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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

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

James 4,1-10

Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Is it not precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves? You want something and you lack it; so you kill. You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force. It is because you do not pray that you do not receive; when you do pray and do not receive, it is because you prayed wrongly, wanting to indulge your passions. Adulterers! Do you not realise that love for the world is hatred for God? Anyone who chooses the world for a friend is constituted an enemy of God. Can you not see the point of the saying in scripture, 'The longing of the spirit he sent to dwell in us is a jealous longing.'? But he has given us an even greater grace, as scripture says: God opposes the proud but he accords his favour to the humble. Give in to God, then; resist the devil, and he will run away from you. The nearer you go to God, the nearer God will come to you. Clean your hands, you sinners, and clear your minds, you waverers. Appreciate your wretchedness, and weep for it in misery. Your laughter must be turned to grief, your happiness to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

James’ words become strong when he sees that believers are too taken by selfish desires which lead to the tearing apart the communion with God and among the brothers and sisters. How easy it is to bring the mentality of the world into the Christian community—the logic of division, of opposition, bending others to our own interests and ceasing to love and defend unity. As a result, the community ends up sterile, living for itself and taken with internal problems. With hyperbolic language James shows the ugly fruits caused by false wisdom. The greed of possessing, in fact, leads to killing even, and envy drives people to combat each other. Even prayer is affected and its strength taken away: "You do not have because you do not ask; you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly." James notes that those who let themselves be guided by the spirit of this world distances themselves from God to the point of hating Him and commits actual adultery. The love of the Lord is, in fact, the kind that must be taken to the very end, as repeated many times in Scripture: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Mt 22: 37). This commandment is the response to the love of God who was the first to love us, and for this reason, is marked by a deep "jealousy." Yes, God vigils over the pact of love which he made with every believer and asks accountability for every time it is broken. God knows our weakness and our misery, but does not despise them; rather, God lowers himself toward us with love to makes us stronger with his very strength. And if God "resists the superb" it is rather the proud ones who "resist" God, not letting Him love or help them. The poor and weak instead, seduce God with their weakness to the point of driving God to lower himself toward them. Jesus teaches us how to be before God and before men and women: "Learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart" (Mt 11:29). Submitting to God who loves us to the point of giving us his son is the sure way for a disciple to reach salvation. But it is not possible to say "yes" to God if at the same we do not also say "no" to Satan. No one can avoid this choice. Even Jesus says, "No one can serve two masters" (Mt 6:24). And it is true that God is enough for the believer, because as Paul affirms to the Romans: "What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?" (Rm 8: 31). Not only will we win, but we will also watch Satan "fall from heaven" (Lk 10:18). To humble oneself before the Lord means recognizing one’s own misery, one’s sin: "Lament and mourn and weep," James writes. Those who have this spirit know how to get close to the Lord; and as they get close to Him they discover that in truth the Lord has already come close to him in order to touch their hearts and save them. To recognize our debt of recognition before the Lord is to recognize the debt of love that we must have toward our brothers and sisters. James puts libel, fighting, judgment, defamation, slander on guard because all of these come from a distance from God, and often from us wanting to take His place or be the centre of the scene. We know how easy it is to pass judgment, even just looking for the beam in the eyes of the other. James says with clarity – to those who fall into this superb and hateful attitude: "So who, then, are you to judge your neighbour?" And he reminds us that the love of God and neighbour is the essence of the law and the way of salvation. We are free to love always, to be free from the prison on judgment that poisons the heart, renders us incapable of loving the other, deforms others and distances them.

Memory of the Mother of the Lord