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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

Jeremiah 5, 20-31

'Announce this in the House of Jacob, proclaim it in Judah, and say,

"Now listen to this, stupid, brainless people who have eyes and do not see, who have ears and do not hear!

Have you no fear of me? Yahweh demands. Will you not tremble before me who set the sand as limit to the sea, as an everlasting barrier it cannot pass? Its waves may toss but not prevail, they may roar but cannot pass beyond.

But this people has a rebellious, unruly heart; they have rebelled and gone!

Nor do they say to themselves: Now we ought to fear Yahweh our God who gives the rain, of autumn and of spring, at the right season, and reserves us the weeks appointed for harvest.

Your misdeeds have upset all this, your sins have deprived you of these blessings."

Yes, there are wicked men among my people who watch like fowlers on the alert; they set traps and they catch human beings.

Like a cage full of birds so are their houses full of loot; they have grown rich and powerful because of it,

they are fat, they are sleek, in wickedness they go to any lengths: they have no respect for rights, for orphans' rights, and yet they succeed! They have not upheld the cause of the needy.

Shall I fail to punish this, Yahweh demands, or on such a nation to exact vengeance?

Horrible, disgusting things are happening in the land:

the prophets prophesy falsely and the priests exploit the people. And my people love it! But when the end comes, what will you do?


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The prophet uses bitter words against his people, who have “a stubborn and rebellious heart.” Jeremiah believes they are like this because they do not “fear” God: “They do not say in their hearts, ‘Let us fear the Lord our God, who gives the rain in its season, the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest.’” The word “fear” seems to have vanished from the vocabulary of faith. We have many fears, but little “fear of God.” The “fear of God” is not a feeling of fright, but the awareness of our limitations and our weaknesses. And we discover this clearly in prayer. When we stand before God we become aware of his greatness and of our poverty. In the book of Deuteronomy “fear” is accompanied by the love of God and the willingness to listen to his word: “So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being”(10:12-13). According to the book of Proverbs, the “fear of God” is the beginning of wisdom. Thus, there is a close connection between the fear of the Lord and a good life, well-being, and wisdom. But this is not the ancient idea that misfortune and poverty are tied to sin and wealth to faithfulness to God. It is possible to have a good and happy life even in the midst of suffering and poverty. Iniquity, injustice, violence, the absence of the fear of God, and the lack of awareness of his presence upset the order of creation and it difficult for people to live together. Jeremiah has struck upon one of the constants of prophetic language: the connection between wealth and injustice: “Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of treachery; therefore they have become great and rich, they have grown fat and sleek. They know no limits in deeds of wickedness; they do not judge with justice the cause of the orphan, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy.” With words that perhaps make us uncomfortable, Jeremiah touches on one of the central tenets of our materialistic society, where people live under the domination of money and the logic of the market, forgetting the need to cultivate the heart, to strengthen the soul, and to do good and achieve justice.

Prayer for peace