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The Everyday Prayer

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

Memory of Yaguine and Fodé, two young men 15 and 14 years old from Guinea Conakry, who died in 1999 because of cold while they were flying hidden in the undercarriage of a plane trying to reach Europe in order to study.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Matthew 15, 1-2.10-14

Then Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem came to Jesus and said,

'Why do your disciples break away from the tradition of the elders? They eat without washing their hands.'

He called the people to him and said, 'Listen, and understand.

What goes into the mouth does not make anyone unclean; it is what comes out of the mouth that makes someone unclean.'

Then the disciples came to him and said, 'Do you know that the Pharisees were shocked when they heard what you said?'

He replied, 'Any plant my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.

Leave them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind; and if one blind person leads another, both will fall into a pit.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

After the two serene preceding chapters, in the fifteenth chapter the Evangelist Matthew openly attacks the scribes and Pharisees. Probably at the behest of the zealous Pharisees of Galilee, the Pharisees and scribes depart from Jerusalem and go toward this young teacher. They intend on putting Jesus on guard for the behaviour he incites in his followers. Immediately they ask him why he is breaking from the "tradition of the elders." Jesus has just begun to preach publicly. His words amaze the poor and scandalize the right-minded people, those more attached to rules than to love and mercy. Many were scandalized because the disciples did not wash their hands before eating as the traditional norms dictated. Certainly the crowds—fed by the bread that Jesus had multiplied specifically for them —had not washed their hands, and yet God’s mercy manifested itself abundantly in their lives. The "tradition" and the "rites" have their weight and Jesus knows it well. He responds, therefore, to the Pharisees and turns then directly to the crowds. He invites everyone to reflect attentively on what purity does and does not really mean. He says: "It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles" (v. 10). Probably this sentence synthesizes Jesus’ sermon to the crowd in order to help them understand that morality resides not in things, but in the human heart. And later on (vv. 18-19) he will explain this more clearly. The disciples seem troubled and they approach Jesus to tell him that what he said scandalized the Pharisees. In truth, the Pharisees had interpreted Jesus’ words in a distorted and malicious way, ascribing them to the entire Law of Moses and not to some of their recently introduced interpretations. They were the ones giving more importance to these new rules than to the very heart of the Mosaic Law, which is faithfulness to God and to love. Their pettiness made them defendors of exterior rules instead of the covenant between the Lord and his people. At this point Jesus invites the disciples not to worry too much about them, because their thoughts are not of God. The motif of this invitation is harsh: they are like the blind leading the blind. What does it mean? Their eyes remain closed, closed to love. Hence they do not know how to welcome those in need and even less help those who need a light, even just a small one, for one’s life. It is an invitation for each one of us to receive the true light, the Gospel of love.

Memory of the Mother of the Lord