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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

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Daniel 1, 1-6.8-20

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched on Jerusalem and besieged it.

The Lord let Jehoiakim king of Judah fall into his power, as well as some of the vessels belonging to the Temple of God. These he took away to Shinar, putting the vessels into the treasury of his own gods.

From the Israelites, the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring a certain number of boys of royal or noble descent;

they had to be without any physical defect, of good appearance, versed in every branch of wisdom, well-informed, discerning, suitable for service at the royal court. Ashpenaz was to teach them to speak and write the language of the Chaldaeans.

The king assigned them a daily allowance of food and wine from the royal table. They were to receive an education lasting for three years, after which they would enter the royal service.

Among them were the Judaeans Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.

Daniel, who was determined not to incur pollution by food and wine from the royal table, begged the chief eunuch to spare him this defilement.

God allowed Daniel to receive faithful love and sympathy from the chief eunuch.

But the eunuch warned Daniel, 'I am afraid of my lord the king: he has assigned you food and drink, and if he sees you looking thinner in the face than the other boys of your age, my head will be in danger with the king because of you.'

To the guard assigned to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah by the chief eunuch, Daniel then said,

'Please allow your servants a ten days' trial, during which we are given only vegetables to eat and water to drink.

You can then compare our looks with those of the boys who eat the king's food; go by what you see, and treat your servants accordingly.'

The man agreed to do what they asked and put them on ten days' trial.

When the ten days were over, they looked better and fatter than any of the boys who had eaten their allowance from the royal table;

so the guard withdrew their allowance of food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

To these four boys God gave knowledge and skill in every aspect of literature and learning; Daniel also had the gift of interpreting every kind of vision and dream.

When the time stipulated by the king for the boys to be presented to him came round, the chief eunuch presented them to Nebuchadnezzar.

The king conversed with them, and among all the boys found none to equal Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. So they became members of the king's court,

and on whatever point of wisdom or understanding he might question them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and soothsayers in his entire kingdom. Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

In this last week of the liturgical year, the liturgy brings to us some passages from the Book of Daniel, which being eschatological in nature, help us to contemplate the final mystery of history. The reference to the siege of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, tries to highlight the new situation in which the Hebrew people have found themselves, that is, the difficult clash with the bigger world surrounding them. Reference to the two cities, Babylon and Jerusalem, is symbolic of this clash. The intent is not so much to offer a historical description as to highlight that it is God who guides the history of his people even when they are called to be in relationship with the outside world. The author immediately mentions that it is God who let his people fall into the hands of the Babylonian king Jehoiakim and allowed the vessels of the temple to be looted. Even the choice of identifying four young Hebrews of noble birth, the most beautiful and intelligent among them, to stay in Babylon to be instructed in the king’s court, is determined by the will of God. There is a sort of healthy Jewish pride in this passage: those young men turn out to be the best among the young Babylonians. To be sure, it is the Lord who sustains and helps them. For their part, they do not betray the law, sustaining themselves with forbidden foods. Eating only legumes, they not only become lean but they appear even healthier than their Babylonian counterparts. This shining condition reminds us of the story of Joseph who reached the top rank of the Egyptian court. In short, the author seems to say that if the believers of Israel remain faithful to God they will know how to accomplish the mission entrusted to them, even beyond the borders of Israel. Indeed, compared to everyone else present before the king, no one was as wise as Daniel and his companions. Whoever is faithful to God knows how to show the wisdom that pours forth from the heart. Certainly, not simply for their merits and personal qualities, but above all because they remain faithful to the Lord. If believers listen to the Word of God and follow it, they are able to offer all society a gift of extraordinary wisdom that comes from listening to the Lord and his word.

Memory of the Poor