

Beyond just being an encouraging model for us to follow, Monica stands ready and willing to help us now with her intercession before the throne of God. All of us – in heaven, on earth, or undergoing purification in Purgatory – are united in the Mystical Body of Christ, able to share spiritual goods in the communion of saints. Let us boldly ask Monica, Augustine, and our patron saints to intercede for us.

For more, see St. Augustine’s Confessions (Book III, 11-12, and Book IX, 8-13), and Catechism paragraph 2683.

Engaging the Gospel – Matthew 15:21-28

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Gospel – Matthew 15:21-28

While last Sunday’s Gospel cautioned us that we can sink through a lack of faith, this Sunday’s Gospel emboldens us with an example of great faith in action.

The Canaanite woman doesn’t become discouraged by Jesus’ initial refusals to hear her. Jesus, marveling at her faith, answers her prayer by healing her daughter. Through this delay, He teaches us the value of persisting in prayer, as Pope Benedict XVI has explained:

Her insistence in imploring Christ’s intervention is an encouragement to us never to lose heart and not to despair, even in the harshest trials of life. The Lord does not close His eyes to the needs of His children, and if He seems at times insensitive to their requests, it is only in order to test them and to temper their faith. This is the witness of saints; this is especially the witness of martyrs.

Angelus of August 14, 2005.

 Jesus’ silence may seem disconcerting, to the point that it prompted the disciples to intervene, but it was not a question of insensitivity to this woman’s sorrow. St Augustine rightly commented: “Christ showed Himself indifferent to her, not in order to refuse her His mercy but rather to inflame her desire for it” (Sermo 77, 1: PL 38, 483).

…Dear friends, we too are called to grow in faith, to open ourselves in order to welcome God’s gift freely, to have trust and also to cry to Jesus “give us faith, help us to find the way!”

Angelus of August 14, 2011.

We must not give way to feelings of “failure in prayer,” whether through disappointment, distractions, or lack of spiritual consolations, and we should never stop praying because we imagine that God’s not listening (Catechism paragraphs 2728-34). In fact, we are being called to a deeper trust: “filial trust is tested – it proves itself – in tribulation” (2734).

In the words of the fourth-century theologian Evagrius Ponticus,

Do not be troubled if you do not immediately receive from God what you ask Him; for He desires to do something even greater for you, while you cling to Him in prayer.

–quoted in 2737.

Question for reflection: How do I work through difficulties in my own prayer life?

Uniting with Jesus’ Prayer

We should never feel alone or isolated in prayer: made God’s children in Baptism, we are conformed to Christ, and so caught up in the Son’s “filial prayer” to the Father.

Jesus’ prayer is described in the Gospels – His great love for the Father, absolute acceptance of His will, and heartfelt thanksgiving, poured out even before His request is granted.

Now enthroned at the Father’s right hand, Christ continues to pray unceasingly as our High Priest in heaven.

And because we are members of the Body of Christ, He actually prays within us!

St. Augustine captures this beautiful mystery:

He prays for us as our priest, prays in us as our Head, and is prayed to by us as our God. Therefore let us acknowledge our voice in Him and His in us.

–quoted in Catechism paragraph 2616.

For more, see Catechism paragraphs 2598-2606, 2746-51.

Engaging the Gospel – Third Sunday of Lent

Third Sunday of Lent: Gospel – John 4:5-42

Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well reveals both God’s thirst for us and our thirst for God, as Pope Benedict XVI observed:

If there is a physical thirst for water that is indispensable for life on this earth, there is also a spiritual thirst in man that God alone can satisfy.

…Jesus triggers in the woman to whom He is talking an inner process that kindles within her the desire for something more profound. St Augustine comments: ‘Although Jesus asked for a drink, His real thirst was for this woman’s faith.’

Homily of February 24, 2008

Benedict expounded further in his Angelus on the same day:

The theme of thirst runs throughout John’s Gospel: from the meeting with the Samaritan woman to the great prophecy during the feast of Tabernacles (Jn 7:37-38), even to the Cross, when Jesus, before He dies, said to fulfill the Scriptures: ‘I thirst’ (Jn 19:28).

