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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

Zephaniah 3, 1-2.9-13

Disaster to the rebellious, the befouled, the tyrannical city!

She has not listened to the call, she has not bowed to correction, she has not trusted in Yahweh, she has not drawn near to her God.

Yes, then I shall purge the lips of the peoples, so that all may invoke the name of Yahweh and serve him shoulder to shoulder.

From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia, my suppliants will bring me tribute.

When that Day comes you will never again be ashamed of all the deeds with which you once rebelled against me, for I shall rid you of those who exult in your pride; never again will you strut on my holy mountain.

But in you I shall leave surviving a humble and lowly people,

and those who are left in Israel will take refuge in the name of Yahweh. They will do no wrong, will tell no lies; nor will a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths. But they will be able to graze and rest with no one to alarm them.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

“Ah, soiled, defiled, oppressing city!” About which city is the prophet speaking? Nineveh, the great enemy city, which the prophet mentioned in the previous passage. Or does the prophet speak of Jerusalem? To which was the prophet referring? Could Jerusalem, the city inhabited by the Lord, be compared to Nineveh? And yet it was. The prophet spoke of a Jerusalem that had radically changed. It had become a rebellious and overbearing city because it had stopped listening to the voice of the Lord and had not accepted his correction. Those who do not listen to the Lord and trust in him end up leading an inhumane and violent life. The officials, judges, prophets, and priests are those who are responsible for governing the city. They are often referred to by the prophets. In fact, there is a political, legal and religious responsibility to govern a city. In Jerusalem all have failed to fulfil their duties. In exercising their functions, politicians and judges act with unprecedented violence. They are called “roaring lions” and “evening wolves.” And the prophets are full of pride instead of being humble listeners, communicating the Word of God. Even the priests have failed to guard the sacred objects and to observe the law. Divine intervention is needed so that justice may be re-established in Jerusalem and the city return to its ordinary life. For Jerusalem, as for any city, God's righteousness is like the morning light that illuminates the night and guides the thoughts and actions of people by night. Only by listening to the voice of the Lord is it possible to build a human city, free from violence and abuse, attentive to the needs of the poor, and able to administer justice in all its dimensions.
The prophetic word, which helps us see the injustice and violence of Jerusalem and of the nations, (3:6-8), does not leave them without hope. God speaks so that the world might become better and people might be converted by listening. Is it possible, after all that Zephaniah has shown in the city and among the nations, for something new to exist? “I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech.” This is what is new about the prophet's words. They are unexpected by a mentality that foresees only judgment and condemnation for the peoples. God also speaks to them and gives them the chance to speak a new language, “pure” because it is free from violence and based on the alphabet of God's word, the only Word who creates unity and establishes justice. With that language, even the people of Israel will turn to God and find the unanimity that seems so difficult to achieve. The prophet emphasizes the union of the peoples: “that “all” of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord.” The latter expression is perhaps best translated “unanimously.” Invoking and serving God, that is, praying to him and recognizing our dependence on him as his creatures, generates the unanimity that we are unable to find as individual people and nations. This is why prayer is an extraordinary force for unity: people who are different from each other come together, speak the same language, sing the same tune, listen to the same word, and perform the same gestures. There is no space in this new nation - which goes beyond boundaries of race - for the arrogant, who speak only the language of their selfishness. Only “humble and poor” people, who trust in the Lord, can take part in this beautiful and unique reality that we experience in the Church of God, a sign of the unity of the human family. They are “humble” because they listen to the Word of God, and together with the “poor” they will form the people loved by God. But they will be a remnant, remaining among many others who, perhaps, have preferred to follow themselves. To be a part of the remnant is a gift of God, but it is also a choice each person must make.

Memory of the Mother of the Lord