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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Memory of the prophet Isaiah. Memory of Athenagoras (1886-1972), patriarch of Constantinople and father of ecumenical dialogue.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Judith 2,1-13

In the eighteenth year, on the twenty-second day of the first month, a rumour ran through the palace that Nebuchadnezzar king of the Assyrians was to have his revenge on all the countries, as he had threatened.

Summoning his general staff and senior officers, he held a secret conference with them, and with his own lips pronounced utter destruction on the entire area.

It was then decreed that everyone should be put to death who had not answered the king's appeal.

When the council was over, Nebuchadnezzar king of the Assyrians sent for Holofernes, general-in-chief of his armies and subordinate only to himself. He said to him,

'Thus speaks the Great King, lord of the whole world, "Go; take men of proven valour, about a hundred and twenty thousand foot soldiers and a strong company of horse with twelve thousand cavalrymen;

then advance against all the western lands, since these people have disregarded my call.

Bid them have earth and water ready, because in my rage I am about to march on them; the feet of my soldiers will cover the whole face of the earth, and I shall plunder it.

Their wounded will fill the valleys and the torrents, and rivers, blocked with their dead, will overflow.

I shall lead them captive to the ends of the earth.

Now go! Begin by conquering this whole region for me. If they surrender to you, hold them for me until the time comes to punish them.

But if they resist, look on no one with clemency, hand them over to slaughter and plunder throughout the territory entrusted to you.

For by my life and by the living power of my kingdom I have spoken. All this I shall do by my power.

And you, neglect none of your master's commands, act strictly according to my orders without further delay." '


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

In this passage the mystery of the struggle between God and the powers of evil becomes clearer. This struggle is a central aspect of our story, both past and present. The chapter begins with a date: "In the eighteenth year, on the twenty-second day of the first month..." (2:1) Nebuchadnezzar announces his project and sets in motion his plan to conquer all of the earth. It is precisely in that year, 587, that Nebuchadnezzar destroys Jerusalem and the Temple. However, according to the sacred author, it is in that same year that Nebuchadnezzar destroys the temple that God’s people claim victory. We could say that the author anticipates what will happen in Jesus’ death on the cross: that in actuality, defeat is victory. In the struggle between God and evil, victory always belongs to God, even though it may actually seem like defeat. For, what may appear to be defeat is actually victory. Accepting this logic may seem impossible, but it is God’s logic. This vision as the Book of Judith presents it, could give rise to a kind of Manichaeism. Evil seems to have the power to destroy even God’s work. Often in the psalms we see this belief that evil has received every power, even the power over good. Scriptures, however, warn us that God’s victory does not result from impeding or paralysing evil’s power. Evil can operate, but not to the point of destroying God’s fidelity. The celebration of Easter reminds us of the strength of salvation that the Lord is for his people. God saved his people from bondage in Egypt. This is the paradigm of salvation that will manifest fully in Jesus: precisely while he was being crucified, Jesus was defeating the law of pride and self-love, the roots of evil on earth. The people of the east, overthrown by Nebuchadnezzar, now join him to embark on a campaign against the peoples of the western country. And Nebuchadnezzar calls upon his officers and army chiefs to reveal his plan. Nebuchadnezzar’s language has the same absoluteness as God’s word, the finality of an oracle. It parallels the language of the prophets of Israel: "Thus says the Great King, the lord of the whole earth." He does not acknowledge any inefficacy. What he says must be done. Nebuchadnezzar’s speech seems to imitate God’s as he orders Holofernes to wage war for his absolute power. Holofernes conquers the riches of the earth, not for himself, but for Nebuchadnezzar. Many people believe that they are freeing themselves from God’s authority and that they are affirming their liberty by emancipating themselves from God. However, they inevitably end up falling under the dominion of evil. We are never autonomous: we are either children of God or of evil. And the work of evil is none other than total destruction and universal ruin. Freely submitting themselves to Holofernes, the people become his servants. But Nebuchadnezzar will not be satisfied as long as there is a people or even just one soul that will not recognize his absolute sovereignty. If only one believer, one small community, denies his/her obedience to him, then evil will not fully meet its goal. For this reason, once the nations have been destroyed, Nebuchadnezzar and Holofernes direct their wrath toward the small kingdom of Judea. God and evil eliminate each other: if God is present, then evil is routed out. But as long as God remains hidden in secret, then evil will appear to reign and will not tolerate even a shadow standing in opposition to its empire. Though at this moment evil seems poised on victory, it will not be victorious as long as the kingdom of Judea resists and remains faithful to God, as long as a small community listens to the Lord and lives according to his Word. That small community will save the city and the world.

Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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