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The Everyday Prayer

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

We remember Yaguine and Fodé, two boys 15 an d14 years old from Guinea Conakry, who died because of cold in 1999 while they were trying to fly to study in Europe hidden in the cargo hold of an airplane. Memorial of blessed Ceferino Gimenéz Malla, Gypsy martyr

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Matthew 14, 1-12

At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the reputation of Jesus

and said to his court, 'This is John the Baptist himself; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.'

Now it was Herod who had arrested John, chained him up and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife.

For John had told him, 'It is against the Law for you to have her.'

He had wanted to kill him but was afraid of the people, who regarded John as a prophet.

Then, during the celebrations for Herod's birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and so delighted Herod

that he promised on oath to give her anything she asked.

Prompted by her mother she said, 'Give me John the Baptist's head, here, on a dish.'

The king was distressed but, thinking of the oaths he had sworn and of his guests, he ordered it to be given her,

and sent and had John beheaded in the prison.

The head was brought in on a dish and given to the girl, who took it to her mother.

John's disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went off to tell Jesus.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

If you believe, you will see the glory of God,
thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Herod the Tetrarch is part of the same dynasty as the royal family that appears in the Gospel’s accounts of Jesus’ childhood, and he is afraid that Jesus is John the Baptist raised from the dead. Once again the current Herod is afraid of losing his power. His predecessor was frightened by the information given to him by the Magi and confirmed by Scripture. The Word of God never leaves things as they are. It upsets our ideas about possession and strength and demands that everyone change their lives, their attitudes, and the thoughts of their hearts. In order to hold on to his power, the Herod of Jesus’ childhood ordered that cruel massacre of innocent children. Defending ourselves easily leads to eliminating those we consider adversaries. This is why Jesus asks us to pull up every wicked thought by the roots: if we let them grow, they will push us towards eliminating the other. Like his predecessor, this Herod also let himself be sucked into the whirlpool of violence. He certainly had been struck by the clarity of John’s words, which rebuked him for his wicked behaviour. John truly was a prophet: he did not bend to the world’s logic, and he demanded that everyone repent. Consequently Herod had him imprisoned, thinking that he would not have to hear his voice any more. He did not want to kill him. But his daughter’s insistence and his pride led him to do something he did not want to do. It is the painful story of our strength, which ends up making us do things we rather would not. Herod’s sense of his own strength makes him prefer his consideration from others to the truth, and, in order to satisfy his self-image he becomes the victim of a woman’s capricious arrogance. And he has the prophet beheaded. We could say that it only took a whim to silence the prophetic word that had brought joy and comfort to so many. But does the same thing not happen today when we let ourselves be caught unaware by our whims and stop listening? The death of John the Baptist was a bitter blow for Jesus. It was a warning of what would happen to him if he continued on the path of prophecy. But Jesus did not stop, even though continuing to preach love would take him to the cross. That is the way to be a witness to the end. The millions of martyrs of the twentieth century are an evangelic example of men and women who did not bow down to the power of the world and who never stopped speaking. We need to keep this example in our hearts with care and admiration because it will help us understand the true strength of a person of God.

Sunday Vigil