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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

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

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Wisdom 2,1.12-22

And this is the false argument they use, 'Our life is short and dreary, there is no remedy when our end comes, no one is known to have come back from Hades. Let us lay traps for the upright man, since he annoys us and opposes our way of life, reproaches us for our sins against the Law, and accuses us of sins against our upbringing. He claims to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord. We see him as a reproof to our way of thinking, the very sight of him weighs our spirits down; for his kind of life is not like other people's, and his ways are quite different. In his opinion we are counterfeit; he avoids our ways as he would filth; he proclaims the final end of the upright as blessed and boasts of having God for his father. Let us see if what he says is true, and test him to see what sort of end he will have. For if the upright man is God's son, God will help him and rescue him from the clutches of his enemies. Let us test him with cruelty and with torture, and thus explore this gentleness of his and put his patience to the test. Let us condemn him to a shameful death since God will rescue him -- or so he claims.' This is the way they reason, but they are misled, since their malice makes them blind. They do not know the hidden things of God, they do not hope for the reward of holiness, they do not believe in a reward for blameless souls.


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

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

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

The passage from the book of Wisdom that we have just heard was composed in the first century before Christ, and it reflects the situation of the "pious Jews," the "righteous" ones who lived in the Diaspora at that time in the midst of pagan sceptics and fellow countrymen who had abandoned their faith and no longer obeyed the law of the Lord. It is a situation in which many Christians live today. The sacred author puts into the mouths of the "wicked" an accusation against the "righteous ones" that reveals the nastiness that often strikes believers and makes their lives more difficult. The dominant culture drove them to argue that man is the result of chance and his end--his death--has no meaning; therefore it is wise to spend life for oneself seeking one’s own satisfaction, interests, and profit. And everything that stands in the way of this should be eliminated, removed by whatever means necessary, even violence. The testimony of the "righteous ones" is a living contradiction of this kind of existence; their mere presence annoys and even becomes unbearable. The Bible describes the growing hatred against the righteous ones: it moves from hidden snares to insults before finally developing into a plan to put them to death in a blasphemous challenge against God himself. It is easy to see here the face of Jesus, the righteous one who suffers and dies because of the wickedness of men subjugated by the spirit of evil. Next to Jesus appear the faces of all those believers who still today - and they are incredibly numerous - are "persecuted for the sake of righteousness" (Mt 5:10). The author of the Letter to Diognetus-- an ancient Christian text written at a time of persecution--writes that Christians "are in the world what the soul is in the body ... The flesh hates the soul and makes war, not because it has been insulted, but only because the soul forbids the body to enjoy its pleasures; the world also hates Christians, who did not do it any wrong, only because they are opposed to its pleasures." In truth, Christians are persecuted because the freely given love that springs from following Jesus prevents the love of self from having free reign. Being "the soul of the world" means that only this kind of love is the breath of life.

Memory of Jesus crucified