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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

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Ezra 10,1-17

While Ezra, weeping and prostrating himself in front of the Temple of God, was praying and making confession, a very large crowd of men, women and children of Israel gathered round him, the people weeping bitterly.

Then Shechaniah son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, spoke up and said to Ezra, 'We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the people of the country. But, in spite of this, there is still some hope for Israel.

We will make a covenant with our God to send away all the foreign wives and their children in obedience to the advice of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God. Let us act in accordance with the Law.

Go ahead, do your duty; we support you. Be brave, take action!'

Then Ezra stood up and put the leading priests and Levites and all Israel on oath to do what had been said. They took the oath.

Ezra then left his place in front of the Temple of God and went to the room of Jehohanan son of Eliashib, where he spent the night without eating food or drinking water, because he was still mourning over the exiles' infidelity.

A proclamation was issued throughout Judah and Jerusalem that all the exiles were to assemble in Jerusalem,

and that anyone who failed within three days to answer the summons of the officials and elders was to forfeit all his possessions and himself be excluded from the community of the exiles.

As a result, all the men of Judah and Benjamin assembled in Jerusalem within the three days; it was the twentieth day of the ninth month. All the people sat down in the square in front of the Temple of God, trembling because of the matter in hand and because of the heavy rain.

The priest Ezra then stood up and said to them, 'You have been unfaithful and have married foreign wives, thus adding to Israel's guilt.

So now give thanks to Yahweh, God of your ancestors, and do his will by holding aloof from the people of the country and from foreign wives.'

In ringing tones, the whole assembly answered, 'Yes, our duty is to do as you say.

But there are many people here and it is the rainy season; we cannot stay out in the open; besides, this is not something that can be dealt with in one or two days, since many of us have been unfaithful over this.

Let our officials deputise for the whole community, and all the people in our towns who have married foreign wives can come at stated times, accompanied by elders and judges from each town, until our God's fierce anger over this is turned away from us.'

Only Jonathan son of Asahel and Jahzeiah son of Tikvah, supported by Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite, were opposed to this.

The exiles did as had been proposed. And the priest Ezra selected the family heads of the various families, all of them by name, who began their sittings on the first day of the tenth month to look into the matter.

And by the first day of the first month they had dealt with all the men who had married foreign women.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

In this chapter emerges one of the problems that post-exilic Israel faced: how to conserve its identity in a pluralist and at times adverse world? The text offers two solutions. The first is found in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah: preserving one’s religious and cultural identity necessitates separation from anyone whose identity belongs to another group. The second, instead, is found in Deuteronomy and in other prophetic passages, such as Isaiah 56, which seeks to integrate the foreigner, even if just partially, into the religious community. This is the long-standing question that affects every identity and touches every relationship between people who are different from one another. It must have been difficult for a small group of people to preserve itself within a composite society without imposing some kind of limit to assimilation. This explains Ezra’s choice. He saw in the marriages with foreign women the danger of abandoning the faith to God’s law. We can understand his tears and the request he advances toward his people to send away their wives. His concern is that of a man who makes a choice out of respect and without violence, a choice of a man of faith who is struggling to reconstruct the identity of his people, freeing them from everything that could possibly jeopardize their faith in God. His concern is not out of opposition or out of a desire for separation. It does not arise from disdain for those who are different. Rather, this is Ezra’s concern: to remain faithful to the God who once again had showed his love for his people by freeing them from slavery and allowing them to return to their land and rebuild their temple to him.

Memory of the Church

Calendar of the week
Sunday, 15 October
Liturgy of the Sunday
Monday, 16 October
Prayer for peace
Tuesday, 17 October
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
Wednesday, 18 October
Memory of the Apostles
Thursday, 19 October
Memory of the Church
Friday, 20 October
Memory of Jesus crucified
Saturday, 21 October
Sunday Vigil
Sunday, 22 October
Liturgy of the Sunday