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The Everyday Prayer

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

Memorial of blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

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

Luke 5, 33-39

They then said to him, 'John's disciples are always fasting and saying prayers, and the disciples of the Pharisees, too, but yours go on eating and drinking.'

Jesus replied, 'Surely you cannot make the bridegroom's attendants fast while the bridegroom is still with them?

But the time will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them; then, in those days, they will fast.'

He also told them a parable, 'No one tears a piece from a new cloak to put it on an old cloak; otherwise, not only will the new one be torn, but the piece taken from the new will not match the old.

'And nobody puts new wine in old wineskins; otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins and run to waste, and the skins will be ruined.

No; new wine must be put in fresh skins.

And nobody who has been drinking old wine wants new. "The old is good," he says.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

We are all familiar with the experience of seeking out clear, even severe, rules and dispositions to follow, to lift from ourselves the effort and responsibility of understanding what it is that the Lord asks of us. This is the reason for the Pharisees coming to Jesus and praising the disciples of John the Baptist, who fast and recite the proper prayers, while Jesus’ disciples accept invitations to lunch without worrying about the prescribed practices. “Your disciples eat and drink,” they say to Jesus. The Pharisees want to discredit Jesus because not only does he not respect the practices provided, he also distances himself from the spiritual movement promoted by the Baptist, who invites people to repent, while Jesus invites them to the banquet. Jesus responds with a small example: “You cannot make wedding-guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you?” Jesus compares his days to those of a wedding party for the groom. In fact, Jesus’ presence in the towns and villages causes a kind of celebration, a new climate of joy and hope, which involves mainly the poor, the sick, and the sinners. Besides, he did not come to propose an ascetic ideal or set of rigorous behaviours. He came among people to save them from the sorrow of sin and to allow them to experience the joy of healing and salvation, starting from his very presence. He adds that there will come a moment when the groom “will be taken away from them”—this is the first time that the evangelist alludes to Jesus’ violent death—and then his disciples will experience difficult and painful moments and they will fast. Certainly they will not be able to party. He then adds two more images to illustrate even better what he just said. First he says: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old.” In short, the new is torn and the old cannot be repaired. Secondly, he says: “No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed.” Also in this case the damage is twofold, both for the wine and the skins. The two images illustrate very effectively the novelty of the Gospel message: Jesus’ love cannot be contained in the ritualistic patterns of the Pharisees or in the attitude of those who follow outward ritual practices while keeping their heart distant from God and from others because they are self-consumed. The Gospel has a disruptive force that cannot be contained by our egos, our laziness, our purely external practices, or by our formulas with which we oppose sometimes even the Spirit. The gift of God always requires a new heart, that is a heart that is converted, a mind that listens and is guided by his Word. Stubbornly holding to our ideas and traditions can render us blind and cold, leading us to love ourselves more than the newness of the Gospel, to the point of saying that “the old is good,” that is to say that we prefer ourselves and our habits to the newness of the Gospel. The Apostle Paul—just to overcome the temptation to stick to their own traditions—wrote to the Galatians: “A new creation is everything!” (6:15). It is from new men and women that a new world will be born.

Memory of Jesus crucified