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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 33, 1-25

Manasseh was twelve years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for fifty-five years in Jerusalem.

He did what is displeasing to Yahweh, copying the disgusting practices of the nations whom Yahweh had dispossessed for the Israelites.

He rebuilt the high places which his father Hezekiah had demolished, he set up altars to Baal and made sacred poles, he worshipped the whole array of heaven and served it.

He built altars in the Temple of Yahweh, of which Yahweh had said, 'My name will be in Jerusalem for ever.'

He built altars to the whole array of heaven in the two courts of the Temple of Yahweh.

He caused his sons to pass through the fire of sacrifice in the Valley of Ben-Hinnom. He practised soothsaying, divination and sorcery, and had dealings with mediums and spirit-guides. He did very many more things displeasing to Yahweh, thus provoking his anger.

He put a sculpted image, an idol which he had had made, inside the Temple of which God had said to David and his son Solomon, 'In this Temple and in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I shall put my name for ever.

Nor shall I ever again remove Israel's foot from the soil on which I established your ancestors on condition that they were careful to observe all I commanded them as laid down in the whole Law, the statutes and the ordinances, given through Moses.'

But Manasseh misled Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem into doing worse things than the nations which Yahweh had destroyed for the Israelites.

When Yahweh spoke to Manasseh and his people, they would not listen.

Yahweh then brought down on them the generals of the king of Assyria's army who captured Manasseh with hooks, put him in chains and took him to Babylon.

While in his distress, he placated Yahweh his God by genuinely humbling himself before the God of his ancestors.

When he prayed to him, he was moved by his entreaty, heard his supplication and brought him back to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Manasseh realised then that Yahweh is God.

Afterwards, he rebuilt the outer wall of the City of David, to the west of Gihon, in the valley, up to the Fish Gate and round the Ophel, and made it very much higher. And he stationed military governors in all the fortified towns of Judah.

He also removed the foreign gods and the idol from the Temple of Yahweh, as well as all the altars which he had built on the mountain of the Temple of Yahweh and in Jerusalem, and threw them out of the city.

He repaired the altar of Yahweh and offered communion sacrifices and thanksgiving offerings on it, and commanded Judah to serve Yahweh, God of Israel.

The people, however, went on sacrificing at the high places, although only to Yahweh their God.

The rest of the history of Manasseh, his prayer to his God, and the prophecies of the seers who spoke to him in the name of Yahweh, God of Israel, can be found in the Annals of the Kings of Israel.

His prayer and how God was moved by his entreaty, all his sins, his infidelity, the sites where he built high places and set up sacred poles and idols before humbling himself, are set down in the records of Hozai.

Then Manasseh fell asleep with his ancestors and was buried in the garden of his palace. His son Amon succeeded him.

Amon was twenty-two years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for two years in Jerusalem.

He did what is displeasing to Yahweh, as his father Manasseh had done, for Amon sacrificed to all the images which his father Manasseh had made, and served them.

He did not humble himself before Yahweh as his father Manasseh had done; on the contrary, Amon wilfully added to his guilt.

His retinue plotted against him and killed him in his own palace.

The people of the country, however, slaughtered all those who had plotted against King Amon and proclaimed his son Josiah as his successor.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, not only failed to follow the example of his father, but also returned to the ways of his grandfather, Ahaz' infidelity. The Chronicler starts by resuming the narrative description of the reign of Ahaz: “He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel” (v. 2). He restored the worship of the ancient Canaanite people and put himself again under the protection of the ancient gods. He even “carved image of the idol that he had made he set in the house of God, of which God said to David and to his son Solomon, ‘In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name for ever’” (v. 7). With these choices the king removed Israel from the protection of God. The Lord, in fact, had promised that he would not remove his people from the land where he had led them on condition that they would observe the law (v. 8). The king was actually pushing Judah away from God, urging him to behave worse than the pagans (v. 9). The Lord spoke to the king and the people, but they did not want to hear (v. 10). The impiety of Manasseh had immediate catastrophic consequences. He was captured and chained with a double chain, dragged by hooks applied to the jaw, tied like a dog, in Babylon. Manasseh, facing this bitter slavery, realized his error and prayed to the Lord, and “God received his entreaty, heard his plea, and restored him again to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord indeed was God” (v. 13). The request to be forgiven for having run away from God recalls the language of the promise made to Solomon: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chr 7:14). God, indeed, proved to be with Manasseh. This was very different from the idols the king had first invoked. Only the God of Israel is able to listen and to see the extreme suffering of his children. And only He has a strong arm. Manasseh personally experienced the love of God and became a new man. Thus not only was he restored to the throne of Jerusalem in his own country, but especially he had his heart changed. He became a good king who took care of his people: he committed himself to make the city safe and removed from the temple all objects that could induce the people to idolatry, “He also restored the altar of the Lord and offered on it sacrifices of well-being and of thanksgiving; and he commanded Judah to serve the Lord the God of Israel” (v. 16). Manasseh was the example of the believer who repents: he had sinned, he humbled himself before God and entrusted himself back to his law. The Psalmist sings that the Lord bows to the humble: “For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away” (Psalm 138.6). Though having heard the words of the king, the people did not follow him to the end: in fact, they resumed worshiping the Lord, but continued to be attracted by other places. Having never experienced the harshness of slavery, as Manasseh had, they did not feel the urgency to obey radically. And maybe this apathy in following the Lord favoured the apostasy of the new young king, Amon, who took the place of his father Manasseh. “He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord... Amon sacrificed to all the images that his father Manasseh had made, and served them” (v. 22). And, above all, “He did not humble himself before the Lord, as his father Manasseh had humbled himself, but this Amon incurred more and more guilt” (v. 23). The repeated evil deeds of the kings of Judah slowly lead Judah to ruin. The judgment of God fell early on Amon who was assassinated by a court plot. The salvation of the people of the Lord is not the result of revolting against the foreign powers, but rather of relying wholeheartedly on the Lord. The defence of Judah and its cities is accomplished by returning to the Lord and serving Him only

Memory of the Poor