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In Times Like These – A Scriptural Guide for Troubled and Confused Times

June 29, 2015

BibleThere’s an old hymn that says, “In times like these, you need a Savior, in times like these, you need an anchor. Be very sure, be very sure, Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock.”

And indeed, there are very few faithful Catholics who are not astonished and dismayed at the rapidity of decline into confusion (sexual and otherwise) of a culture we once described as Judeo-Christian. Whatever our sectarian differences of the past (and honestly they were significant and embarrassingly many), there was at least a basic agreement on the fundamentals of biblical morality and the authority of the Word of God. Most of this is gone—and it has gone quickly.

The Supreme Court’s decision on Friday was unfortunate but not surprising. Yet still the rapidity of what even five years ago would have appeared unlikely, bewilders and feels like whiplash.  Make no mistake, in my words to follow I am not singling out people with a same-sex attraction. No, the situation is much broader than that. Those of us left holding to tradition and to some sense that maybe God and 5,000 years of recorded history should be respected in any number of areas, have suddenly become “outdated,” “hopelessly out-of-touch,” and even worse, “hateful, bigoted, homophobic, and just plain mean!” And all this because we have not snapped-to with the “new morality.”

Yes, in times like these …

The early Church certainly experienced a similar struggle. As the Gospel left the relatively sane but religiously hostile world of Judaism, it encountered the pagan world, not religiously hostile but morally confused by corrupting sexual practices and entertainment marked by violence and destruction to the human person. Sound familiar?

There is one difference, noted by C.S. Lewis in his Latin Letters (1948-53). The difference is that ancient Greece and Europe were a virgin awaiting her husband. The modern West is an angry divorcée. And this makes our task even more difficult as we seek to re-propose the Gospel to a cynical world that responds, “Been there, done that, and filed the annulment papers.”

Nevertheless, we have much to learn from the early Church, which experienced similar decadence and confusion.  Perhaps a survey of some texts that both describe the situation and offer advice may be helpful. With that in mind, permit these quotes, which both describe an all-too-familiar scene and also offer advice about what to do in the midst of confusion and storm.

A warning and disclaimer: these texts from God’s Word do not mince words. They are a tough assessment of a world at odds with God. We live in dainty times and don’t like strong and clear descriptions. We prefer euphemisms and pleasantries. But the world of the New Testament, to include Jesus Himself, spoke boldly, plainly, and without “political correctness.” Do not expect these passages to speak with the softness of modern times. They are a tough assessment of what is really going on.

That said, these texts do not mean that everyone who opposes Church teaching has all of these qualities. Texts like these speak to the collective qualities of the fallen world governed by a fallen angel. Further, since we all have fallen natures, we ought not assume a mere “us vs. them” scenario. For we who strive to come out of the world and not be of it, do this imperfectly and in stages.

Therefore take texts like these as a sober description of a fallen world governed by a fallen angel, addressed to believers with fallen natures, who need to be vividly reminded of this, summoned to courage, and to a love that speaks the truth in love.

Let’s begin first with texts that describe the situation:

