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The Everyday Prayer


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


Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Nehemiah 5,1-19

There was a great outcry from the people, and from their wives, against their brother Jews.

Some said, 'We are having to pledge our sons and daughters to get enough grain to eat and keep us alive.'

Others said, 'We are having to mortgage our fields, our vineyards and our houses to get grain because of the shortage.'

Still others said, 'We have had to borrow money on our fields and our vineyards to pay the royal tax;

and though we belong to the same race as our brothers, and our children are as good as theirs, we shall have to sell our sons and our daughters into slavery; some of our daughters have been sold into slavery already. We can do nothing about it, since our fields and our vineyards now belong to others.'

When I heard their complaints and these words I was very angry.

Having turned the matter over in my mind, I reprimanded the nobles and the officials as follows, 'Each of you is imposing a burden on his brother.' Summoning a great assembly to deal with them,

I said to them, 'To the best of our power, we have redeemed our brother Jews who were forced to sell themselves to foreigners, and now you in turn are selling your brothers, for them to be bought back by us!' They were silent and could find nothing to say.

'What you are doing', I went on, 'is wrong. Do you not want to walk in the fear of our God and escape the sneers of the nations, our enemies?

I too, with my brothers and retainers, have lent them money and grain. Let us cancel these pledges.

This very day return them their fields, their vineyards, their olive groves and their houses, and cancel the claim on the money, grain, new wine and olive oil, which you have lent them.'

'We shall make restitution,' they replied, 'we shall claim nothing more from them; we shall do as you say.' Summoning the priests, I then made them swear to do as they had promised.

Then, shaking out the fold of my garment, I said, 'May God thus shake out of house and possessions anyone who does not make good this promise; may he be shaken out thus and left empty!' And the whole assembly answered, 'Amen' and praised Yahweh. And the people kept this promise.

What is more, from the time when the king appointed me to be their governor in Judah, from the twentieth to the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes, for twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ever levied the governor's subsistence allowance,

whereas the former governors, my predecessors, had been a burden on the people, from whom they took forty silver shekels a day for food and wine, while their attendants oppressed the people too. But I, fearing God, never did this.

Also, not acquiring any land, I concentrated on the work of this wall and all my attendants joined in the work together, too.

Furthermore, magistrates and officials to the number of a hundred and fifty ate at my table, not to mention those who came to us from the surrounding nations.

Every day, one ox, six fine sheep, as well as poultry, were prepared for me; every ten days, skins of wine were brought in bulk. But even so, I never claimed the governor's subsistence allowance, since the people already had burden enough to bear.

To my credit, my God, remember all I have done for this people.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The fifth chapter describes the difficult situation of the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judea. Resources during this time are scarce; there is extreme misery, which forces not a few into debt and slavery. Agriculture in the territory of Palestine depended largely on rain. A period of drought was enough to cause great economic difficulty, especially for those families whose subsistence depended on the farming of a small plot of land which could guarantee providing for the nuclear family. When the products of the earth were lacking, many were constrained to hypothecate their land or even sell into slavery a daughter or son in order to survive. This is why the law concerning the Sabbath year provided for the liberation of slaves: "When you buy a male Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years, but in the seventh he shall go out a free person, without debt" (Ex 21:2). Leviticus has the same provision for the Jubilee year: "If any who are dependent on you become so impoverished that they sell themselves to you, you shall not make them serve as slaves. 40They shall remain with you as hired or bound labourers. They shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. Then they and their children with them shall be free from your authority" (Lev 25:39-41). Nehemiah demonstrates the same sensitivity shown by the divine law that urges attention be paid to situations of poverty without abusing one’s own riches. He hears the lament of his people and intervenes, inviting notables and magistrates to act according to the generosity of the divine mercy and of a justice which takes account of the needs of others: "Restore to them, this very day, their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the interest on money, grain, wine, and oil that you have been exacting from them." The Bible teaches a justice that is not only retributive but also liberal, which knows how to heed the needs of the neighbour and thus act generously. It is the invitation made to the one who has received more from life, so that his riches are the occasion for generosity and solidarity. It is what Nehemiah himself does when he renounces the ration assigned to the governor.


12/16/2009
Memory of the Saints and the Prophets


Calendar of the week
DEC
4
Sunday, 4 December
Liturgy of the Sunday
DEC
5
Monday, 5 December
Prayer for the Sick
DEC
6
Tuesday, 6 December
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
DEC
7
Wednesday, 7 December
Memory of the Saints and the Prophets
DEC
8
Thursday, 8 December
Feast of the Immaculate Conception
DEC
9
Friday, 9 December
Memory of Jesus crucified
DEC
10
Saturday, 10 December
Sunday Vigil
DEC
11
Sunday, 11 December
Liturgy of the Sunday

Per Natale, regala il Natale! Aiutaci a preparare un vero pranzo in famiglia per i nostri amici più poveri