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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 21,17-29

Then the word of Yahweh came to Elijah the Tishbite, 'Up! Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, in Samaria. You will find him in Naboth's vineyard; he has gone down to take possession of it. You are to say this to him, "Yahweh says this: You have committed murder and now you usurp as well. For this -- and Yahweh says this -- in the place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth, the dogs will lick your blood too." ' Ahab said to Elijah, 'So you have caught me, O my enemy!' Elijah answered, 'I have caught you! For your double dealing, and since you have done what is displeasing to Yahweh, I shall now bring disaster down on you; I shall sweep away your descendants and wipe out every manjack of the House of Ahab, fettered or free in Israel. I shall treat your House as I treated the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat and of Baasha son of Ahijah, for provoking my anger and leading Israel into sin. (Against Jezebel too Yahweh spoke these words, "The dogs will eat Jezebel in the Field of Jezreel.") Those of Ahab's family who die in the city, the dogs will eat; and those who die in the open country, the birds of the air will eat.' And indeed there never was anyone like Ahab for double dealing and for doing what is displeasing to Yahweh, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the most abominable way, adhering to idols, just as the Amorites had, whom Yahweh had dispossessed for the Israelites. When Ahab heard these words, he tore his garments and put sackcloth next to his skin and fasted; he slept in the sackcloth; he walked with slow steps. Then the word of Yahweh came to Elijah the Tishbite, 'Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Since he has humbled himself before me, I shall not bring the disaster in his days; I shall bring the disaster down on his House in his son's days.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

After Naboth’s murder, Jezebel calls on the king to take possession of the vineyard. "He is now in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession." What stands out here is the cruel injustice - fruit of the desire to possess -which is hidden in every person’s heart. Here the cruellest limit is reached. But the logic of "eliminating" whoever hinders our journey, or whoever can stop our achievements, is deeply rooted in the heart of each of us. From this thirst to possess, injustice and oppression of the weakest and poorest are unleashed. It is not by chance that one of the most revealing aspects of biblical prophecy is the struggle for justice. The prophets, "men of God," know well that their religious mission includes denouncing injustice and abuse. The inequality among people, above all among those who widen in an unbearable way the chasm separating people, is not merely a social issue. God himself is offended when men and women are oppressed; they are all God’s children; no one is excluded. In this context the prophetic word becomes demanding and severe: "Ah, you who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is room for no one but you, and you are left to live alone in the midst of the land!" Isaiah shouts out (5:8). And the prophet Micah: "Alas for those who devise wickedness and evil deeds on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in their power. They covet fields, and seize them; houses, and take them away; they oppress householder and house, people and their inheritance" (Mi 2:1-2). The prophet Amos fights injustice for almost his entire life. But from now the Lord speaks clearly. Elijah is called by the Lord as soon as Ahab goes to the vineyard. "Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel... he is now in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession." The clash between Elijah and Ahab is hard, the prophet does not back down. The Word of God—even in this case—is like a double-edged sword that penetrates deeply. It is sent so that people can become aware of the evil and injustice which has taken place. At the same time, however, it is a medicine that helps heal hearts from evil and brings them closer to the law of the Lord. The Word of God accomplishes its purpose so that everyone returns to God with a contrite heart. Ahab allows his heart to be touched by the prophet’s words: "When Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth over his bare flesh; he fasted, lay in the sackcloth, and went about dejectedly." When the Lord sees Ahab’s contrition he sends Elijah again to announce forgiveness. Thus the disappearance of Ahab’s dynasty is delayed—it will not happen during his life but during his son’s life. Ahab’s dynasty, like that of Jeroboam, son of Nebat, and that of Baasha, son of Ahijah, is condemned to destruction, because of the continuous betrayals. In effect, the reign of the north changes its dynasty eight times, whereas Judah, the kingdom of the south, the Davidic dynasty holds forever.

Memory of the Mother of the Lord