Christ’s thirst is an entranceway to the mystery of God, Who became thirsty to satisfy our thirst, just as He became poor to make us rich (cf. 2 Cor 8:9).

Yes, God thirsts for our faith and our love. As a good and merciful father, He wants our total, possible good, and this good is He Himself.

The Samaritan woman, on the other hand, represents the existential dissatisfaction of one who does not find what he seeks. She had ‘five husbands’ and now she lives with another man; her going to and from the well to draw water expresses a repetitive and resigned life. However, everything changes for her that day, thanks to the conversation with the Lord Jesus…

We too can meet Jesus at the “well” of our prayer, and Benedict encourages us to put ourselves in the place of the Samaritan woman:

It is impossible to give a brief explanation of the wealth of this Gospel passage. One must read and meditate on it personally, identifying oneself with that woman who, one day like so many other days, went to draw water from the well…

Question for reflection: For what do I truly thirst?

Engaging the Gospel – Matthew 5:17-37

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time — Gospel: Matthew 5:17-37

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus fulfills the Law by intensifying its moral standards.

He “insists on conversion of heart” (Catechism paragraph 2608), showing us that we are accountable not only for our actions, but for our thoughts and words as well. In this way Jesus raises the bar, so to speak, on the sin of anger (2262), on purity of thought (2336), sanctity of marriage (2382), reverence for God’s name (2153), and being truthful (2466).

“The Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, far from abolishing or devaluing the moral prescriptions of the Old Law, releases their hidden potential and has new demands arise from them: it reveals their entire divine and human truth. It does not add new external precepts, but proceeds to reform the heart, the root of human acts, where man chooses between the pure and the impure” (1968).

Hence the New Law, the Law of the Gospel, “becomes the interior law of charity” (1965), teaching us what we ought to do (1966).

As St. Augustine wrote, the Sermon on the Mount is “the perfect way of the Christian life,” containing “all the precepts needed to shape one’s life” (quoted in 1966).

For this reason, the Sermon on the Mount is one guide to an examination of conscience, especially to prepare for the sacrament of Reconciliation (1454).

Question for reflection: How carefully do I guard my thoughts and my words?

Moral Law

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 1949-1986:

  • The moral law arises from God’s Wisdom; reflecting the harmonious beauty of His design for us, it points out the right path for us to take for our own good, and our ultimate happiness in eternal life.
  • Its elemental expression is “natural law,” referring to the moral compass inscribed within human nature and discernible by our reason.
  • Implanted in our hearts by God, natural law serves as the building block of civil law and social norms of morality.
  • But since our human nature has been wounded by sin, our ability to discern this natural law readily, and with clarity, has been weakened as well.
  • God, ever desirous of drawing us to Himself, has devised another expression of His Law, through divine revelation; as St Augustine phrased it, “God wrote on the tables of the Law what men did not read in their hearts.”
  • The first stage of this revealed Law was given to the people of Israel: the Law of Moses, enshrined in the Ten Commandments, builds on natural law and teaches us about right and wrong.
  • Although the Law of Moses defines sinful behavior, it does not strengthen us to overcome it; hence the Old Law serves as a preparation for the fullness of revelation in Christ.
  • Christ gives us the New Law, the perfection of divine Law on earth; He fulfills the Law of Moses by deepening the meaning of the Ten Commandments and by purifying our hearts.
  • The Law of the Gospel is a Law of love; of grace, for we are empowered by the Holy Spirit and the sacraments to live accordingly; and of freedom as God’s children, not as slaves.
  • Expressed most vividly in the Sermon on the Mount, the New Law is summed up in the Golden Rule, “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you,” and even more profoundly in Jesus’ new commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Live Your Faith

The moral law is not a mere checklist of rules, imposed upon us from without.

