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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

Hebrews 11, 17-40

It was by faith that Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He offered to sacrifice his only son even though he had yet to receive what had been promised,

and he had been told: Isaac is the one through whom your name will be carried on.

He was confident that God had the power even to raise the dead; and so, figuratively speaking, he was given back Isaac from the dead.

It was by faith that this same Isaac gave his blessing to Jacob and Esau for the still distant future.

By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, bowed in reverence, as he leant on his staff.

It was by faith that, when he was about to die, Joseph mentioned the Exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions about his own remains.

It was by faith that Moses, when he was born, was kept hidden by his parents for three months; because they saw that he was a fine child; they were not afraid of the royal edict.

It was by faith that, when he was grown up, Moses refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter

and chose to be ill-treated in company with God's people rather than to enjoy the transitory pleasures of sin.

He considered that the humiliations offered to the Anointed were something more precious than all the treasures of Egypt, because he had his eyes fixed on the reward.

It was by faith that he left Egypt without fear of the king's anger; he held to his purpose like someone who could see the Invisible.

It was by faith that he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood to prevent the Destroyer from touching any of their first-born sons.

It was by faith they crossed the Red Sea as easily as dry land, while the Egyptians, trying to do the same, were drowned.

It was through faith that the walls of Jericho fell down when the people had marched round them for seven days.

It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute welcomed the spies and so was not killed with the unbelievers.

What more shall I say? There is not time for me to give an account of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, or of David, Samuel and the prophets.

These were men who through faith conquered kingdoms, did what was upright and earned the promises. They could keep a lion's mouth shut,

put out blazing fires and emerge unscathed from battle. They were weak people who were given strength to be brave in war and drive back foreign invaders.

Some returned to their wives from the dead by resurrection; and others submitted to torture, refusing release so that they would rise again to a better life.

Some had to bear being pilloried and flogged, or even chained up in prison.

They were stoned, or sawn in half, or killed by the sword; they were homeless, and wore only the skins of sheep and goats; they were in want and hardship, and maltreated.

They were too good for the world and they wandered in deserts and mountains and in caves and ravines.

These all won acknowledgement through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised,

since God had made provision for us to have something better, and they were not to reach perfection except with us.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

With the episode of the sacrifice of Isaac, the author of this Letter continues a list of examples of believers. The episode shows Abraham obedient to God, even if he does not understand the profound meaning of the request that has been made to him. Believers are indeed those who entrust themselves to God even if they do not understand, knowing however that they will not be abandoned. Abraham believes that, if God asks of him the sacrifice of Isaac, God will also be able to give him back to him again. In fact – the author notes – “God is able even to raise someone from the dead” (11:19). This faith, so solid, also moved the patriarchs Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. They blessed their children from their deathbeds, assuring them of the promise of God. Also the life of Moses was marked by faith. His parents demonstrated a strong faith; they did not obey Pharaoh and they saved their little child from death. Then Moses, though raised in the Egyptian court, refused to be the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter and to enjoy the comforts of a luxurious life, in order to follow the fate of his people persecuted and reduced into slavery. He chose “the abuse suffered for the Christ” (see 13:13) as the Letter says with a deliberate updating of the Old Testament narrative. This is why Moses confronted Pharaoh, and without fear, led his people out from Egypt. In this story of Moses, Christians are able to rediscover their history. They, too, were threatened with severe punishment by the imperial laws and had to endure injustice and humiliation. But faith allows people to overcome difficulties. It was thus with the Israelites who crossed the sea on dry ground while the Egyptians were drowned. It was also thus when the walls of Jericho fell down and only the prostitute was saved for she had received the spies, whereas all the other inhabitants of the city were swept away. Without a precise chronological or logical order, the author then summarizes the “successes” achieved by faith: heroic enterprises, military victories, political successes and resurrection of the dead. It is an invitation to believers to remember the power of faith which acts in history. Moreover, even Jesus said that faith as small as a seed “can move mountains” (see Mk 11:23). This is why Christians must not be resigned when faced with the violence of evil: faith is stronger. Even when violence befalls them, faith will save them. The author recalls, as in a martyrology, believers who have been persecuted. They accepted death for their faith, for their bond with the Lord. He concludes, “Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, without us, be made perfect” (11:39-40). The promise of an eternal homeland was given to the believers of the old covenant, but no one was able to attain it then. Only Jesus, the high priest and Son of God, has opened access to it for them and for us.

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