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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

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

2 Chronicles 28, 1-27

Ahaz was twenty years old when he came to the throne and he reigned for sixteen years in Jerusalem. He did not do what Yahweh regards as right, as his ancestor David had done.

He followed the example of the kings of Israel, even having images cast for the Baals;

he burned incense in the Valley of Ben-Hinnom, caused his sons to pass through the fire of sacrifice, copying the disgusting practices of the nations whom Yahweh had dispossessed for the Israelites.

He offered sacrifices and incense on the high places, on the hills and under every green tree.

So Yahweh his God put him at the mercy of the king of Aram, who defeated him and took large numbers of captives, carrying them off to Damascus. He also put him at the mercy of the king of Israel, who inflicted heavy casualties on him.

In a single day, Pekah son of Remaliah killed a hundred and twenty thousand in Judah, all of them prominent men, because they had abandoned Yahweh, God of their ancestors.

Zichri, an Ephraimite champion, killed Maaseiah the king's son, Azrikam the controller of the household and Elkanah the king's second-in-command.

Of their brothers, the Israelites took two hundred thousand captive including wives, sons, daughters; they also took quantities of booty, carrying everything off to Samaria.

Now there was a prophet of Yahweh there by the name of Oded, who went out to meet the troops returning to Samaria and said, 'Look, because Yahweh, God of your ancestors, was angry with Judah, he put them at your mercy, but you have slaughtered them with such fury as reached to heaven,

and now you propose to reduce the children of Judah and Jerusalem to being your male and female slaves! Have you not yourselves committed sins against Yahweh your God?

Now listen to me: release the captives you have taken from your brothers, for the fierce anger of Yahweh hangs over you.'

Some of the Ephraimite chieftains -- Azariah son of Jehohanan, Berechaiah son of Meshillemoth, Jehizkiah son of Shallum and Amasa son of Hadlai -- then protested to those returning from the war

and said to them, 'You must not bring the captives here, for we have already sinned against Yahweh and you propose to add to our sin and guilt, although our guilt is already great, and fierce anger is hanging over Israel.'

So in the presence of the officials and whole assembly, the soldiers gave up the captives and the booty.

Men nominated for the purpose then took charge of the captives. From the booty they clothed all those of them who were naked; they gave them clothing and sandals, provided them with food and drink, mounted on donkeys all those who were infirm and took them back to Jericho, the city of palm trees, to their brothers. Then they returned to Samaria.

This was when King Ahaz sent asking the king of Assyria to come to his assistance.

The Edomites again invaded, defeated Judah, and carried off captives,

while the Philistines raided the towns in the lowlands and in the Negeb of Judah, capturing Beth-Shemesh, Aijalon, Gederoth, Soco and its dependencies, Timnah and its dependencies and Gimzo and its dependencies, and settled there.

For Yahweh brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel, since he behaved without restraint in Judah and had been unfaithful to Yahweh.

Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria attacked and besieged him; but he could not overpower him.

Although Ahaz robbed the Temple of Yahweh and the palaces of the king and princes and gave the proceeds to the king of Assyria, he received no help from him.

During the time when he was under siege he disobeyed Yahweh even more grossly, this King Ahaz.

For he offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus who had defeated him. 'Since the gods of the kings of Aram', he thought, 'have supported them, I shall sacrifice to them, and perhaps they will help me.' But they proved to be his and all Israel's downfall.

Ahaz then collected the equipment of the Temple of God, broke up the equipment of the Temple of God, sealed the doors of the Temple of Yahweh and put his own altars in every corner of Jerusalem;

he set up high places in every town of Judah to burn incense to other gods, thus provoking the anger of Yahweh, God of his ancestors.

The rest of his history, his whole policy, from first to last, is recorded in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel.

Then Ahaz fell asleep with his ancestors and was buried in the City, in Jerusalem, though he was not taken to the tombs of the kings of Israel. His son Hezekiah succeeded him.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Jotham, the good king, faithful to the Lord, is succeeded by a son, Ahaz, who walked in a completely opposite way. The Chronicler considers him the worst of the kings of Judah: “He did not do what was right in the sight of the LORD.” Not only did he imitate the idolatry of the kings of the North, by sacrificing and burning incense on high places, on hills and under every leafy tree, but he even surpassed them in infidelity and depravity. The Book also mentions, as a usual practice, sacrifices of children in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to the south-east of Jerusalem. These serious infidelities lead to the defeat of Ahaz against the Arameans: “Therefore the LORD, his God, gave him in to the hand of the king of Aram who defeated him and took captive a great number of his people and brought them to Damascus” (v. 5). The Chronicler also writes of the defeat suffered at the hands of the Israelites of the North: “The people of Israel took captive two hundred thousand of their kin, women, sons, and daughters; they also took much booty from them and brought the booty to Samaria” (v. 8). In addition to the veracity of this last episode, the author wants to emphasize the absurdity of a war between brothers. Oded, the prophet, speaks directly to the tribes of the North to make them release their brethren of Judah. They are not better than the tribes of Judah and have already sinned enough before the Lord (v. 10) and there is no need to make things worse by imprisoning their brethren of the tribe of Judah. The judgment of God - adds the prophet - would be very hard. Four wise men among the most prominent of Samaria, three of whom have the name of God in their names, welcome the word of the prophet and agree with his proposal to release the prisoners. In fact, they were treated by the Samaritans with oil; they were clothed, shod, fed and, as people in full possession of their dignity, were brought back to Jericho, with their brethren in the south. This is a page that opens a window of peace between brothers. This reading makes believers in Jesus enjoy, in an even deeper way, the sense of compassion. There is a remarkable parallel with the parable of the Samaritan as recorded by Luke. It was precisely the Samaritans - considered enemies - to help treat the people of Israel who were defeated for their apostasy. It was an exemplary action that Jesus will remember several times. Those Samaritans heard the words of the prophet and put them into practice. And mercy was victorious over war and slavery. There is also a parallel in the second book of Kings, where the prophet Elisha invited the king of Israel to act humanely with Aramean prisoners who entered Samaria: “When the king of Israel saw them he said to Elisha, ‘Father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?’ 22He answered, ‘No! Did you capture with your sword and your bow those whom you want to kill? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink; and let them go to their master.’ 23So he prepared for them a great feast; after they ate and drank, he sent them on their way, and they went to their master. And the Arameans no longer came raiding into the land of Israel” (2 K 6:21-23). Ahaz, after heavy losses at the hands of the Arameans and the Israelites, turns to Assyria to defend Judah against the Edomites and the Philistines. He could have asked help from the Lord but instead he continues to seek support in human beings, and, what's more, foreigners. The Assyrian king, in response, comes against him and oppresses, rather than help him (v. 20). The Chronicler sees in all these hardships the divine will to bring back to the right path the king and the people of Judah. And yet, despite being hit from all sides, Ahaz would not listen to the Word of God that would have made him humble and wise. Unfortunately, he quickly travelled the road of apostasy. When pride prevails the human spirit plunges toward the abyss without any restraint. It is a lesson to be learned with fear and trembling. Ahaz, now unable to lift his eyes from his own self, closes even the temple, making it impossible for the people to worship. He chooses to rely on the gods of Damascus. He died far from God and outside of the tombs of the other kings of Israel.

Prayer for peace