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How Jesus Taught His Real Presence in the Eucharist

How Jesus Taught His Real Presence in the Eucharist

Feb 24, 2024

Rev. Jeffrey (Skip) Thompson, M.S.A.


All-day Parish Retreat


1. Introduction

2. How Jesus Taught His Real Presence in the Eucharist. 




Fr. Jeffrey “Skip” Thompson, MSA

St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church — Ojai, CA

February 24, 2024




Why these particular conferences.


When we get up and process forward to receive Holy Communion, what are we encountering?  Is it a ritual meal that offers us a symbol of Christ?  Or is it a real communion with Christ’s actual body and blood soul and divinity under the appearances of bread and wine?

Many “converts and reverts” to the Catholic faith, myself included, will say that the main reason we came home to Rome is because the uniquely Catholic doctrine that a Christian can make real divine contact by actually consuming Jesus. It is —in a word— tantalizing.

Nonetheless, when the 2019 Pew Religious Poll revealed that the majority of Catholics believed they were receiving a symbol — it sent shock waves through the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — who responded by initiating a great national “Eucharistic Revival.”

So, in these three conferences we will first examine the Scriptures to understand what Jesus actually taught his disciples about this sacrament.  Secondly, we’ll examine how Transubstantiation works to make Christ truly and substantially present. And thirdly, we will learn why it is crucial we believe — that Christ is truly present and the wonderful reasons why he gives himself to us to consume. Jesus said, “According to your faith be it done to you.”  Matt. 9:29.  Thus, our faith — that is — what we believe about Jesus Christ — is crucial for our life now and our eternal life to come.

Conference #1 — How Jesus Taught His Real Presence

By the End of Time — Christ will have come to us in three Advents. The First Advent occured 2,000 years ago in the Holy Land when the 2nd Person of the Trinity became Incarnate and was born of Mary in Bethelehem on that first Christmas morning. 

Finally, Jesus’ will come again at the end of the Church Age when he will judge the living and the dead. We call it his Second Coming, but let’s call that the third Advent for now.  Because, just before his Ascension, Christ promised in Matthew 28:20, “Behold, I will be with you always, even unto the end of the age.”  How so? 

In our present Church age — we are in what St. Bernard of Clairvaux calls the Adventus Medicus,” i.e., the Middle Coming — as Christ continues to come to us — again, and again, and again — between his First and his Final Advents through the gift of His Real Presence in the Eucharista continuous Second Advent.  By means of his Eucharist Christ communes with us in a most sublime way — by allowing us to literally take him into our bodies.” 

But many do not believe this.  Unbelief has been with us since Jesus first taught, “You must eat my body and drink my blood.”  This is nothing new.  Therefore, the Lord has intervened to confirm his teaching to us throughout the centuries — by means of hundreds of Eucharistic miracles — to bolster our faith in his Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.  I’ll relate one story from Italy in 1263.

A priest, known as Peter of Prague had grave doubts about the Eucharist and went on pilgrimage to Rome to find answers.  On the way, he offered Mass in the Church of St. Christina in Bolsena Italy. During the consecration real blood — began to drip from the host, trickled down onto his hands and fell upon the corporal of the altar.

Completely stunned, he stopped the Mass and hurried to the nearby city of Ovietto where he learned Pope Urban IV was residing. After hearing Fr. Peter, the Pope sent investigators and ordered the Host and the corporal bearing the blood stains — to be brought to him. He was convinced — and commissioned a Dominican Friar in his entourage to craft a special Mass to commemorate the miracle.  So, the priest we know as St. Thomas Aquinas composed the Mass of Corpus Christi.[i] 

St. Thomas wrote a poem to identify which of our 5 senses we should trust in order to believe in Christ’s Real Presence.

Not to sight, or taste, or touch be credit.                              Hearing only — do we trust secure;                                                       I believe — for God the Son has said it,                                           Word of truth — that ever shall endure.                                            Seeing, touching, tasting — are [all] in thee deceived.                  How says trusty hearing? That shall be believed!                                

What Gods Son has told me — take for truth I do;                     Truth Himself speaks truly — or [else] theres nothing true.     

Sight, touch, and taste — in thee are each deceived;                       [But] the ear alone — most safely is believed:                                  I believe all — the Son of God has spoken;                                    Than Truths own word — there is no truer token.[ii]

St. Thomas defers to the words of Christ to settle the Truth of the matter.  So let’s listen to his words regarding his sacrament. 

