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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

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

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

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Ecclesiastes 4,17-5,6

Watch your step when you go to the House of God: drawing near to listen is better than the offering of a sacrifice by fools, though they do not know that they are doing wrong.

Be in no hurry to speak; do not hastily declare yourself before God; for God is in heaven, you on earth. Be sparing, then, of speech:

From too much worrying comes illusion, from too much talking, the accents of folly.

If you make a vow to God, discharge it without delay, for God has no love for fools. Discharge your vow.

Better a vow unmade than made and not discharged.

Do not allow your mouth to make a sinner of you, and do not say to the messenger that it was a mistake. Why give God occasion to be angry with you and ruin all the work that you have done?

From too many illusions come futility and too much talk. Therefore, fear God.


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

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

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Qohelet, after having observed the evils which plague human society (injustice, oppression, envy, solitude, volubility), turns to the believers, so that their religiosity is not simply external, but lies in the depth of their hearts. And he makes clear that drawing "near to listen is better more than the sacrifice" (v. 1). An attitude of listening, as the radical condition of the believer, is found throughout all of Scripture, from Deuteronomy, where we are warned: "Go near, you yourself, and hear all that the Lord our God will say" (Deut 5:27). Qohelet thus draws near to prophetic preaching starting from Samuel: "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams" (1 Sam 15:22). And Hosea: "For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings" (6:6). The fool, on the other hand, thinks that rituals and sacrifices are enough in order to be near to God. But such an attitude takes one not near but far to God. It is conversion of the heart to God that validates believers and their religiosity. Prayer is made "before God," writes Qohelet. The believer is not before God in a haughty and arrogant attitude, but with the humility of one who acknowledges his own finitude and need of help. It is as if to say: "when you go to the house of God" (5:1), remember that "God is in heaven" (2). This is why his prayer should not be just a long litany of words. Jesus himself exhorts his disciples to not multiply words: "When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard because of their many words" (Mt 6:7). God is won over only by words that come out of a heart sorry and in need. The quotation of the proverb (v. 3) confirms that the author is not proposing new and unusual theories. Later he will also say: "The lips of fools consume them ... fools talk on and on" (10:12.14). Agreement between a listening attitude and the heart requires also the fulfilment of what has been promised to God: it is foolish not to fulfil promises made to the Lord. The Gospel will say: "he did the will of the father" not in reference to the son who said yes and then did not, but of the one who though he had said "I will not," then did it (cf. Mt 21:28-31). Qohelet, in the wisdom style, affirms that it is better not to make vows than to make them and then not keep them. And he warns not to sin with one’s mouth (5:5). The Letter of James, too, writes: "Anyone who makes no mistake in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle" (Jas 3:2). If the believers accept in their hearts the Word of God, they will be able to speak an appropriate language with others. Their words will not be for destruction but for the construction of ties of friendship and love.

Memory of the Church