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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

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Judges 11, 29-39a

The spirit of Yahweh was on Jephthah, who crossed Gilead and Manasseh, crossed by way of Mizpah in Gilead, and from Mizpah in Gilead crossed into Ammonite territory.

And Jephthah made a vow to Yahweh, 'If you deliver the Ammonites into my grasp,

the first thing to come out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from fighting the Ammonites shall belong to Yahweh, and I shall sacrifice it as a burnt offering.'

Jephthah crossed into Ammonite territory to attack them, and Yahweh delivered them into his grasp.

He beat them from Aroer to the border of Minnith (twenty towns) and to Abel-Keramim. It was a very severe defeat, and the Ammonites were humbled by the Israelites.

As Jephthah returned to his house at Mizpah, his daughter came out to meet him, dancing to the sound of tambourines. She was his only child; apart from her, he had neither son nor daughter.

When he saw her, he tore his clothes and exclaimed, 'Oh my daughter, what misery you have brought upon me! You have joined those who bring misery into my life! I have made a promise before Yahweh which I cannot retract.'

She replied, 'Father, you have made a promise to Yahweh; treat me as the promise that you have made requires, since Yahweh has granted you vengeance on your enemies the Ammonites.'

She then said to her father, 'Grant me this! Let me be free for two months. I shall go and wander in the mountains, and with my companions bewail my virginity.'

He replied, 'Go,' and let her go away for two months. So she went away with her companions and bewailed her virginity in the mountains.

When the two months were over she went back to her father, and he treated her as the vow that he had uttered bound him. She had remained a virgin. And hence, the custom in Israel


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

To win over the Ammonites, Jephthah made a terrible vow: the first to come out of the doors of his house to meet him would be sacrificed as a burnt offering to the Lord. Jephthah wins and the first person he meets is his only daughter. Jephthah is in despair but remains faithful to his vow—a vow that also reveals his vision of God. For God’s condemnation about human sacrifice is clear in the Bible. In Deuteronomy, God condemns those who did “every abhorrent thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods. They would even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods” (12:31). Jesus is the ultimate and last sacrifice, who offered himself for love. God does not want sacrifice but mercy. God offers himself so that everyone may understand how great is his mercy. The victory of Jesus will no longer be that of Jephthah, against anyone, but that of laying down his life for the redemption of all. Israel was in a period of great difficulty and the people thought they had to snatch the attention of God by sacrificing people. Often when we have no faith we attribute to God thoughts that are not his, as if he was asking, in exchange for his protection, something very challenging for us. How many are the victims of a little faith and of a distorted prayer to God.

Memory of the Church