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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

Whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

2 Chronicles 24,17-25

After Jehoiada's death the officials of Judah came to pay court to the king, and the king listened to their advice, and they abandoned the Temple of Yahweh, God of their ancestors, for the worship of sacred poles and idols. Judah and Jerusalem incurred wrath because of this guilt of theirs. He sent their prophets to lead them back to Yahweh; these put the case against them, but they would not listen. The spirit of God then invested Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood up before the people and said, 'God says this, "Why transgress Yahweh's commands to your certain ruin? For if you abandon Yahweh, he will abandon you." They then plotted against him and, at the king's order, stoned him in the court of the Temple of Yahweh. Thus King Joash, forgetful of the devotion which Jehoiada father of Zechariah had displayed on his behalf, murdered his son, who cried out as he died, 'Yahweh will see this and avenge it!' At the turn of the year, the Aramaean army made war on Joash. When they reached Judah and Jerusalem, they massacred all the nation's government officials and sent all their booty to the king of Damascus. Although the invading Aramaean army was only a small body of men, Yahweh allowed them to defeat a very large army because they had abandoned Yahweh, God of their ancestors; thus they executed judgement on Joash. After they had retired -- for they left him seriously wounded- his own retainers plotted against him to avenge the blood of the son of Jehoiada the priest and murdered him in his bed. When he died he was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

If you believe, you will see the glory of God,
thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The long chapter 24 begins by affirming Joash’s good government. He was a boy of 7 when ascended the throne and governed for 40 years. Following his spiritual teacher, the high priest Jehoiada, the king governed with wisdom. But with the death of the high priest and without a spiritual guide, the king did not follow the ways of the Lord anymore. The chronicler notes that at the beginning, "Joash did what was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of the priest Jehoiada" (v. 2). It is not difficult to hear in these words, the opportunity—or better the necessity—of having help to follow the will of God and not to succumb to our own will. In these pages of Scripture we already find the tradition of having a "spiritual father" which helps us escape the egocentric spiral. The chronicler is pleased to describe that Joash’s action to restore the temple is in accord with Jehoida. Both were authoritative figures for the people. The temple needed to be restored since it was in such a horrible state, left so by the impious Athalia and her followers, who had profaned the Lord’s house by using sacred objects for worshipping foreign idols. Everyone had to participate, as Moses had established (Ex 30:12-16); therefore Joash established that the entire people should go to Jerusalem and put money into a specific chest, thus showing the common will of returning splendour to the place of God’s presence. The entire community had to be interested in the temple and therefore in the preservation of the alliance with the Lord. As it happened in the temple of David (1Chr 29:9), even now the entire community rejoiced in bringing their offerings to the Lord (2 Chr 34:10). The people replied generously as they had done in the past as in the case of the tent in the desert (Ex 36:4-7). Every day when the chest was full, it was emptied and put back. For this delicate operation a series of formal procedures had to be followed. Those charged with this job brought the chest to be supervised by the king through his secretary, and the high priest through his unnamed delegate. The two anointed persons—the king and the high priest—shared the responsibility of supervising. There is an extraordinary similarity between the works required for the building of the Temple under David and Salomon and those for its restoration. The Temple was brought back to its initial state. Praise for the priest Jehoiada tells of his authority with the king and the people. The Lord gives him more years of life than to Aaron (123 years old, Num 33:39), to Moses (120 years, Det 34:7) and to Joshua (110 years, Joshua 24:29). Two things are recalled about him: that he guided the "true Israel" in purifying the covenant with the Lord, and promoted the restoration of the temple. He was buried in the tomb of the kings. Unfortunately, without help anymore from Jehoida, Joash and the people: " ... abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and served the sacred poles and the idols" (v. 18). The Lord sent prophets among them so that they could see "but they were not heard" (v. 19). This is an often repeated story. Self-sufficiency fogs the mind and blinds the heart. We don’t listen anymore to the words of authority and we distance ourselves from God. But the Lord does not resign himself to our deafness; he sends a voice that is even louder—in this case the prophet Zechariah—who clearly warns the people with even stronger clarity. But they stoned him in the Temple. Here already we can see the story of Jesus and also the story of all those martyrs who paid for their evangelical witness with blood. The prophet’s murder—the violent rejection of God’s word—puts the people of Judah in the hands of the enemy. "Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has also forsaken you" (v. 20). The army of Aram penetrates the territory of Judah all the way to Jerusalem. And those principles that had badly counselled the king are the first to fall. But the disaster also involves the great army of Judah: because of the people’s disobedience, it is left at the mercy of a few enemy soldiers.

Sunday Vigil