  1. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father (Gal 1:3-5). The age then (and now) is described simply as an “evil age,” for this world is at odds with God and what He teaches. This has been more or less obvious over the centuries, but Jesus Himself warns that the most consistent experience of His followers will be persecution and hatred from “the world” (cf John 15).
  2. And you were once dead in the trespasses and sins in which you walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Eph 2:1-3). Thus the unrepentant are described as following the prince of this world (Satan), being in disobedience, living in the passions of the flesh, and destined for wrath. These are tragic truths for many unless they repent, and for us if we turn away from the faith.
  3. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake (2 Cor 4:3-5). Here, too, the confused of this age are described as being blinded and deceived by the “god” of this age and time. This is a prophetic description of the world in which we live. Do not excessively admire the wisdom or thoughts of this age. Science has accomplished much, but knowledge is not on par with wisdom, and wisdom is what this world lacks. Knowledge without wisdom is like a car without a key, or a life without a known purpose.
  4. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead (1 Peter 4:3-5). Sound familiar? Adultery, premarital sex, cohabitation, promiscuity, homosexual acts, and the acceptance and even celebration of all these disordered actions. Add to this our modern struggles with addiction and all forms of excess. And let anyone, like the Church, say that there should be limits and then just listen to the outraged cry: “Intolerant, bigoted, homophobic, uptight, hateful!” Yes, many are astonished that we do not simply join in their celebration of all sorts of illicit sexual union, debauchery, and greed. But see what the text says: we do not owe them assent; it is the unrepentant disobedient who will have to render an account to Him who will be their Judge.
  5. But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.”  It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt;  save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh (Jude 1:17-23). In other words, do not be dismayed. These are unpleasant times, but not unexpected. For our part, we must not be fascinated, enamored, or discouraged. Simply and clearly draw back from this confusion and see it for what it is: ungodly, confused, worldly, and devoid of the Spirit. Have nothing to do with it.
  6. But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, … (1 Tim 4:1-2Notice again: lies, deceits, fallen, demonic notions, and seared consciences.
  7. But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of great trouble. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power … so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith … But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Tim 3:1-8; 14-15). Yikes! All too familiar. And let’s be clear that there are more problems today than just sex. Greed, consumerism, excess, the arrogance of our science, the thought that we know better than the ancients,  the demand for comfort, and the insistence on flattering our arrogant egos are all common problems in the world. We who would believe and seek to come out of this world must examine our lives and repent of drives and actions like these.
  8. The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials,  and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust and defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme … blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant … reveling in their deceptions … They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!  Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray … For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved (2 Peter various verses). Yes, the hatred of the truth, the blaspheming, and the contempt for sacred doctrine are nothing new. But they are now more arrogantly on display than ever before, and the capacity to deceive multitudes is as never before.

Here then were many descriptions of what is only too familiar today. Sadly, though, it has returned on our watch and we need to take responsibility for the situation. We, as the Lord’s witnesses, are supposed to be prophets to this world. If things have declined—and they have—it happened on our watch! As a Church, we have not been as clear as we should be; we have made compromises and been intimidated into silence. Parents, too, have been laregely passive. And we have collectively and too easily tolerated contraception, promiscuity, cohabitation, divorce, single motherhood (absent fatherhood), and all sorts of confusion about life, marriage, and family.

What then are we to do? Here, too, Scripture speaks to witnessing to a dubious, resistant, and rebellious age. Consider some of these quotes:

  1. For it is written, “I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe (1 Cor 1:19-21). Preach with confidence, and when ridiculed, remember that the Wisdom of God is unfathomable to the world, but the thoughts of this age are foolishness to God. Do not be impressed or fearful at the foolishness that parades as enlightenment and tolerance. It will neither last nor emerge victorious. God and His wisdom will out!
  2. Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory (1 Cor 2:6-7). Notice that the rulers of this world are passing away but the word of the Lord remains forever. Do not lose heart!
  3. Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is (Eph 5:15-17). Stay in conformity with God’s will no matter how much the world scoffs.
  4. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Col 4:5-6). Be gracious but clear. Give answers to doubters, with kindness but also with clarity! Do not hide; do not fail to answer.
  5. Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame (1 Peter 3:15-16). Never, never, never defile the faith by bad conduct or inconsistency. And permit the joy of the Gospel to permeate your life such that people will notice and ask you for the reason. Not everyone in this world is so jaded that he will not respond to joy and the message of the truth.
  6. Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside (2 Tim 4:2-4). Never give up. Preach and teach even if people scoff, walk out, write the bishop, or threaten. Preach, preach, preach, even if your own children scoff or manifest confusion and error. Many today will resist and quote “authorities” to seek to refute you. Just keep preaching. Stay anchored in the Scriptures and the Catechism. Read the Fathers and do not succumb to trendy revisions of the Word of God.

Well, let this be advice for difficult days. In times like these we need a Savior. And, thankfully, the Lord Jesus is still here. He himself was scoffed at, ridiculed, called a threat, and finally crucified outside the city gates. Let us be willing to go out and die with Him if necessary, out of love for this confused culture and the many who have been deceived.

