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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

1 Kings 17,7-16

But after a while the stream dried up, for the country had had no rain. And then the word of Yahweh came to him, 'Up and go to Zarephath in Sidonia, and stay there. I have ordered a widow there to give you food.' So he went off to Sidon. And when he reached the city gate, there was a widow gathering sticks. Addressing her he said, 'Please bring a little water in a pitcher for me to drink.' She was on her way to fetch it when he called after her. 'Please', he said, 'bring me a scrap of bread in your hand.' 'As Yahweh your God lives,' she replied, 'I have no baked bread, but only a handful of meal in a jar and a little oil in a jug; I am just gathering a stick or two to go and prepare this for myself and my son to eat, and then we shall die.' But Elijah said to her, 'Do not be afraid, go and do as you have said; but first make a little scone of it for me and bring it to me, and then make some for yourself and for your son. For Yahweh, God of Israel, says this: Jar of meal shall not be spent, jug of oil shall not be emptied, before the day when Yahweh sends rain on the face of the earth.' The woman went and did as Elijah told her and they ate the food, she, himself and her son. The jar of meal was not spent nor the jug of oil emptied, just as Yahweh had foretold through Elijah.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

After the stream where Elijah took water went dry, the Lord said to him: "Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you" (v.9). In Zarephath—a territory that was known to believe in Baal—there was water but no food. Elijah did as the Word of God ordered him and went to Zarephath. At the door to the city he encountered a widow and asked her for help. Perhaps Elijah doubted that a poor widow could help him; in fact, at first he asked her only for something to drink, and while she went to get water, he asked her for a piece of bread as well. The widow responded, showing her total poverty, making the words of the Lord even more incomprehensible: "I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug." Nothing really. And she added: "I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die." At this point the prophet could have distanced himself from her: how could he take the only bread from a poor widow and an orphan? But Elijah believes in the Word of the Lord. He knows, and is certain, that the Lord does not abandon him because it is a firm tradition of the Israelites’ faith, that the Lord will always protect orphans and widows. For this reason he comforts her: "Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said." Yes, "do not be afraid!" "do not fear!" The Lord repeats these words to us today when we allow ourselves to be taken by resignation in the face of calamity, tragedy or other situations that seem to escape us. Certainly, it was normal for that widow to resign herself before a destiny which seemed inevitable. What could she do, being so poor? But she did not hold back and she was rewarded. Resignation is overcome when we begin to think of others before thinking of ourselves, exactly as the widow did. She is encouraged by the prophet to prepare bread for him before she prepares it for herself and her own son: "Go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it (flour) and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son." Two faiths encounter each other, Elijah’s and the widow’s. The miracle is born from faith. They both trust: Elijah trusts the Word of God and the widow trusts Elijah’s words. This is the miracle that happens each time the Word of God is preached and listened to. We could see in this image the history of Christian preaching: through it so many miracles of the multiplication of love and fraternity have happened and continue to happen. If resignation provokes famine, faith awakens miracles. This poor widow and Elijah show us that listening to the Word of God turns our hearts into sources of love that know no limits of time or space. The passage concludes: "The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah."

Memory of the Mother of the Lord