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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

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Numbers 21,4-9

They left Mount Hor by the road to the Sea of Suph, to skirt round Edom. On the way the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, 'Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in the desert? For there is neither food nor water here; we are sick of this meagre diet.' At this, God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel. The people came and said to Moses, 'We have sinned by speaking against Yahweh and against you. Intercede for us with Yahweh to save us from these serpents.' Moses interceded for the people, and Yahweh replied, 'Make a fiery serpent and raise it as a standard. Anyone who is bitten and looks at it will survive.' Moses then made a serpent out of bronze and raised it as a standard, and anyone who was bitten by a serpent and looked at the bronze serpent survived.


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

This passage of the book of Numbers reports one of the most critical moments of the journey of the people of Israel in the desert. Brought low by fatigue, the Israelites vent all of their displeasure to God and Moses. They even regret the fact they were taken out of slavery in Egypt: "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food" (v.5). Regret for the past arises when dreams fade, when we give up the vision and the project in which God has called us to participate. And then we retreat into ourselves and allow ourselves to be dominated by pettiness, resignation, and nostalgia for the past, and our complaints take precedence over everything and everyone. That is when poisonous snakes appear and start biting and killing people. It is not God who sends snakes; we are the ones who spread poison in the fields of life and sometimes given kill with our tongues, which become like the tongues of snakes. How often do we end up destroying each other with our words, whether as individuals or between factions and nations, and are unable to even engage in dialogue. The awareness of their sin leads the Israelites to turn to Moses and ask him to intercede for them with the Lord. And the Lord once again intervenes. He had them build a bronze serpent and set it up in the ground, so that whoever looked at it after having been bitten, would be saved. The desert that had become a place of death because of the poison that human beings spread there was transformed into a place of salvation because of the serpent raised on the pole. Listening to the final words of this biblical passage, we are directly reminded of the Cross, which in just a few days will be planted on Golgotha and which we are invited to contemplate and to welcome in our hearts. During this season of Lent, the Biblical passages that accompany us day after day are an effective aid in purifying our eyes so we can turn them towards "the one who was pierced for our salvation."

Memory of the Mother of the Lord