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The Everyday Prayer

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

Memorial of Saint Peter Damian (1007-1072). Faithful to his monastic vocation, he loved the entire Church and spent his life reforming it. Memory of the monks in every part of the world.

Reading of the Word of God

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Isaiah 58, 1-9a

Shout for all you are worth, do not hold back, raise your voice like a trumpet. To my people proclaim their rebellious acts, to the House of Jacob, their sins.

They seek for me day after day, they long to know my ways, like a nation that has acted uprightly and not forsaken the law of its God. They ask me for laws that are upright, they long to be near God:

'Why have we fasted, if you do not see, why mortify ourselves if you never notice?' Look, you seek your own pleasure on your fastdays and you exploit all your workmen;

look, the only purpose of your fasting is to quarrel and squabble and strike viciously with your fist. Fasting like yours today will never make your voice heard on high.

Is that the sort of fast that pleases me, a day when a person inflicts pain on himself? Hanging your head like a reed, spreading out sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call fasting, a day acceptable to Yahweh?

Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me: to break unjust fetters, to undo the thongs of the yoke. to let the oppressed go free, and to break all yokes?

Is it not sharing your food with the hungry, and sheltering the homeless poor; if you see someone lacking clothes, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own kin?

Then your light will blaze out like the dawn and your wound be quickly healed over. Saving justice will go ahead of you and Yahweh's glory come behind you.

Then you will cry for help and Yahweh will answer; you will call and he will say, 'I am here.' If you do away with the yoke, the clenched fist and malicious words,


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

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

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

In the time of Lent we are asked to fast, as we have heard on Ash Wednesday. At the time of the prophet—we are in the last part of the book of Isaiah, that is, right after the Babylonian exile—fasting was a solemn and public act which involved the whole community. In itself it expressed the desire and search of a people that wanted to meet their God: “Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways.” And yet the prophet asks himself whether it is possible to fast, to seek penance and reconciliation with the Lord, without justice, without mercy, without love of the poor. It is a question posed to all of us at the beginning of this time. God shows with clarity the kind of fast that he wants. He does so in two parts. First, he explains that purely exterior fasting is not pleasing to him, actually it is useless even if it does fulfil its task; it does not reconcile human beings to God. Then he shows the fasting that he wants. Two series of actions follow. They are composed of three directions and a conclusion that summarizes the others. The first are: “To loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke.” These are actions that free people from oppression, from slavery and from submission. The yoke was a sign of slavery and oppression. The last action summarizes the first three; “to break every yoke,” that is: do not oppress anyone, do not use violence against anyone, better yet, commit yourselves to freeing the oppressed. Then three other indications follow: “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them?” We are now before poor and miserable people, without the means to live, without food, home or clothing. The last phrase - “do not hide yourself from your own kin” makes us wonder who are “your kin”? They are those that were named before, the hungry, the homeless, the naked. They are “those of your flesh,” those are your “true kin.” This is an extraordinary assertion for the Old Testament that will become clearer with the Gospels, starting from the beautiful passage in Matthew when Jesus identifies with “my little brothers and sisters,” the poor (Mt 25:40). It will be exactly in the practice of this fast from ourselves that is expressed in the solidarity with the oppressed and the poor, that each of us can be light for the world and will be healed from our wounds, “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly.”

Memory of Jesus crucified