In John 6 Jesus delivered his famous Bread of Life Discourse.”  It is extremely significant to note what his original hearers understood him to meanwhen he commanded his followers to “eat my body and drink my blood? Were they confused? No, they understood him perfectly well. And what did they do?  Most left him.  Why? 

First, there is hardly anything more repulsive than the thought of eating human flesh and drinking human blood. They could not believe their ears.  Secondly, the dietary laws of Leviticus 17:14 — prohibited the drinking of blood or eating meat with blood in it because blood was the “life” of the animal.   If Jesus was a good Rabbi how could he advocate violating the law — let alone command they eat HIS own body?  His hearers understood him. They were scandalized! And many of his disciples abandoned him.

In our day, Jesus’ command is still problematic. Our Protestant brethren who believe the Word of God and seek to follow Christ — dismiss the clear meaning of Christ’s words because of the problems just cited.

Although Catholics and Protestants both believe in the Bible — they can’t agree on its interpretation.[iii]  And, the polls of Catholic opinion on the matter reveal that the Protestant view saturates the Church.[iv]

Against all the protests — we look with confidence to the teaching office of Christ’s “One, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church,” which interprets the Scriptures and declares in CCC 1324, “In the blessed Sacrament is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself. 

So, we will thoroughly examine Christ’s words and deeds as he taught His Eucharist over several weeks in a kind of “rolling road symposium, which has 7 parts.  I’ll list them quickly and then we’ll go back to each one in greater detail.

First: In John 6, before the Bread of Life discourse, Jesus begins with the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves.

Second: He walked on water to demonstate something words could not.

Third: Jesus delivers his great Bread of Life Discourse with its shocking punchline: Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”  This left his disciples with a huge question: “How?  How can he give us His body and blood to eat and drink?  C’mon Jesus, you got to be kidding, right? Wrong.

Fourth: Jesus answered the big question “how?” at the Last Supper.  Then, after his resurrection Jesus gave us three — Eucharistic demonstrations — which I call his exclamation points.

Fifth: Later on the day of his resurrection on the Road to Emmaus.

Sixth: On the beach in Galilee where He restored Peter to ministry.

Seventh: By his bodily Ascension into heaven, which was his greatest Eucharistic demonstration.

We’ll start on that 7 point roadmap and begin with John 6:4 that notes: “Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.”  This is no random detail; it is a strategic insight into what Jesus is up to.  Verse 6 says,Jesus himself knew what he would do.” Jesus has a plan.  Scholars tell us the Old Testament prefigures the New Testament — and the New fulfills the Old. So Jesus uses the feast of the Old Passover to introduce his New Passover. 

The — first Passover was a “divine rescue operation” for Israel. God’s Chosen People were in bondage and Moses brought God’s command to Pharoah — to let His people go.  Pharoah refused and Egypt suffered the consequences by a series of 10 plagues.

The tenth plague killed the first born in every Egyptian household from commoner to king.  But every Hebrew first-born was saved from death by a sacrificial lamb — whose body they ate — and whose blood was applied to the doorposts and lintels of their homes — a prefigurement of the Cross. Then, with death passed over — and freed from bondage they began their journey to the promised land — fueled by the bread of heaven, Manna, which prefigures Christ as the ultimate Bread of Life.

In our Mass at Holy Communion the priest quotes John the Baptist who at the baptism of Jesus Christ proclaimed: “Behold the Lamb of God — who takes away the sins of the world.”  

When we eat the Eucharist, the lamb of God — as the Hebrew children didwe are saved from slavery and death as they were — but in a perfect, complete, spiritual way — that fulfills God’s salvific plan for all mankind throughout the whole world — to be free from the grip of Sin and the power of death — and receive life eternal. 

So, according to plan, Jesus sets the stage for us to understand his New Passover.  First he miraculously multiplies 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish to feed thousands.  This got everyones attention!  And they wanted to make him king.  But Jesus did not permit it and withdrew to a mountain with his disciples.  He has an eternal kingdom in mind.

By this miracle, Jesus revealed his power and intention to feed the world with the Bread of Life which he planned to teach the next day in the synagogue in Capernaum — that — HE is the Bread of Life and his disciples must “consume him bodily.  But Jesus also knew that few, if any, would understand him.  So he proceeds with a 2nd prefatory miracle.  He sends his men across the Sea of Galilee overnight in a boat without him and during the night he comes to them walking on water.

In a parallel passage, Mark 6:47  ”…When their boat was on the sea about the 4th watch of the night [Jesus] came to them, walking on the water, 49 but when they saw him they thought it was a ghost, and cried out; 50 for they were terrified… Immediately he spoke to them saying, Take heart, it is I — have no fear. He got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded. [And then v:52] “…for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.”