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Comments (39)

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  1. Debbie S says:

    Thank you Msgr., if you don’t mind me adding ( I have a writing bug right now) Lukewarmness for the highest cause to live and die for spreads this lifeless, cold, joyless, addicted society. It’s bored beyond words, lost of identity of being a child of God in this
    great creation is replaced with I’m just another animal, nothing special about me! People are living the existence of an animal with their Master treating them with extreme cruelty, constantly lowering their expectations of who they are and what they will become. This Master does not want them to find out their real worth, all is conditioned to submit to the lowest and not the highest possiblities. This is the worse abusive relationship one can find themselve in, the Lord says come with me, you are great and precious in my eyes, lets us walk to the Father. Life with Love is anything but boring and lukewarm, its our highest destiny.

  2. Mary M says:

    Thank you, Monsignor. I needed to hear your message

    • Msgr. Charles Pope says:

      Thanks, I have been collecting those quotes for a while now and I take them out on rainy days. I feel especially close to Sts. Peter and Paul when I think of the their times and ours

  3. Robertlifelongcatholic says:

    You bring up the same point the priest at mass brought up in our church this Sunday. It is not us against them. He said he was deluged with people calling and asking how the SCOTUS decision will affect the status of Catholic docterine and religious practices. However, our beliefs, faith and morality are under assault and the attacks are just beginning with a greenlight signal coming from all secular progressive institution across the land. I read a recent article where the author was interviewing Bishop Chaput about the upcoming visit of the Pope and the news that the bishop would be escorting the Pope while here. The interviewer emphasized Bishop Chaput was of native American ansestory and questioned him on if the bishop participated in his ancestoral tribes native American culural practices and had spent time in a sweat lodge. The interviewer brought up the popes recent proclamations on environmental, global socio-economic, and monetaty reserve views and how the bishop would be his right hand man escorting him through the halls of government. The article was anything but an admission of the spiritual significance of the visit. The article touched more on the social progressive impact of the visit making it sound like an episode of Tonto and the Lone Ranger. I fear the main stream media and their minions are salivating in anticipation of the insuing circus they will make out of this visit. We as Catholic faithful should show our gratitude with mass displays of public prayer across this nation throughout the Pope’s time here.

    • Msgr. Charles Pope says:

      Yes, the attacks against us are many and broad. The secularist in general have made many strides in recent decades.

  4. SanDimas says:

    Thank you Monsgr. Your insight and teachings are spot on. We were told to expect this, and I did. Believe, believe…….

  5. jim magner says:

    His victory is in the cross,ours too, go to the foot of the cross, ” The Incredible Catholic Mass”.

    • Msgr. Charles Pope says:

      Yes, the cross shows the paradox of God’s ways, victory comes in an unlikely way.

  6. Ann says:

    Thank you as always Monsignor. There is such joy in the truth. None of this is surprising really, is it?

    I still believe we will be protected to practice our faith. However, I do think we are about to become a much poorer Church here in America. Tax exemptions will disappear and quickly I’m afraid. We will lose property, assets and institutions. Now I think we all need to get ready to be a much poorer Church here in the U.S. and us in the pews need to be ready to increase our financial support. Are we ready?

  7. John says:

    I heard recently on Catholic Radio that 55% of American Catholics believe in same sex marriage. Hence, the secularization of our culture has reached into our faith in a large way. I am enthused by this seeming new apologetics movement represented by your format, catholic.com, and various authors like Dave Armstrong and Peter Kreeft. However, I do wonder how big the choir is that they are preaching to considering the above mentioned statistic?

    • Msgr. Charles Pope says:

      Valid concerns, but the fundamental mandate remains clear that we are to preach in season and out of season. This presumes that there are times in the Church when the ground goes fallow and certain things must be plowed under. But through it all Preach, teach, celebrate the sacraments, even if, like some of our ancestors, the liturgy must be celebrated in secret. Numbers cannot be our primary concern, truth must be. I’m sure you agree

      • John says:

        Yes, I agree.

        Looking at the glass being half full, we have not as a Church stagnated as much as what has occurred in Western Europe. The statistics coming out of that part of the world make the U.S. appear as a beacon of hope.

  8. I Like the Church Fathers says:

    “There is one difference, noted by C.S. Lewis in his Latin Letters (1948-53). The difference is that ancient Greece and Europe were a virgin awaiting her husband. The modern West is an angry divorcée. And this makes our task even more difficult as we seek to re-propose the Gospel to a cynical world that responds, “Been there, done that, and filed the annulment papers.””

