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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

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Luke 11, 37-41

He had just finished speaking when a Pharisee invited him to dine at his house. He went in and sat down at table.

The Pharisee saw this and was surprised that he had not first washed before the meal.

But the Lord said to him, 'You Pharisees! You clean the outside of cup and plate, while inside yourselves you are filled with extortion and wickedness.

Fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside too?

Instead, give alms from what you have and, look, everything will be clean for you.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Jesus, having been invited to the house of a Pharisee, does not perform the necessary rituals before eating. This behaviour earns him severe judgments. Noticing it Jesus responds by moving the question from the ritual level to the level of the heart. And he clarifies that appearances are not what count in life, whether correct or not; what counts is being a woman or a man with a merciful heart. It is in the heart, on the inside, that human life is at stake, his happiness and salvation. If our heart is full of wickedness, then our actions will be likewise. And so, without condemning the observance of rituals, Jesus wants to re-emphasize the heart as the root of behaviours. What counts is what is in the heart. Observing rituals has no value if afterwards we offend justice and distance ourselves from love. In this sense it is of no use to multiply gestures and actions if the heart is full of "greed and wickedness." Jesus urges his listeners to "give for alms those things that are within," that is, to give the world the love that has been poured into our hearts. Freely-given love is the true riches that each believer has in her heart. If we are merciful towards others, if we are generous in loving others, love not only does not decrease, but it enriches the heart. The wealth of a disciple is not found in the multiplication of rituals he or she practices, but in having a merciful heart which is ready to love. Jesus’ statement is important: given alms makes one pure. Unfortunately it is ever more frequent today to see ordinances which prohibit begging and discourage almsgiving, even finding a sad complicity among Christians. The whole biblical tradition, which in the Gospel finds its zenith, exhorts Christians to give alms, not because it is the "solution" to social problems but because it is love’s first step: giving alms forces one to turn one’s gaze from oneself towards the needy and to give them something, even if little. Woe to the blocking of this first step of the heart going beyond itself, we would remain enclosed in our selfishness.

Memory of the Mother of the Lord