The last line, “…for they did not understand about the loaves,” is unique to Mark. This phrase is a parenthetical comment, inserted in the sequence of events recalled by Peter to his secretary Mark.  Peter confesses that he and the disciples failed to understand — what Jesus was doing in that moment. What do the loaves — have to do with walking on water? 

Well, after Christ’s resurrection Peter connected the dotsbetween the miracle of the loaves and Jesus’ power to walk on water — that by these back-to-back miracles — Peter got the point. Jesuswas demonstrating his divine mastery over matter.

By these 2 miracles, Jesus demonstrated his power — to change the properties of the substance of a thing.  And he had to show it — rather than tell it because a verbal explanation of HOW one could eat his body and drink his bloodusing the elements of bread and wine — which he will show them at the Last Supper — would have been unintelligible. The word transubstantiation” would not be used for another 1,200 years. So, Jesus had to show them his supernatural power — because he intended to give them — something supernatural — namely his resurrected body.

Now, with these miracles as context Jesus lands in Capernaum and goes to the synagogue to deliver his Bread of Life Discourse. In John 6:35 he said, I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me shall not hunger — and he who believes in me shall never thirst… 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. 42 They said Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How does he say, I have come down from heaven?

Jesus answered them, Do not murmur among yourselves… [Knock it off!  Listen up!] … 51  I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give — for the life of the world — is my flesh.” 

Whoa!  John 6:52 says, “The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?53 So Jesus said to them, Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day… [and he doubled down on his point], 55 For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.

56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?

66 Because of this, many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67 So Jesus asked the twelve, Do you also wish to go away?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Holy One of God.”  In other words, Jesus we don’t get it — but you’ve done amazing miracles, you never lie and you walked on water last night.  So we’re all in!

The Twelve journey on to Jerusalem for the Passover with Jesus with the one burning question: How? how can Jesus give us his flesh to eat and his blood to drink?  And they did not have long to wait.

Jesus answered the big question in the Upper Room at the Last Supper.  On the eve of his Passion, in his last moments with his chosen disciples, He gave them his “last will and testament.” Another word for testament is covenant.  And Jesus set it in the sacred Passover Meal — that featured the eating of the sacrificial lamb and the drinking of 4 ceremonial cups of wine. Then and there, he showed them HOW they could eat his body and drink his blood.   

This moment is re-presented to us as the high point of every Mass — in the Institution Narrative of the Eucharist.  Jesus’ words at the Last Supper were stamped into his Apostles’ minds and loaded into Matt. 26:17-29; Mark 14:12-25; Luke 22: 7-20; and by the Apostle Paul, who, as he put it, was “untimely born,” in 1 Corinthians 11:23

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, This is my body, which is for you; 25 In the same way after supper he took the cup saying, This is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Christ’s command toDo this in memory of me,” meant more than just fondly recall his words and actions from a long time ago.  The phrase, “in memory of…” is signified by the Greek word: anamnesis, which to the Hebrew mind meant, “to make present again.”  Consider that God is outside time — so he can deliver grace from one sacred moment in time — like the original Passover that benefited the first Hebrew children — to the benefit of others later in time, according to his expressed will, which is why God ordained it to be “perpetual” in Exodus 12 and why the Jews observed the Passover annually.

So, when Jesus commanded his disciples to do what He did” — and “say what he said”— he did it with the same thing in mind — in order to make His bodily sacrifice present again so the faithful through- out the centuries could receive the grace of his bread of life.[v] 

Remember Jesus’ words: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.”  

In the spiritual order of grace, Christ’s Real Presence is necessary for us to receive. For only his divine life — can give us eternal life.

Okay.  What else could Jesus have said or done to get the truth of the new Covenant in his Blood understood?  Well. After His death and Resurrection Jesus made a series of Eucharistic exclamation points to reinforce his teaching! His rolling road symposium is back!

St. Luke recounts the story of two disciples walking to Emmaus on that first Easter Sunday — when they met the resurrected Christ on the road.  As we proceed, keep in mind CCC 645:  Jesus’ authentic, real body possessesnew properties not limited by space and time.” This power is key to our understanding of Transubstantiation.

Luke 24:15,  While they were walking and talking together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.”  

Mark 16:12 relates that to the disciples Jesus “appeared in another form” — a fascinating new property of Christs resurrected body.  Luke recounts that the men told this “stranger” about Jesusexecution — but also — the unbelievable reports of him being alive. 

