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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

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Matthew 23, 23-26

'Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You pay your tithe of mint and dill and cummin and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law-justice, mercy, good faith! These you should have practised, those not neglected.

You blind guides, straining out gnats and swallowing camels!

'Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of cup and dish and leave the inside full of extortion and intemperance.

Blind Pharisee! Clean the inside of cup and dish first so that it and the outside are both clean.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This Gospel passage continues Jesus’ invective against the scribes and Pharisees, the first part of which we have already heard in previous days. This fourth “invective” centres on overturning values. Jesus denounces the hypocrisy of paying the tithe destined for maintaining the temple while neglecting to practice what is most important: namely, the application of justice, mercy, and faith. In the past the obligation to tithe fell only on the three most important products of the earth: grain, wine and oil, as well as the first born cattle (Dt 14:22 ff). But the Pharisees, with their meticulous precepts, had extended it to other, less significant, products. And so Jesus denounces their meticulousness, their attention to minutia while the central precepts are ignored like justice, the respect of each person’s dignity; mercy, love for everyone and in particular for the poorest; faith, abandonment of one’s life to God. One cannot “... strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!” says Jesus. How many times do we too worry about small things while we swallow camels! There is need for more interiority, for a more vigorous spiritual life. There is also an ulterior reprimand against the behaviour of the Pharisees. They undermine the indispensable relationship between the heart and deeds, between the interior and the exterior. Believers cannot live in a divided way—that is, behave correctly in some exterior practices and then putrefy in the heart. The accusation Jesus directed toward those who behave like whitened tombs echoes here. Life flows from the heart of human beings. All life depends on the heart from which, as Jesus repeats, come the thoughts and behaviours of men and women. If the heart is filled with love, then gestures of love will flow from it. If, on the contrary, the heart is inhabited by envy, rancour, hate, pride, love of self, then bitter and evil fruits will quickly be forthcoming for ourselves and for others. The believer is called to grow interiorly. This happens by cultivating prayer, listening with attention and frequency to the Scriptures, and practicing love for the weakest, not by forgetting laws and customs. Jesus asks us is to start from a heart inhabited by the love of God. It is in the heart that we decide the way of good and evil.

Memory of the Mother of the Lord