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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

Matthew 5, 1-12

Seeing the crowds, he went onto the mountain. And when he was seated his disciples came to him.

Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:

How blessed are the poor in spirit: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

Blessed are the gentle: they shall have the earth as inheritance.

Blessed are those who mourn: they shall be comforted.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for uprightness: they shall have their fill.

Blessed are the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them.

Blessed are the pure in heart: they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be recognised as children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

'Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you falsely on my account.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Matthew gives “sermon on the mount” particular attention. He has Jesus climb a mountain, the definitive place where God teaches, as if to suggest a parallel between the old and new covenants. The first was ratified on Sinai, while the second is sealed on this mountain. Jesus is looking at a crowd that has been following him for several days. We can imagine him looking at these men and women: even if he does not know all of their stories, he knows their questions and needs. And he has compassion on them. And it is on this strong feeling of compassion that this Gospel scene is built. His first words are about happiness. Or rather, they are about who is happy. Jesus wants to explain his ideas about happiness and beatitude. The psalms had already accustomed the believers of Israel to the meaning of beatitude: “Happy is everyone who trusts in you, happy are those who consider the poor, happy are all who take refuge in the Lord.” These people could consider themselves happy. Jesus continues along the same lines and affirms that happy are the men and women who are poor in spirit (poor in spirit does not at all mean rich in practice and far from God) and then happy are the merciful, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger for justice, the pure in heart, those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and even those who are reviled and persecuted for his name’s sake. No one had ever spoken words like these. The disciples had never heard them until now. And they truly seem distant to us who listen to them today. They seem completely unreal. We might concede that they are beautiful, but we consider them impossible to carry out. And yet it is not so for Jesus. He wants us to have a true, full, and robust happiness. In truth, the dearest thing to our hearts is to live a little better, to be a little more relaxed. And nothing more. We do not really want to be “happy.” Happiness has become a strange word, too full and excessive. It is such a strong and loaded word that it has become too removed from our often insignificant satisfaction. This page is truly Gospel for us, real “good news,” because it rips us from an ever more banal life and pushes us towards an existence that is full of meaning and towards a joy that is much more profound that what we can even imagine. The Beatitudes are not too lofty for us, just as they were not too lofty for the crowd that first heard them. They have a truly human face: the face of Jesus. He is the man of the beatitudes, the poor man, the meek man who is hungry for justice, the passionate and merciful man, the man who was persecuted and put to death. Let us watch and follow him: we too will be happy.

Memory of the Poor