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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

Acts 5,17-33

Then the high priest intervened with all his supporters from the party of the Sadducees. Filled with jealousy,

they arrested the apostles and had them put in the public gaol.

But at night the angel of the Lord opened the prison gates and said as he led them out,

'Go and take up position in the Temple, and tell the people all about this new Life.'

They did as they were told; they went into the Temple at dawn and began to preach. When the high priest arrived, he and his supporters convened the Sanhedrin -- this was the full Senate of Israel -- and sent to the gaol for them to be brought.

But when the officials arrived at the prison they found they were not inside, so they went back and reported,

'We found the gaol securely locked and the warders on duty at the gates, but when we unlocked the door we found no one inside.'

When the captain of the Temple and the chief priests heard this news they wondered what could be happening.

Then a man arrived with fresh news. 'Look!' he said, 'the men you imprisoned are in the Temple. They are standing there preaching to the people.'

The captain went with his men and fetched them -- though not by force, for they were afraid that the people might stone them.

When they had brought them in to face the Sanhedrin, the high priest demanded an explanation.

'We gave you a strong warning', he said, 'not to preach in this name, and what have you done? You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and seem determined to fix the guilt for this man's death on us.'

In reply Peter and the apostles said, 'Obedience to God comes before obedience to men;

it was the God of our ancestors who raised up Jesus, whom you executed by hanging on a tree.

By his own right hand God has now raised him up to be leader and Saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins through him to Israel.

We are witnesses to this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.'

This so infuriated them that they wanted to put them to death.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The high priest and the Sadducees, envious at the success of the apostles, order their arrest. The text says that they are "filled with jealousy." We know the damage that envy can cause; envy is the most diabolical of evil feelings. In the book of Wisdom it is said that death entered the world through the envy of the devil, and it was because of envy that the apostles were put into prison. The preaching of the Word of God was truly working miracles and the Christian community was growing in number and favour among people. But Jesus’ same destiny falls also upon those who try to follow the Teacher. They are put to prison by the high priest; but the Lord does not abandon his disciples and during the night an angel miraculously freed them from prison and ordered them to go back into the temple to preach to the people. One could say that it had become impossible to keep the Word of God in chains; the many Herods who from time to time will try to silence the Gospel will be defeated. Even during the twentieth century we witnessed the tragedies caused by totalitarian regimes that tried to silence the Gospel by imprisoning and killing those who witnessed to it. But sooner or later the Gospel word breaks every chain. It does not eliminate the persecutors, of course; what comes from the mouths of the prisoners is a prayer even for those who persecute them. Blinded by their anger, the Sanhedrin has the apostles thrown into prison again. But once again Peter and John witness to the primacy of obedience to God. It is an obedience they live first personally. Indeed, they do not act out of a personal initiative or to propose their doctrines; rather they want to communicate to the world all that the lord did and ordered them to transmit: "We are witnesses to these things (Jesus’ resurrection), and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him." The disciples are called first to obey the Holy Spirit. And they say it clearly to the priests: "We must obey God rather than any human authority."

Memory of the Saints and the Prophets