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The Everyday Prayer


 
printable version

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


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

2 Kings 22,1-20

Josiah was eight years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah, of Bozkath.

He did what Yahweh regards as right, and in every respect followed the example of his ancestor David, not deviating from it to right or left.

In the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the king sent the secretary Shaphan son of Azaliah, son of Meshullam to the Temple of Yahweh.

'Go to Hilkiah the high priest,' he told him, 'and tell him to melt down the silver contributed to the Temple of Yahweh and collected by the guardians of the threshold from the people.

He is to hand it over to the masters of works attached to the Temple of Yahweh, for them to pay it over to men working on the Temple of Yahweh, to repair the damaged parts of the Temple:

to the carpenters, builders and masons, and for buying timber and dressed stone for the Temple repairs.'

The latter were not required to render account of the money handed over to them, since they were conscientious in their work.

The high priest Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, 'I have found the Book of the Law in the Temple of Yahweh.' And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, who read it.

Shaphan the secretary went to the king, reporting furthermore to him as follows, 'Your servants have melted down the silver which was in the Temple and have handed it over to the masters of works attached to the Temple of Yahweh.'

Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, 'The priest Hilkiah has given me a book'; and Shaphan read it aloud in the king's presence.

On hearing the words of the Book of the Law he tore his clothes.

Then the king gave the following order to the priest Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king's minister:

'Go and consult Yahweh on behalf of me and the people about the words of the book that has been discovered; for Yahweh's furious wrath has been kindled against us because our ancestors disobeyed the word of Yahweh by not doing what this book says they ought to have done.'

The priest Hilkiah, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan and Asaiah went to the prophetess Huldah wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, son of Harhas the keeper of the wardrobe; she lived in Jerusalem in the new town. They put the matter to her,

and she replied, 'Yahweh, God of Israel, says this, "To the man who sent you to me say this:

Yahweh says this: I am going to bring disaster on this place and the people who live in it -- all the words of the book read by the king of Judah.

Because they have abandoned me and sacrificed to other gods, so as to provoke my anger by their every action, my wrath is kindled against this place, and nothing can stop it.

As for the king of Judah who sent you to consult Yahweh, say this to him: As regards the words you have heard . . .

But since your heart has been touched and you have humbled yourself before Yahweh on hearing what I have decreed against this place and the people who live in it, how they will become an object of horror and cursing, and have torn your clothes and wept before me, I too have heard -- Yahweh says this.

So look, when I gather you to your ancestors, you will be gathered into your grave in peace; you will not live to see the great disaster that I am going to bring on this place." ' They took this answer to the king.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Up until now, the author of the book of Kings has told a story of failures. About a hundred years have now passed since the fall of Samaria, and no southern king has lived up to David. It is only with Josiah that there appears a king in keeping the Mosaic Law: "Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him" (23:25). The story of Josiah’s reign focuses exclusively on his religious reform (we know nothing of the first eighteen years of his reign, unlike in the parallel text of 2 Chronicles 34-35, where his reform begins much earlier than the discovery of the book). The goal of the author of the book of Kings is to show that the reform is the result of reading the book discovered in the temple. Discovered in the temple in 622 B.C., this book is one of the most debated topics in the Old Testament, because it is considered the reference point for dating the Pentateuch; in fact, some think it was one of the first drafts of the current book of Deuteronomy. The nature of the reforms enacted by Josiah suggests that this document calls for the elimination of religious syncretism and the consequent centralization of ritual in Jerusalem. After renewing the covenant, Josiah eliminates the high places, the sacred poles, and the idols present in the temple; then he extends the reform to the North and finally celebrates Passover. But the conclusion of this reform leaves the reader perplexed: the Lord will still punish the kingdom of Judah because the preceding faults were too grave (23:26-27). Josiah "walked in all the way of his father David," taking care of the temple first of all. It is precisely when the king and the secretary, together with the rest of the people, begin to take care of the temple that the "book of the law" is found. Everyone’s attention turns to the book. It is read twice, once by Saphan and once in front of the king, but nonetheless the reader is left in the dark about its contents. Even the name with which the priest refers to it, "the book of the Torah" says nothing about its contents, because the word "Torah," which is usually translated as "law," specifically means "teaching." But there is a crescendo of understanding when new people approach the book. Josiah pronounces a judgment that is also a key to understanding the entire book of Kings: he says that his ancestors did not listen to what was written in the book. Josiah is condemning a historical epoch of the people of God that began before the monarchy and which should have been lived under the sign of this book, but was not. Indeed, the book of Joshua began with this warning: "This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night" (Joshua 1:8). The king sends out to consult the Lord not just for himself, but also for the entire people, because, as he says, the Lord’s wrath is kindled "against us" and the book was written "concerning us." The prophetess Huldah, who appears only in this episode, makes a distinction within this "us." Her first oracle sounds like a general condemnation of Jerusalem and its inhabitants (v. 15-17); it begins with an allusion to Manasseh ("Thus says the Lord, I will indeed bring disaster on..." v. 16) and reveals the contents of the book to us ("all the words of the book"). Her second oracle concerns the king and tells him that he is not among the objects of divine wrath (v. 18-20) because he was the only one who knew how to listen to the words of the book. Even if the high priest and the scribe know the contents of the book, neither of them reacts appropriately; only the king tears his clothing (v. 11), unlike his ancestors, who did not listen (v. 13), and this is why the Lord listens to him. The reciprocity of this listening is underlined by the unusual presence of the first person in the Hebrew text: "I also have heard you."


07/02/2010
Memory of Jesus crucified


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