Then Jesus takes ‘em to school!  Beginning with Moses and all the prophets — he interpreted to them in all the scriptures — the things concerning himself.”  Who could possibly do better!  This stranger was obviously a scholar and they wanted him to stay with them.

Luke 24:13, “They drew near to the village to which they were going [and] he appeared to be going further — but they constrained him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.  So he went in to stay with them [and] when he was at table with them, he took bread, blessed it and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight.” 

Put yourself in their shoes. You just witnessed something beyond all hope — Jesus risen from the dead! — in a glorified body, exercising supernatural power to conceal — and then reveal himself — and then move — disappear — instantly at will.  Here’s the Eucharistic exclamation point.  Luke continues,  “And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem and found the eleven gathered together.  [They] told them what had happened on the road, and how Jesus was [made] known to them in the breaking of the bread.”

The phrase: “breaking of the bread” is code — for the sharing of the Eucharist.  It occurs 3 times in the Book of Acts: 2:42, 2:46, 20:7.

The next exclamation point came when Jesus arranged a new meeting with his disciples at the Sea of Galilee.  So they go — to where they first left their fishing nets to follow Him near Capernaum, which was Jesus’ HQ for his 3 year ministry — and just happens to be where he gave them his perplexing Bread of Life Discourse. 

He has already appeared to his men in Jerusalem, but now Jesus is multi-tasking at Galilee. Because now his “Rock,” Peter, has issues.  Remember, at the begining of Christ’s Passion, Peter vowed to stay with Jesus even to the death!  Then, as Jesus predicted — Peter denied his Lord three times before the cock crowed 

But after that first rooster crowed — every morning after that — whenever another rooster crowed as they always do — to announce the rising sun, s-u-n Peter, to whom Christ gave the keys of the kingdom suffered — over and over again — as he was reminded of his self-inflicted wound of cowardice when he denied —the now risen son — S-o-n — of God. 

Peter is, no doubt, thankful for the Master’s victory over death, but he cannot fully rejoice because he is utterly ashamed of himself. So, when he announces “I’m going fishing,” he is not just suggesting something to do while he waits for Jesus.  No. Peter is going back  to live life as he knows how — to his old life as a simple fisherman. 

On the NW shore of Galilee, as his disciples fish, Jesus prepares a BBQ on the beach. [Note: Jesus likes BBQ’s!  And good disciples must follow his example and have barbeques.  Invite me over!] 

From the fishing boat John recognizes Jesus there — and tells Peter, “It’s the Lord.”  So Peter jumps in and swims to shore.  He can’t wait to be with Jesus: a good sign.  John 21:1 notes: “When they got on land, they saw a charcoal fire there with fish and bread lying on it.”

The entire Bible describes a charcoal fire — in only two places.  Here on the shore of Galilee with Jesus’ blessed BBQ —and outside the house of the High Priest Caiaphas during Jesus’ passion where Peter warmed himself and, when confronted as one of Christ’s disciples, denied his Lord three times. 

The very smell of the fire put Peter right back into that regrettable night.  But Jesus is taking him back not to rub his nose in it — but to let him reaffirm his love — and be healed.  So, he asks Peter 3 times, “Do you love me?”  — to counter his 3 denials. And each time Peter reaffirms his love for Jesus — who responds by giving Peter a new mission to accomplish.  And here on the shore of Galilee, Jesus strategically arranged a visual stage for Peter — so he could understand his new mission.  I’ll explain.

I’ve had the good fortune of visiting Israel and this particular site. A church marks the place where Jesus restored Peter, the Church of the Primacy.  Just up the hill is the Church of the Multiplication where the miracle of the bread and fish occured. And what did Jesus’ have on the BBQ?  Bread and fish. What do you know?

AND this would have been the spot on the shoreline where the disciples set sail across the Sea and Jesus walked on water — to show them his amazing mastery over matter.  And just up the beach is Capernaum where Jesus gave his Bread of Life discourse. Is this all a coincidence?  No way.  This was another divine set up!

Each time Jesus asks: “Do your love me Peter” and Peter responds with: Yes, Lord I love you,” Jesus comes back with:Feed my lambs; feed my sheep.”  What’s he doing?  He is repairing Peter’s heart and restoring him to ministry.  And what is it now?  It is not just fish for men. That’s a given. Now it is: Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep.  With what?  In a context that Peter can’t miss — it’s obvious: Eucharist!  Eucharist!  Eucharist!

And Jesus pounds home one more Eucharistic exclamation point — in the most dramatic way possible, by his Ascension.  And the remarkable thing is this: Jesus set up the Eucharistic meaning of the Ascension during His Bread of Life discourse in Capernaum. Remember many of His disciplesleft him over his “hard saying,” — to “eat my body and drink my blood.”