Rather, it is deeply bound up in our design as human beings: we were created to live in intimacy with God, Whose perfect holiness is reflected in the moral law.

When we sin, we violate this very order within us, in ways that are self-defeating and self-destructive. But we have a sure way out through the grace of God, Who heals us and strengthens us.

As we grow in union with Christ, we become more like Him, and experience greater freedom to live the moral life that is best for us.

Purgatory

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 1030-32:

  • Perfect union with God in heaven requires perfect holiness: “nothing unclean will enter it” (Rev. 21:27).
  • Those who die in God’s grace, but are still imperfect, are not yet ready for heaven; these souls must undergo purification, or Purgatory.
  • Purgatory is not a second chance after death; rather, such souls are already assured of their eternal salvation, and need only to be cleansed of any lingering imperfections.
  • Although this doctrine was formally expressed in such Councils as Lyons II (1274), Florence (1439-45), and Trent (1545-63), its antecedents date back many centuries earlier, as evidenced by Church Fathers’ reflections on Scripture.
  • Jesus implied that some sins are forgiven in the “age to come” (Mt 12:32); He also said in a parable that “you will not be released until you have paid the last penny” (Mt 5:26).
  • The Church has always believed that it was good and helpful to pray for the dead (see 2 Macc 12:46), especially by offering the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass.
  • St. Paul refers to being saved “as through fire” (1 Cor 3:15), and a similar passage in 1 Peter uses the imagery of being “tested by fire” (1:7).
  • A number of early Church Fathers wrote of souls experiencing a purging fire (such as St. Cyprian of Carthage in the 250s, Lactantius in the early 300s, St. Gregory of Nyssa in the late 300s, and St. Augustine in the early 400s.)
  • Others mentioned souls paying penalties in a state of detention, such as Tertullian (early 200s) and St. Cyril of Jerusalem (ca. 350), while St. Basil (ca. 370) described souls being detained because of stains or effects of sin.
  • Church teaching on Purgatory thus explains and clarifies why we pray for the dead; our prayers and sacrifices help them during their purification.

Live Your Faith

Some erroneously imagine that Vatican II did away with the doctrine of Purgatory, but in fact, the Council reaffirmed it (e.g., Lumen Gentium 49 & 51).

We owe a debt of charity, especially to our deceased family members and friends, to pray for the repose of their souls.

Aside from the consolation we can afford them, we please God by performing this spiritual work of mercy, and we in turn benefit from their prayers for us.

Attributes of God

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 198-231 and 268-78:

  • God is the beginning and end of all things, the fundamental ground of all being.
  • Thus God is utterly unique; there is only one God.
  • Through Christ, we know that this one God comprises three divine Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – the Holy Trinity (next topic).
  • In the Old Testament, God revealed His name to Moses: the Hebrew YHWH, a deeply evocative name meaning “I Am He Who Is,” “I Am Who Am.”
  • Profound honor and respect are due to God’s name; indeed, precisely to avoid casual or careless use of His sacred name, the Jewish people have substituted the term Adonai (“Lord”) instead of pronouncing YHWH.
  • This name signifies God’s fullness of being; transcending all time, He has every perfection, such as infinite goodness, almighty power, eternal beauty.
  • God is truth; therefore He can never deceive or be deceived.
  • God is ever-faithful to His promises and rich in mercy.
  • God is love; this divine love is lavished upon us, as Scripture attests with rich imagery of God loving us as a father, mother, and spouse.
  •  God’s inmost being is wrapped in mystery; as St. Augustine wrote, “If you understood Him, it would not be God.”

Live Your Faith

By reflecting upon God’s majesty, we soon realize our own littleness in the universe.

We begin to grasp that we are completely, totally, and absolutely dependent upon God for everything – our very existence; whatever talents and abilities we have; our families and friends; our possessions; and the priceless gift of our Catholic faith, whereby we come to know God and experience his love.

Once we see this truth, we live in a spirit of thanksgiving to God and learn to trust wholeheartedly in Him.