    Truer words were never spoken.

    • Michael Petek says:

      Frankly, the modern West, angry divorcee or not, has but two choices. Either be reconciled with her husband or enter the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels.

  9. one anonymous says:

    Thank you for your quotes and many that refer to the “last days” and thank you for a Church that prepares us for these “last days”. May I add another from Matthew 18:7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptation comes!

  10. Chris Caudle says:

    Thank you for this, Father – I always enjoy your efforts on the internet.

    These are all troubling words, for we all have friends and family members who resemble some of the above, and I would suspect that for many (myself included) some of these passages speak directly to the heart.

    I think after I’ve made a stern judgement towards the current crop of immorality, that I also need to mind the beam in my own eye.

    Knowing and loving our Lord is wonderful, but fearing our Lord is also important. He is mighty, and his wisdom is beyond our reckoning. Weather it is current events, or softening to the Spirit as I age, I feel an urgency to ‘get right with God,’ and make peace with my neighbor.

    May God protect us from temptation, and bring us to repentance and reconciliation.

  11. First of all, thank you for the reference to mystery in 1 Cor 2:6-7. A clarity on mystery which I yearned for without even knowing.
    The article, over-all being excellent, as usual but, with all due respect, I would dispute one comparison.
    In #3 of the descriptive commentary “Knowledge without wisdom is like a car without a key” I strongly suspect that the key, the gear shift and everything else, except for the connection between the tyres and the steering wheel is there and away we go. Road goes to left or right and turn the steering wheel to the left or right and figure we’ll remain on course.
    The “we” whom I mention is sort of general and meant to refer to all of us (including self) in varying degrees. I suspect that some of us may have an intermittent connection that nudges us just enough to stay between the ditches, as I’ve often heard it put among people who drive for a living.
    Perhaps the (partial) connection needs repair instead of spit and string.

    • Msgr. Charles Pope says:

      hmm…. It’s an analogy not a comparison. At any rate, I don’t quibble with your extended analogies (comparisons, similes ??) An additional insight from exorcists is that though demons have superior intellects to us by miles, lacking wisdom is a huge factor and makes them seem and act as dumb as rocks. Add to this their narcism and pride and even these vast intellects have great vulnerabilities.

      • Shawn Marshall says:

        Did you know Malachi Martin? You said something the other day that resonated with me. The devil can not read our minds. I also got that feeling from “Hostage to the Devil”. An acquaintance of mine related a story along this line. He was once very depressed, “blue on blue” but struggling through it. Repeatedly and persistently he would get this image or impulse of putting a semi-auto pistol in his mouth. He found this puzzling since he had no inclination to kill himself and the insistent image was repulsive to him rather than tempting or suggestive. He finally decided that this ‘invasion’ was external and malevolent. The devil can see us and hear us but he is really banal and stupid. We do need to care what we say.

      • Debbie S says:

        Knowledge without wisdom, this is the fallen state which leads to self-deception. Satan would be the first to corrupt his wisdom, created for the glory of God descending into chaos and destruction. Everything is cut off from reality unto a disorder of insanity of will. The dark will tears apart reason and logic. Everything needs to be recreated and drives the beholder to madness because his deception comes
        from within and never leaves him. We can live with reason and logic or forever gnaw away at ourselves for falsehood still touches the reality of God. The mind is a powerful gift but misused, will believe because I think, I am. Satan first victim was himself, stupid, yes.

  12. “Wisdom is a Tree of Life…” – Proverbs 3:18

    The mystery of the Holy Eucharist has been unveiled @

    http://www.wisdom88.org

  13. Richard Connell says:

    I read that document written by then Cardinal Ratzinger, posted on Father Z’s blog, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons. Cardinal Ratzinger points out that the state giving same-sex unions the same legal status as marriage thereby holds up same-sex unions as a model of human behavior. God help us.

  14. Patrick A O'Flynn says:

    Brilliantly stated. Perfectly organized. Masterful commentary.

    My take-away: We live in Gospel times. Be not afraid. Live out the Gospel.

  15. Rex says:

    Amen. Thank you for posting this.

