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The Everyday Prayer

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

Prayer for the unity of the Churches. Particular memory of the ancient Churches of the Orient (Syrian Orthodox, Coptic, Armenian, Assyrian)

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

Mark 2, 18-22

John's disciples and the Pharisees were keeping a fast, when some people came to him and said to him, 'Why is it that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?'

Jesus replied, 'Surely the bridegroom's attendants cannot fast while the bridegroom is still with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.

But the time will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then, on that day, they will fast.

No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse.

And nobody puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins too. No! New wine into fresh skins!'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The evangelist speaks of the disciples of John the Baptist and of the Pharisees who were fasting as part of a non-mandatory prescription (for otherwise, Jesus would observe it). This voluntary practice allowed them to present themselves as exemplary religious people. And, as it always happens to those who consider themselves right, they felt entitled to turn even to Jesus to ask him the reason why his disciples were not observing this pious practice that, although not mandatory, elevated the spirit. Their criticism, in truth, is directed more to the teacher that the disciples. With a parabolic language, Jesus answers that it is not the external practices that make the heart pure and the life of men limpid. Jesus continues saying that the pure are those who welcome the Messiah as one welcomes the bridegroom. Jesus meant that he was the groom. And when the friends of the groom wait for him to celebrate him in festivity, they cannot fast. Fasting would be sees as inappropriate by the groom, who expects to be welcomed with a celebration, and certainly not with the sadness of fasting. However, he emphasizes that even the friends of the bridegroom will go through difficult times, especially when the bridegroom will be taken away from them. In this manner, Jesus foretells, albeit covertly, his passion and his death. It is then that the moments of fasting, or rather of suffering, will come; and so indeed it happened from then to the present day with the long line of disciples who have given their lives until shedding blood. With two images, Jesus makes it clear that the spirit of discipleship does not agree with the formal rigidity of religious and ascetic practices that do not change the heart and are devoid of love. The old clothes and old wineskins indicate that an external piety never changes the heart or the behaviours. The stubborn persistence, which does not seek to extend beyond oneself, creates a barrier to the deep changes that the life according to the Gospel would bring. Jesus wants to reiterate that the salvation and the resulting bliss reside in a good heart, ready to receive the word that makes us new, beyond the external practices. How many mistakes we do when we entrust our lives to exteriority! The Gospel is the new wine that calls for and makes new hearts to receive it. The heart full of itself and of its works is an old wineskin incapable of grasping the newness of the Gospel, and the new cloth is the new mantle that is woven with fabric threads of love, which has nothing to do with the old and tattered piece of cloth of one’s egocentrism. The disciples understood that salvation is not in boasting about one’s own good works, such as fasting, but in loving Jesus above all else, as the bride loves her husband.

Prayer for peace