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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

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Jeremiah 12, 7-17

I have abandoned my house, left my heritage, I have delivered what I dearly loved into the clutches of its enemies.

To me, my heritage has behaved like a lion in the forest, it roared at me ferociously: so I now hate it.

I see my heritage as a brightly-coloured bird of prey attacked by birds of prey on every side! Go, assemble all the wild animals, make them come and dine!

Many shepherds have laid my vineyard waste, have trampled over my plot of land, the plot of land which was my joy, reducing my favourite estate to a deserted wilderness.

They have made it a waste; wasted, it mourns before me. The whole country has been devastated and no one takes it to heart.

The devastators have arrived on all the bare heights of the desert (for Yahweh wields a devouring sword); from one end of the country to the other, there is no peace for any living thing.

Wheat they have sown, thorns they reap: they have worn themselves out, to no profit. They are disappointed in their harvests, because of Yahweh's burning anger.

Yahweh says this, 'As regards all my evil neighbours who have laid hands on the heritage I granted my people Israel, look, I shall uproot them from their soil, (though I shall uproot the House of Judah from among them).

But having uprooted them, I shall take pity on them again and bring them back each to its own heritage, each to its own country,

and if they carefully learn my people's ways and swear by my name, "As Yahweh lives", as they have taught my people to swear by Baal, then they will be re-established among my people.

But if any nation refuses to listen, I shall uproot it for ever and destroy it, Yahweh declares.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The prophets refer to the shepherds of the people on several different occasions. Jesus himself uses this image in the tenth chapter of John to show his concern for humanity. In an agricultural society devoted to raising livestock, the shepherd was a common figure, which clearly expressed the responsibility of a man completely devoted to his flock. The shepherd is a person who, in different ways, has responsibility for the people entrusted to him. Jeremiah identifies the irresponsibility of the “shepherds” of Jerusalem as the cause of the city’s devastation due to war and deportation: “Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard, they have trampled down my portion. They have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. They have made it a desolation.” Even though this image might appear archaic in our culture, it clearly describes many situations in which those who are responsible for the common good do not take care of others but instead pursue their own interests, transforming society into a desert, void of humanity. Jesus clearly says that we are either shepherds or we are hired hands, people who live to pursue their own interests with no concern for the flock entrusted to them. Sadly, we must admit that the words of the prophet are still true in today’s world. But God does not remain indifferent. As always, the prophet’s words are hard, almost difficult to understand and accept, but they call for a radical transformation. God does not allow his flock to be abandoned, “Thus says the Lord concerning all my evil neighbours who touch the heritage that I have given my people Israel to inherit: I am about to pluck them up from their land, and I will pluck up the house of Judah from among them.” God does not just act against the foreign nations. His people, Judah, are not free from responsibility. But the Lord “will again have compassion” on his people. When faced with the most difficult situations, God chooses compassion. This is also the attitude of Jesus, the Good Samaritan of humanity.

Memory of the Church