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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

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 30, 1-14

The sayings of Agur son of Jakeh, of Massa. Prophecy of this man for Ithiel, for Ithiel and for Ucal.

I am myself the stupidest of people, bereft of human intelligence,

I have not learnt wisdom, and I lack the knowledge of the holy ones.

Who has mounted to the heavens, then come down again? Who has gathered the wind in the clasp of his hand? Who has wrapped the waters in his cloak? Who has set all the ends of the earth firm? What is his name? What is his child's name? Do you know?

Every word of God is unalloyed, a shield to those who take refuge in him.

To his words make no addition, lest he reprove you and account you a liar.

Two things I beg of you, do not grudge me them before I die:

keep falsehood and lies far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches, grant me only my share of food,

for fear that, surrounded by plenty, I should fall away and say, 'Yahweh-who is Yahweh?' or else, in destitution, take to stealing and profane the name of my God.

Do not blacken a slave's name to his master, lest he curse you, and you suffer for it.

There is a breed of person that curses his father and does not bless his mother;

a breed that, laying claim to purity, has not yet been cleansed of its filth;

a breed haughty of eye, with disdain in every glance;

a breed with swords for teeth, with knives for jaws, devouring the oppressed from the earth and the needy from the land.


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

This chapter collects another group of proverbs under the name of Agur’s sayings. We see that the book reports teachings from different periods of the history of Israel and it offers them for our meditation. The first part of the chapter reflects on two aspects of the search for wisdom. Twice the author repeats his weariness in this search. "I am weary," he repeats many times. In front of God’s greatness and the difficulty to understand the wisdom that comes from him, we are all poor things and we are never intelligent enough to understand his will: "Surely I am too stupid to be human; I do not have human understanding. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the holy ones." Indeed who can know it? We are all little and foolish in front of him who, however, never fails to offer his word so that we may listen to it. So in the second part of the passage, the Word of God is exalted; this word is pure and protects those echo welcome it: "Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words." We are accustomed to adding our comments to the Word of God. At times we reduce it to our ideas, plans and projects, and we deprive it of its transforming strength. First of all, let us listen to it so that it may prevent us from falling into "falsehood and lying." It is listening that makes it possible to acquire wisdom. The Word of God helps too use human words wisely. Hence the invitation not "to slander," but also the warning in the final verses of the consequences that befall those who do not welcome the Word of God. There are people who curse instead of bless. Others think that they are pure, but forget that the Word of God purifies because it is "proved true" (v. 5). Others exalt themselves. Finally some use the word as a weapon to eliminate and humiliate others, starting with the poor: "there are those whose teeth are swords, whose teeth are knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, the needy from among mortals." We see how much violence may be generated with words against the poor: words of scorn and condemnation that want to remove them from our presence. And yet the Lord is their guardian and defender and we, with Him, can take care of their suffering so that they may receive justice.

Memory of the Church