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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

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

1 Kings 21,1-16

This is what happened next: Naboth of Jezreel had a vineyard close by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria, and Ahab said to Naboth, 'Give me your vineyard to be my vegetable garden, since it adjoins my palace; I will give you a better vineyard for it or, if you prefer, I will give you its value in money.' Naboth, however, said to Ahab, 'Yahweh forbid that I should give you my ancestral heritage!' Ahab went home gloomy and out of temper at the words of Naboth of Jezreel, 'I will not give you my heritage from my ancestors.' He lay down on his bed and turned his face away and refused to eat. His wife Jezebel came to him. 'Why are you so dispirited,' she said, 'that you refuse to eat?' He said, 'I have been talking to Naboth of Jezreel. I said, "Give me your vineyard either for money or, if you prefer, for another vineyard in exchange." But he said, "I will not give you my vineyard." ' Then his wife Jezebel said, 'Some king of Israel you make! Get up, eat and take heart; I myself shall get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.' So she wrote a letter in Ahab's name and sealed it with his seal, sending the letter to the elders and notables of the city where Naboth lived. In the letter, she wrote, 'Proclaim a fast, and put Naboth in a prominent place among the people. There confront him with a couple of scoundrels who will accuse him as follows, "You have cursed God and the king." Then take him outside and stone him to death.' The men of Naboth's city, the elders and notables living in his city, did what Jezebel ordered, as was written in the letter which she had sent him. They proclaimed a fast and put Naboth in a prominent place among the people. The two scoundrels then came and confronted him, and the scoundrels then publicly accused Naboth as follows, 'Naboth has cursed God and the king.' He was then taken outside the city and stoned to death. They then sent word to Jezebel, 'Naboth has been stoned to death.' When Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, 'Get up! Take possession of the vineyard which Naboth of Jezreel refused to sell you, for Naboth is no longer alive, he is dead.' When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up to go down to the vineyard of Naboth of Jezreel and take possession of it.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The episode of Naboth’s vineyard and Ahab’s abuse of power recalls similar episodes in Scripture, such as David’s plan to kill Uriah in order to have Bathsheba, or the false testimony of the two elders against Susanna. The thirst to satisfy a desire to possess is a demon that continues to pass through history and manages to create a climate of complicity with incredible ease—complicity, which can even lead to murder. Ahab desired Naboth’s vineyard which was situated next to his palace of Jezreel, a locality which dominated the valley of northern Israel. He wanted to annex it to his palace and transform it into a garden, literally, a "vegetable garden." To transform a vineyard—symbol of the promised land’s fertility and its divine blessing—into a "vegetable garden," demonstrates the king’s foolishness and caprice. Furthermore Naboth’s property was tied to the inheritance of the family and therefore to alienate it was not only something shameful, but something almost sacrilegious. For this reason, Naboth declines the request. Recognizing, Naboth’s religious reasons, the king returned to his palace sad and irritated, but did not make a decision. To resolve the issue Jezebel, a foreign wife without scruples, hatches a plan with cruel attention to kill Naboth and to take the vineyard. Arrogance drives Jezebel to find accomplices to lead an apparently legal process that should lead to Naboth’s death. She starts from the custom of the time which, every time a public calamity happened, called for an assembly of the people to understand and eliminate its causes. The pretext is perhaps the drought which had hit the region. Jezebel prepares everything so that the blame is placed on Naboth. Two false witnesses accuse him of having cursed God and the king (Ex 22:27). He is led outside the city and stoned. The ambition and cynicism of the queen, together with the complicity of the corrupt functionaries as well as the weakness of the entire people who let themselves be convinced, lead to the death of the innocent Naboth. Evil here is strong and nimble: it knows how to weave an insidious net of complicity which leads, in this case, to the death of a righteous person. This is an event which recalls, in an incredible way, what will happen to Jesus, unjustly condemned to death at the end of a false trial. We are all called to not be complicit in the face of evil—not only in an active way. We should not refuse to get involved in situations simply because we want to remain tranquil. How can we be spectators of so much injustice that leads to the deaths of innocents?

Memory of the Poor