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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

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Isaiah 58, 9b-14

if you deprive yourself for the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, your light will rise in the darkness, and your darkest hour will be like noon.

Yahweh will always guide you, will satisfy your needs in the scorched land; he will give strength to your bones and you will be like a watered garden, like a flowing spring whose waters never run dry.

Your ancient ruins will be rebuilt; you will build on age -- old foundations. You will be called 'Breach-mender', 'Restorer of streets to be lived in'.

If you refrain from breaking the Sabbath, from taking your own pleasure on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath 'Delightful', and the day sacred to Yahweh 'Honourable', if you honour it by abstaining from travel, from seeking your own pleasure and from too much talk,

then you will find true happiness in Yahweh, and I shall lead you in triumph over the heights of the land. I shall feed you on the heritage of your father Jacob, for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken.


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

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

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

The passage of Isaiah continues the reflection on fasting: which is the fasting that God wants us to practice? Again freeing people from oppression is asked for. An invitation to fast from “point[ing] the finger, speak[ing] of evil,” that is judgment and slander, practices that are very common even today. The text goes back to an affirmation from previous verses, in which one is asked, “to share bread with the hungry,” but it makes an extraordinary change. It is “opening the heart toward the hungry.” It would be better to say, “open yourself—or your soul—to the hungry.” This is not just about sharing food with the hungry, but sharing oneself, one’s own life. The fasting that God wants becomes the sharing of one’s life with the poor. This choice, which is a personal commitment, leads to a deep change in one’s existence. The consequences described in the following verses are clear: The Lord will guide those who convert themselves to the poor, will give them strength and will make them “like a watered garden, a spring of water.” Love of the poor radically changes lives and makes it a reference point for others, a spring of life for the world. Better still: “You shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.” Whoever gives him or herself to the poor makes liveable a city in ruins, makes it inhabitable, because that people of “humble ones and poor ones” of which the prophet Zephaniah speaks, becomes a reality. The text adds a final invitation regarding the Sabbath, the day of the Lord. To observe it makes it possible to live fully what we have just heard. In fact, there exists a deep unity between remembering the Lord on his day and the love of the poor. Without listening to the Word of God, without the memory of his love, all will be taken with themselves and will live an exterior religiosity, full of devotions but without a centre, without a heart. In the time of Lent the Lord invites us to live with him, to remember his love, so that we can fast from ourselves and give ourselves to others, starting with the poor.

Sunday Vigil