  16. C Beltz says:

    Man…

    Contraception, abortion, euthanasia, fruitless “marriages”. Population control at its finest. There are several distopian sci-fi movies and TV shows that have used this theme. The antagonist in the story was always trying to wipe the civilization out.

    Who knew it was a cautionary tale?

    Russia and Germany used abortion, contraception. And euthanasia. We fought a pretty big war to stop them. Too bad our “greatest generation” appears to have sacrificed for this. We no longer need an “evil” government to oppress us, we are doing it to ourselves in the name of “enlightenment”.

    Man we’re stupid.

  17. BP says:

    I can no longer say or pray, “God bless America”, for that seems to me to be like asking Him to bless us in our “national perversity”, as Lincoln termed it. I now pray, “God save America”.

    • Msgr. Charles Pope says:

      How about God help America

    • Bee bee says:

      I plan to offer reparations to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on this coming First Friday July 3rd with Mass, Communion, (hopefully) Confession (if it’s offered) and prayer before the Blessed Sacrament for our country. Yes, God please, forgive and help America.

  18. Donna Ruth says:

    Thank you once again for straight-on preaching, and especially for compiling those scripture passages which will be printed out. Monsignor, as you well know, the average layperson deals with many friends, relatives and co-workers who see no problem with the SCOTUS decision and ascribe to the #Love Wins doctrine. The long, correct answer to same-sex marriage is … long and richly complex. Our windows of opportunity with proponents of SSM are often short, and we need the brightest, faithful Catholic minds to cobble together a series of clear, concise arguments that we can employ – at least enough to give our skeptical friends cause to pause. On occasion several of us have mock debated in order to prepare ourselves – but we know there are better, more concise replies out there.

  19. Shawn Marshall says:

    Monsignor,
    a good priest is worth more than his weight in gold, to his flock and to heaven. Thanks for your posts in these very sad times.

  20. JMC says:

    Many Christians today are suffering because of the worldly – and I’m not talking about the Middle Eastern martyrs, but about those of us enduring what I call “little martyrdoms:” Students who are the butt of schoolmates’ scorn because they will not take part in sinful popular activities. Adults who are the butt of coworkers’ cruelty for the exact same reason. Some have even faced potentially deadly “pranks.” And this was in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Now? We face loss of jobs and resultant bankruptcy and homelessness. Some of us even face ruinous lawsuits with the same results.

    Monsignor, your words are balm to these tormented souls. May they continue to strengthen us all in the times ahead.

  21. DLB says:

    The divide between the weeds and the wheat is widening quickly. We can fight to over turn court decisions in a defensive manner, or we can go on the offense and start making cultural changes. In the Pope’s encyclical on creation he speaks of changes needed, but not having the culture to support or enact those changes.

    What we need is a new culture stat. I propose that all Catholic Churches begin organic gardens, natural medical care, legal help, better education, provide alternative forms of entertainment, prayer and healing. The world has a monopoly on culture. We have no choice. We need a choice.

    Let’s meet, discuss possibilities, move forward in our culture instead of trying to resteer a sinking ship. Grab a life boat and begin a new life!!

    We can do this. You just have to think outside the box. Too many of us are fearful and let the world dictate our response to crisis. We are wasting our energy fighting when we should be creating.

  22. Ross says:

    Monsignor, thank you for your wisdom, inspiration and service to all the laity. The message and answer I got in this dark times we are all experiencing is “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” This was from the Sunday’s gospel following the SCOTUS Friday decision on SSM. We have to focus on our God and know that He is always in control no matter what. May God bless us all, forgive those who have fallen away and help America!

  23. Joe McBride says:

    Msgr. THANK YOU! for publishing ” A Guide for troubled and confused times.” And thanks to all those who responded with comments of confidence and steadfastness. I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit the past week has brought me to a point of cynicism. Reading your Guide and the subsequent comments of other readers, I feel like a Notre Dame football player after a Knute Rockne half time speech! Not only am I inspired by the truth of the Gospel, as you pointed out in the Guide, but I’m infused with renewed hope by knowing there are so many faithful members of the “winning” team! My commitment to be a “champion” for Christ is renewed.
    “May the message of Our Blessed Mother at Fatima, to pray and repent be heard by all!”