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The Everyday Prayer

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

Prayer for the unity of Christians. Particular memory of the Christian communities in Africa.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

2 Samuel 1,1-4.11-

Saul was dead and David, returning after his victory over the Amalekites, had been at Ziklag for two days. On the third day, a man arrived from Saul's camp with his clothes torn and earth on his head. When he came to David, he fell to the ground and prostrated himself. David asked him, 'Where have you come from?' 'I have escaped from the Israelite camp,' he said. David said, 'What has happened? Tell me.' He replied, 'The people fled from the battle, and many of them have fallen and are dead. Saul and his son Jonathan are dead too.' David then took hold of his clothes and tore them, and all the men with him did the same. They mourned and wept and fasted until the evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, for the people of Yahweh and for the House of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. David sang the following lament over Saul and his son Jonathan Does the splendour of Israel lie dead on your heights? How did the heroes fall? Saul and Jonathan, beloved and handsome, were divided neither in life, nor in death. Swifter than eagles were they, stronger than lions. O daughters of Israel, weep for Saul who gave you scarlet and fine linen to wear, who pinned golden jewellery on your dresses! How did the heroes fall in the thick of the battle? Jonathan, by your dying I too am stricken, I am desolate for you, Jonathan my brother. Very dear you were to me, your love more wonderful to me than the love of a woman. How did the heroes fall and the weapons of war succumb!


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The second book of Samuel begins with the story of Saul’s death caused by an Amalekite who appeared not to be troubled by what he had done. It was as though what had happened was like any other event. David, on hearing what happened, is indignant both at the death of Saul and Jonathan and at the Amalekite because he was "not afraid to lift [his] hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed" (v. 14). In boasting that he had killed Saul, the Amalekite was boasting of very grave sacrilege against the holiness of God who had chosen Saul as "anointed of Israel." David orders his death. The death sentence may seem excessive, but the iron law of retaliation was inescapable. David, both as king and relative of Saul, could pursue the law of blood revenge, passing judgment and carrying out the sentence. With such an act, David seems oriented toward uprooting a practice that was beginning to become commonplace in the formation of the young monarchy of Israel, namely, to kill a weak king in order to curry favour with his successor (see 4:5-12). With Jesus, relationships are meant to be marked by love, thus uprooting violence from the very heart of people. The only effective way to do so is to allow one’s love for others to prevail over self-love. The text tells of David’s desperate lament over the death of Saul and Jonathan. David wants his words to remain etched in the memory of the "children of Judah" (v. 18). "Why are the mighty fallen?" David asks three times. More than a question, it is a desolate cry. The answer to his cry is implicit: the Lord has distanced himself from Israel leaving David alone in the hands of his enemies. In truth, it was Saul who distanced himself from the Lord, distrusting the Lord’s strength and trusting in the words of a necromancer of Endor in order to know the outcome of the approaching battle. Saul’s guilt affects the entire people of Israel. Sin is never without its consequences for the entire community. We are bound to each other, for better or for worse. David’s pounding refrain reminds us all to reflect on the real cause of the evil that has befallen all people. Yet David, with sincere regret, honours Saul as a valiant warrior. Although he was his rival, David shows himself to be magnanimous and big-hearted. David’s prayer that Israel’s fate may not be shared with the enemy (v. 20) and that the mountains of Gilboa may be cursed for having witnessed the unfortunate fate of the heroes (v. 21), show all the more his regret. He knows how to look beyond sins and forgives; he loves sincerely and recognizes the greatness of the sons of the people of Israel. Their sin does not erase God’s love for them. And it is on this love that he founds his love for Saul and Jonathan and, through them, for all. His lament for Jonathan expresses an extraordinary love. David exalts him as a friend, but also as the faithful man who shared in the same sad fate as his father. For Saul, David calls on the daughters of Israel to weep; for Jonathan, he suffers pain greater than that for the woman he loves. This foretells of the bond of fellowship born not of flesh or blood but of adherence to the Gospel, and of a friendship that leads to giving one’s life for one’s friends.

Sunday Vigil