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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 58,9-14

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, 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

This passage from Isaiah continues the reflection on fasting: what kind of fasting does God want us to practice? Again we are asked to free people from oppression. An invitation to fast from "the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil" is added, that is, to fast from unjust judgment and slander, practices that are still common today. The text returns to a statement made in the preceding verses, in which we are asked to "offer...food to the hungry," but makes an extraordinary point. According to the current translation, it says, "to offer your food to the hungry." But it would be better to say, "Offer yourself - or your soul - to the hungry." It is not just about sharing food with the hungry, but sharing oneself, one’s own life. The fast that God desires leads us to share our lives with the poor. This choice, which requires a personal commitment, leads to a profound transformation in our very 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, like a spring of water." Love for the poor radically changes our lives and makes us reference points for others, springs of water for the world. Moreover, "you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in." Those who give to the poor make a city that has fallen into ruin liveable; they make it inhabitable again, because they create that community of the "humble and the poor" of which the prophet Zephaniah speaks. The text adds a final invitation regarding the Sabbath, the day of the Lord. Keeping it makes it possible to experience in full what we just heard. There is a profound unity between celebrating the memory of the Lord on His day and loving the poor. Without listening to the Word of God, without remembering his love, we will each be caught up in ourselves and practice our religion on the outside, without a centre or a heart. During the time of Lent the Lord invites us to live with him and to remember his love, so that we can fast from ourselves and give ourselves to others, starting with the poor.

Sunday Vigil