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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

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Acts 5,17-26

Then the high priest intervened with all his supporters from the party of the Sadducees. Filled with jealousy, they arrested the apostles and had them put in the public gaol. But at night the angel of the Lord opened the prison gates and said as he led them out, 'Go and take up position in the Temple, and tell the people all about this new Life.' They did as they were told; they went into the Temple at dawn and began to preach. When the high priest arrived, he and his supporters convened the Sanhedrin -- this was the full Senate of Israel -- and sent to the gaol for them to be brought. But when the officials arrived at the prison they found they were not inside, so they went back and reported, 'We found the gaol securely locked and the warders on duty at the gates, but when we unlocked the door we found no one inside.' When the captain of the Temple and the chief priests heard this news they wondered what could be happening. Then a man arrived with fresh news. 'Look!' he said, 'the men you imprisoned are in the Temple. They are standing there preaching to the people.' The captain went with his men and fetched them -- though not by force, for they were afraid that the people might stone them.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This passage from Acts reports two scenes, the first regarding the arrest and miraculous liberation of the apostles and the second their subsequent arrest. The text begins by noting that the high priest and the Sadducees ordered the arrest of the apostles because of their jealously at the success they found among the people. The author speaks of "jealousy" of the leaders of Israel. We all know the damage caused by jealousy, which is the most diabolical of bad feelings. In the book of Wisdom it says that death entered the world through the jealousy of the devil. And through jealousy the apostles were put into prison. The preaching of the Word of God continued to work miracles, and the Christian community continued to grow in esteem among the people. But not in the eyes of the priests and Sadducees, in particular. We know that the Christian community always suffers the same fate as Jesus. But the Lord does not abandon his disciples in prison. And in the night an angel miraculously comes down to free them from prison. And he orders them to go back to the temple to preach to the people. We could say that it was no longer possible to keep the Word of God in chains. The different Herods who each in turn will try to silence the Gospel will be defeated. Even in the last century we witnessed the tragedies caused by totalitarian regimes that had decided to silence the Gospel, imprisoning and killing its witnesses. And in our days, at the beginning of this new millennium, the persecution of Christians seems to be growing stronger. There is a mystery in the persecution of Christians. Why do people attack them? What harm do they do? In truth, Christians who are meek and humble and who have no special claims to make represent a radical objection to the violence of evil. Sooner or later, the meekness of the Gospel will break every chain of violence. Consequently, evil cannot stand this meekness and tries in every way to uproot it from the face of the earth. Christian meekness is not aimed at the elimination of those who persecute it. Rather, a prayer for enemies and those who persecute them rises from the mouths of believers even when they are in chains. Unfortunately, the next story shows the perverse persistence of evil, which, through its foolish servants, continues to imprison the apostles.

Memory of the Saints and the Prophets