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The Everyday Prayer

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

Feast of the Black Christ of Esquipulas in Guatemala, venerated throughout all of Central America.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Nehemiah 10,1-40

In view of all this we make a firm agreement, in writing. Our princes, our Levites, our priests and the rest of the people have put their names to the document under seal.

On the sealed document were the names of: Nehemiah, son of Hacaliah, and Zedekiah;

Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah,

Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah,

Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch,

Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah,

Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch,

Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin,

Maaziah, Bilgai, Shemaiah: these were the priests.

The Levites were: Jeshua son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel,

and their kinsmen Shebaniah, Hodaviah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan,

Mica, Rehob, Hashabiah,

Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah,

Hodiah, Bani, Chenani.

The leaders of the people were: Parosh, Pahath-Moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani,

Bunni, Azgad, Bebai,

Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin,

Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur,

Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai,

Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai,

Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir,

Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua,

Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah,

Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub,

Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek,

Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah,

Ahijah, Hanan, Anan,

Malluch, Harim, Baanah.

And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple slaves and all those who had severed relations with the people of the country to adhere to the law of God, as also their wives, their sons, their daughters, that is, all those who had reached the age of discretion,

have joined their esteemed brothers in a solemn oath to follow the law of God given through Moses, servant of God, and to observe and practise all the commandments of Yahweh our Lord, with his rules and his statutes.

We will not give our daughters in marriage to the peoples of the country, nor allow their daughters to marry our sons.

If the people of the country bring goods or foodstuff of any kind to sell on the Sabbath day, we will buy nothing from them on Sabbath or holy day. In the seventh year, we will forgo the produce of the soil and the exaction of all debts.

We recognise the following obligations: to give one-third of a shekel yearly for the service of the Temple of our God:

for the loaves of permanent offering, for the perpetual oblation, for the perpetual burnt offering, for the sacrifices on Sabbaths, on New Moons and on festivals, for the consecrated gifts, the sin offerings to expiate for Israel, in short, for the whole work of the Temple of our God;

Furthermore, as regards deliveries of wood for burning on the altar of our God as the law prescribes, we have arranged, by drawing lots, how these deliveries are to be made at the Temple of our God by the priests, the Levites and the people by families, at stated times every year.We will no longer neglect the Temple of our God.

and further, to bring yearly to the Temple of our God the first-fruits of our soil and the first-fruits of all our orchards,

also the first-born of our sons and of our cattle, as the law prescribes, the first-born of our herds and flocks should be taken to the Temple of our God for the priests officiating in the Temple of our God.

Furthermore, we shall bring the best of our dough, of every kind of fruit, of the new wine and of the oil to the priests, to the storerooms of the Temple of our God, and the tithe on our soil to the Levites -- the Levites will themselves collect the tithes from all the towns of our religion.

An Aaronite priest will accompany the Levites when they collect the tithes, and the Levites will bring a tenth part

a,b of the tithes to the Temple of our God, into the treasury storerooms; for these rooms are where the Israelites and the Levites are to bring the contributions of corn, wine and oil, and where the vessels of the sanctuary are, and the officiating priests, the gatekeepers and the singers.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The chapter begins with a decision that shows the unity and unanimity of the community, determined to commit itself to the Lord. It is a question of "ratifying a pact" in the sense of a commitment to be "faithful" to the Lord. What had been lacking, as we heard in the previous chapter, in fact had been fidelity to God’s love, the sad and inevitable consequence of failing to hear the Lord, even in difficult moments. The community of believers, of which every disciple feels he or she is a part, helps to restore the relationship of love that binds the people to God. Even the list of names which appears in the text indicates a solemn commitment that personally involves those who are mentioned together with the whole people: "The rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all who have separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to adhere to the law of God...join with their kin, their nobles, and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law." Fidelity to God implies in this case separation from all which has put faith in peril, particularly because of marriage to foreign women. But other commitments are solemnly assumed, such as Sabbath observance, respect for the laws regarding sabbatical years, which called for letting the land rest, and sharing one’s goods with the needy (cf. Deut 15), together with forgiveness of debts, and care for the temple through the offering of part of the produce of the land and the first-fruits. Despite the fact that Nehemiah addresses a community in straits, the commitment to restore the relationship of love with the Lord involves also a choice to be generous toward those who are in need and particular attention to the temple, the place of encounter with God. In every time and in the face of whatever situation, in order to turn to the Lord, it is not enough to separate oneself from those who might compromise one’s own faith; a decision to love is necessary, one having concrete aspects and which unites, as is always the case in the Bible, God and neighbour. We here find once again the concern of the legal texts, such as those of the Pentateuch, which urge faithfulness to the covenant while not ceasing to demand having care for the needy and for the house of the Lord. The phrase that ends the chapter: "We will not neglect the house of our God," is an invitation to each one of us to take care of the house of God, the place of encounter with him.

Memory of Jesus crucified