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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Memory of Saint Francis Xavier, a sixteenth-century Jesuit missionary in India and Japan.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Ezra 5,1-17

When the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel who was over them,

Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak began rebuilding the Temple of God in Jerusalem; with them were the prophets of God, supporting them.

It was then that Tattenai governor of Transeuphrates, Shethar-Bozenai and their associates came to them and asked, 'Who gave you the order to rebuild this Temple and complete this structure?

What are the names of the men putting up this building?'

But the eyes of their God were watching over the elders of the Jews, so they were not forced to stop until a report could reach Darius and an official reply about the matter could be received from him.

A copy of the letter which Tattenai, governor of Transeuphrates, Shethar-Bozenai and his associates, the officials in Transeuphrates, sent to King Darius.

They sent him a report which ran as follows: 'To King Darius, hearty greetings!

'The king should be informed that we went to the province of Judah, to the Temple of the great God, which is being rebuilt with large stones; beams are being embedded in the walls; the work is being carried out energetically and is making good progress.

Questioning these elders, we asked them, "Who gave you permission to rebuild this Temple and complete this structure?"

We also asked them their names, to inform you, so that we could record the names of the men who were their leaders.

'They gave us the following answer, "We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth; we are rebuilding the Temple built many years ago, which a great king of Israel had built and completed.

But because our ancestors angered the God of heaven, he handed them over to Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldaean king of Babylon who destroyed this Temple and deported the people to Babylon.

In the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, however, King Cyrus issued an official order that this Temple of God should be rebuilt;

furthermore, those gold and silver articles belonging to the Temple of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had removed from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to the temple of Babylon, King Cyrus in turn removed from the temple of Babylon and handed back to a certain Sheshbazzar whom he had appointed governor.

He said to him, 'Take these articles; go and return them to the Temple which is in Jerusalem and let the Temple of God be rebuilt on its original site;'

this Sheshbazzar then came and laid the foundations of the Temple of God in Jerusalem, and it has been under construction ever since, and is not yet finished."

'Hence, if it please the king, let search be made in the royal treasuries in Babylon, to find out if it is true that an official order was issued by King Cyrus for this temple of God in Jerusalem to be rebuilt; and let the king's decision on this matter be sent to us.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The prophets’ word is necessary so that the reconstruction of the temple can resume. Prophecy is what advances history, what helps us to overcome trying times, what pushes us not to listen to pessimism and not to give into the violence that seeks to stop people from living out their faith. Haggai and Zechariah left us their words in two homonymous books. With their words, these two prophets sustained those who had begun the reconstruction of the temple. Zerubbabel, who held a political role in the small community of Judea, and Jeshua, the priest, both responded to the prophets. Then the elders and all the people got involved in the work of bringing back God’s presence among his people through the reconstruction of the temple. They present themselves as "servants of the God of heaven and earth." Truly, in the New Covenant, we are all servants of the "God of heaven and earth" and no one ought to neglect the task of taking care of God’s house and making it beautiful. It is the place filled by his presence and where he can be encountered. From here flows the source of unity among all peoples. The tone of the letter sent to Darius, king of Persia, is considerably more conciliatory than the preceding letter and decisively more favourable to the reconstruction of the temple. This is due to the intervention of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. Their words revived the desire to reconstruct the temple within the right spiritual dimension. Their words lift people up beyond the understandable differences within a society divided between those who felt they were victims for having suffered in exile and those straining to welcome them as part of their community. The word of God changes hearts and unites divided groups and people so that all may praise God in his house.

Memory of the Church