And so Jesus asked his twelve, Do you [also] take offense at this?”    Silence. “Okay, fine, I’ll show you something you can’t miss to prove my point.” And here it is!  In John 6:62 Jesus challenges his them: “Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascend to where he was before?”  Will you believe me if I do that?… because I will!

Did his disciples understand his question in that moment? No. But when Jesus DID bodily ascend to where He was before — they remembered his challenge to believe him — that they can and must really and truly eat his body and drink his blood.  At the Ascension, Jesus did what he said — to prove what he meant.

When the disciples saw Jesus’ ascend — they not only believed but they also saw that we’re dealing with Christ’s resurrected and glorified body — a heavenly dimensional body with CCC 645’s “new properties.”   By it, Christ truly gives himself to us — through a divine power that intersects our physical reality — by His will — and by his words. 

Think about the power of Jesus’ words: “Be healed. Rise up and walk. Lazarus come forth!.  This is my body.  This is my blood.” Jesus the Logos, the Word Incarnate, created reality and his words can change reality.

In the Upper Room, Jesus showed his disciples — by means of the Eucharisted elements of bread and winehow they could receive his body and blood — and — soul and divinity. 

At his Ascension Jesus’ last words were: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them… [and]  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus issued many commands for us to follow: Love God. Love neighbor. Seek first God’s kingdom. Be perfect.  And also: “Do this in memory of me.”  The celebration of the Eucharist — gives us intimate Holy Communion with Christ himself.

BTW, in the Book of Acts, we have the account of the first mass — of the first Church — born on the first day of Pentecost — when the promised Holy Spirit came down on the Blessed Mother and the Apostles. On that day St. Peter preached to people of all nations, gathered in Jerusalem, who heard the Gospel from those baptized in the Holy Spirit speaking to them in their mother tongue. 

Acts 2:41 records, “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 

Then Acts 2:42 states, “ They devoted themselves to the apostlesteaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” 

Peter fished for men with the ministry of the Word — and then he fed the sheep with the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. The Church founded by Christon Peter — takes her Lord, the Incarnate Wordat his word — believes it — and obeys it — to expand the family of God and the kingdom of heaven.  That’s it!  

Christ’s divine Real Presence in the Eucharist — is what the Catholic Church has believed in and has offered the faithful for 2,000 years — in obedience to her Lord’s commands — to “eat my body and drink my blood.”  By the Sacrament of the Altar in every Mass — Christ constantly re-presents himself in his “once for all” sacrifice that ratifies his “new and eternal covenant” in his blood.  By it he fulfills his promise to us in Matthew 28:20.

“Lo, I am with you always — even unto the end of the age.” 

Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ, now and forever.  Amen.






[i] “The Eucharistic Miracles of the Word, Institute of St. Clement. Published by: Eternal Life, Bardstown, KY, January 2009, p. 104

[ii]Why Thomas Aquinas believed the Eucharist is Jesus,” Kathleen Hattrup, Aleteia; 23 Jun 2019, On-line at:  [Accessed 6 May 2022].

[iii] Catholics cite John 6:53, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”  Protestants counter with, “It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” But is the spirit not real?  And the debate goes on and on.  Who has authority to give the final answer?  The Bible is authoritative, but understanding its meaning begs the need for a living and authoritative teacher who can declare the answer. Jesus never wrote a book.  Rather, He established a Church that wrote the book.  In John 14:26 Jesus promised, “the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”  In John 16:13 he promised, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”  And Peter and the Apostles — with help from the Holy Spirit formed the Church’s first, living teaching office.  In Latin, theMagisterium.”


2 Peter 1:20 warns, “No prophecy of scripture is a matter of ones own interpretation.”  Nonetheless, as separate interpretations of the Bible have sprung up outside the Church— so have thousands of denominations. Christian doctrine has splintered over the last 5 centuries — according to a kind of “theological relativism.”

[iv] The Holy Bible IS inspired and inerrant.  And too many Catholics are uninformed and unwilling to deal with it.  The issue is: authority.  Who has authority to interpret the Scriptures?  Christ gave his authority to His Church situated in the See of Peter.  The truth of the matter is NOT up to our best guess.  Jesus planned for this eventuality and sent the Holy Spirit to guide his Church into all Truth.  See John 14:26 and John 16:13 for details.

[v] On-line at You Tube: “The incredible details of eucharistic miracles,” by Fr. Robert Spitzer and Chris Stephanick” at the 8:00 minute mark.

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