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The Everyday Prayer

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

Memory of Saint Polycarp, disciple of the apostle John, bishop and martyr (+155).

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

Proverbs 24, 1-34

Do not be envious of the wicked or wish for their company,

for their hearts are scheming violence, their lips talking mischief.

By wisdom a house is built, by understanding it is made strong;

by knowledge its storerooms are filled with riches of every kind, rare and desirable.

The wise is mighty in power, strength is reinforced by science;

for it is by strategy that you wage war, and victory depends on having many counsellors.

For a fool wisdom is an inaccessible fortress: at the city gate he does not open his mouth.

Anyone intent on evil-doing is known as a master in cunning.

Folly dreams of nothing but sin, the mocker is abhorrent.

If you lose heart when things go wrong, your strength is not worth much.

Save those being dragged towards death, but can you rescue those on their way to execution?

If you say, 'But look, we did not know,' will the Weigher of the heart pay no attention? Will not the Guardian of your soul be aware and repay you as your deeds deserve?

Eat honey, my child, since it is good; honey that drips from the comb is sweet to the taste:

and so, for sure, will wisdom be to your soul: find it and you will have a future and your hope will not be cut short.

Do not lurk, wicked man, round the upright man's dwelling, do not despoil his house.

For though the upright falls seven times, he gets up again; the wicked are the ones who stumble in adversity.

Should your enemy fall, do not rejoice, when he stumbles do not let your heart exult:

for fear that Yahweh will be displeased at the sight and turn his anger away from him.

Do not be indignant about the wicked, do not be envious of the evil,

for there is no future for the evil, the lamp of the wicked will go out.

Fear Yahweh, my child, and fear the king; do not ally yourself with innovators;

for suddenly disaster will loom for them, and who knows what ruin will seize them and their friends?

The following are also taken from the sages: To show partiality in judgement is not good.

Whoever tells the wicked, 'You are upright,' peoples curse him, nations revile him;

but those who correct him, come out of it well, on them will come a happy blessing.

Whoever returns an honest answer, plants a kiss on the lips.

Plan what you want on the open ground, make your preparation in the field; then go and build your house.

Do not bear witness lightly against your neighbour, nor deceive with your lips.

Do not say, 'I will treat my neighbour as my neighbour treated me; I will repay everyone what each has earned.'

By the idler's field I was passing, by the vineyard of a man who had no sense,

there it all lay, deep in thorns, entirely overgrown with weeds, and its stone wall broken down.

And as I gazed I pondered, I drew this lesson from the sight,

'A little sleep, a little drowsiness, a little folding of the arms to lie back

and poverty comes like a vagrant, and, like a beggar, dearth.'


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

Once again, we are confronted by the lives of the just and the wicked. The Bible is very aware of the strength of evil and in general speaks of it in a concrete way; it prefers to use the word "wicked" instead of "evil". The word of God always makes us aware of concrete human beings who live and determine history. Believers know that ultimately it is God who acts and that evil will never prevail over them. When confronted by the well-being of those who do evil, both the wise and the just could become envious. This passage starts by warning us, "Do not envy the wicked, nor desire to be with them; for their minds devise violence, and their lips talk of mischief." Only through wisdom can we build and foster our own strength. In wisdom there is power and to the wise goes the victory over the power of evil. So as not to be overcome, the wise are not "faint in the day of adversity". For the wise life is fight against evil and thus they "rescue those who are being taken away to death [and] hold back those who go staggering to the slaughter." Hidden in these statements is the battle against principalities and powers that the Apostle Paul describes in the sixth chapter of Ephesians. The wise do not rejoice in hearing about the misfortune of the enemy, nor do they become irritated or envious of the wicked because they knows that the Lord watches over them. The fear of the Lord is the only request that is made of them. The invitation to fear both God and the king is perhaps shocking. There is a social order that needs to be ensured. Probably the text reflects a society in which uprisings without many concrete results were fairly frequent. The real rebellion, however, is the one against the forces of evil that seem to pervade every sector of society. This is the battle for which we should be armed. The passage concludes with a description of the idle person and with a few exhortations concerning problems of partiality in judgment which can lead to misguided justice.

Memory of the Church