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The Everyday Prayer

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

Feast of the Black Christ of Esquipulas in Guatemala, venerated throughout all of Central America.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

1 Samuel 8,4-7.10-22

The elders of Israel all assembled, went back to Samuel at Ramah, and said, 'Look, you are old, and your sons are not following your example. So give us a king to judge us, like the other nations.' Samuel thought that it was wrong of them to say, 'Let us have a king to judge us,' so he prayed to Yahweh. But Yahweh said to Samuel, 'Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you: it is not you they have rejected Everything that Yahweh had said, Samuel then repeated to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, 'This is what the king who is to reign over you will do. He will take your sons and direct them to his chariotry and cavalry, and they will run in front of his chariot. He will use them as leaders of a thousand and leaders of fifty; he will make them plough his fields and gather in his harvest and make his weapons of war and the gear for his chariots. He will take your daughters as perfumers, cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields, your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his officials. He will tithe your crops and vineyards to provide for his courtiers and his officials. He will take the best of your servants, men and women, of your oxen and your donkeys, and make them work for him. He will tithe your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry aloud because of the king you have chosen for yourselves, but on that day Yahweh will not hear you.' The people, however, refused to listen to Samuel. They said, 'No! We are determined to have a king, so that we can be like the other nations, with our own king to rule us and lead us and fight our battles.' Samuel listened to all that the people had to say and repeated it in Yahweh's ear. Yahweh then said to Samuel, 'Do as they ask and give them a king.' Samuel then said to the Israelites, 'Go home, each of you, to his own town.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The eighth chapter occupies a key place in the history of the monarchy in Israel. The very people themselves are the ones who ask for a king. Samuel is old and still in office, but his sons, whom he appointed judges, "did not follow in his ways, but turned aside after gain" (v.3). By their behaviour they betray the principle on which Israel is founded, namely the exercise of fair and equal justice for all. Their corruption rots the very core of Israel’s coexistence. Samuel, for his part, seems not to intervene in any way to correct much less stop them. The situation, not completely corrupted, has become unmanageable. The elders of the people decide to ask for a king, "like other nations" (v. 5). This pains Samuel. The Lord explains it to him: "They have not rejected you, but they have rejected me for being king over them" (v.7). The Lord points out that the whole history of Israel is woven of "abandonments," of pursuits after other gods. And yet the Lord tells Samuel to grant what the elders ask. Though the Lord does not approve of it, he does not stop it. He does, however, ask that Samuel "warn" the Israelites about the consequences of their choice: "Warn them" (v. 9). The warning is very harsh, one of the harshest found in all the Old Testament, summed up by the verb "take." The Israelites must know that the king "will take" taxes by law and confiscation; he "will take" their sons for his military campaigns; he "will take" their daughters and put them into the service of the court (v. 13); he "will take" their fields, vineyards and orchards and give them to his most loyal allies (vv. 14-15). The kings’ greed will then reach the highest level, the level at Ezekiel’s time (34:1-10), when they will be accused of using their power purely for their own gain. Once again the people will be enslaved: "You will be…slaves." Israel, for whom the experience of Exodus and freedom from bondage is still alive, should be "warned" that a monarchy will lead them to relive the ancient condition of slavery. And when Israel "will cry out" to God to lament their situation, God "will not answer" (v. 18). With the request for a king the very heart of the covenant of absolute and unique fidelity that binds the Lord to Israel is broken. Samuel tries in vain to persuade the people not to ask for a king. The thirst for independence from God seems to prevail among the people of Israel who prefer to mimic the mentality of the other nations. Wanting to lead his people with love and not rule over them with tyranny, the Lord allows Israel their freedom, but warns them that autonomy arises from pride and leads to ruin. Fortunately, however, God’s love is stronger than our betrayal. But we should not play with the heart, neither with ours, nor with God’s.

Memory of Jesus crucified

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