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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Memorial of Lazarus of Bethany. Prayer for all those who are gravely ill and for the dying. Memorial of those who have died of AIDS

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Matthew 21, 28-32

'What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He went and said to the first, "My boy, go and work in the vineyard today."

He answered, "I will not go," but afterwards thought better of it and went.

The man then went and said the same thing to the second who answered, "Certainly, sir," but did not go.

Which of the two did the father's will?' They said, 'The first.' Jesus said to them, 'In truth I tell you, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you.

For John came to you, showing the way of uprightness, but you did not believe him, and yet the tax collectors and prostitutes did. Even after seeing that, you refused to think better of it and believe in him.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The parable that we have heard is unique to Matthew. Immediately after having his authority questioned by the high priests, the Lord proclaims the parable of the father which sends his two sons to work in the vineyard. The second one says “yes” but then does not go, while the first son does the exact opposite. And Jesus concludes that it is obviously the first son and not the second who fulfils the father’s will. In fact, the first had said “no,” but then repented and went to the vineyard. Who knows, maybe the pained face of his father came back to his mind because of the stupidity of his response, or maybe he understood the deplorable state to which the vineyard was reduced. The conclusion is his repentance for his first response and the decision to obey the father. Repentance—in the Bible it is emphasized many times—erases a great number of sins. It is not bad to not want to do it; it is bad to continue to say “no.” It is not bad to feel the bite of one’s selfishness; it is bad to allow oneself to be dominated by it. This gospel parable exposes the juxtaposition between “saying” and “doing” which often characterizes our way of behaving. It is a juxtaposition that divides people, as if on one side there are those that do and on the other, those that say. A little ahead Jesus will make obvious the “cancer” of the Pharisaic doctrine and piety exactly in the contrast between saying and doing: “...Therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practise what they teach” (23:3). This is the worst danger in serving God and people. The words of the Gospel push us to examine our lives well. And maybe we realize that this parable regards each of us. How often do we love only in word? How often do we fill our mouths with talk, but then our days are empty of commitment and attention? How often are we ready to accuse others for their bad behaviour while we are more than indulgent with ourselves? The Lord reminds us that what matters is behaviour, or rather that what counts is to really love, to be merciful in deeds, to be friends and truly in solidarity with the poor. It is not those who make great speeches to be saved but rather those who do good works. Jesus said it at the beginning of his preaching: “Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Mt 7:21). Faith does not consist mostly in pronouncing correct formulas, but in putting the Gospel of love into practice, and with everyone, even with enemies. Today the world does not need a lot of words but rather men and women that know how to show with their lives the truth and beauty of the Gospel of love. Jesus did it first: he left the heavens and came to the earth and became a child to be strong only in the love of the Father.

Memory of the Mother of the Lord