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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

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

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

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Isaiah 58,1-9

Shout for all you are worth, do not hold back, raise your voice like a trumpet. To my people proclaim their rebellious acts, to the House of Jacob, their sins. They seek for me day after day, they long to know my ways, like a nation that has acted uprightly and not forsaken the law of its God. They ask me for laws that are upright, they long to be near God: 'Why have we fasted, if you do not see, why mortify ourselves if you never notice?' Look, you seek your own pleasure on your fastdays and you exploit all your workmen; look, the only purpose of your fasting is to quarrel and squabble and strike viciously with your fist. Fasting like yours today will never make your voice heard on high. Is that the sort of fast that pleases me, a day when a person inflicts pain on himself? Hanging your head like a reed, spreading out sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call fasting, a day acceptable to Yahweh? Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me: to break unjust fetters, to undo the thongs of the yoke. to let the oppressed go free, and to break all yokes? Is it not sharing your food with the hungry, and sheltering the homeless poor; if you see someone lacking clothes, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own kin? Then your light will blaze out like the dawn and your wound be quickly healed over. Saving justice will go ahead of you and Yahweh's glory come behind you. Then you will cry for help and Yahweh will answer; you will call and he will say, 'I am here.' If you do away with the yoke, the clenched fist and malicious words,


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

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

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

In the time of Lent we are asked to fast, as we have heard on Ash Wednesday. At the time of the prophet—we are in the last part of the book of Isaiah, that is, right after the Babylonian exile—fasting was a solemn and public act, which involved the whole community. It was in and of itself the expression of a people in search of their God: "Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways." And yet the prophet asks himself whether a fast, an act of repentance and reconciliation with the Lord, is possible without justice, mercy, or love for the poor. It is a question for us all at the beginning of this season. God clearly indicates what kind of fast he desires and is pleasing to him. He does so in two parts. First he explains that a merely exterior fast is not pleasing to him, indeed, it is useless and does not perform its function: it does not reconcile a man or woman with God. Then he shows the kind of fasting he desires. Two series of actions follow, each made up of three commands and a conclusion, which summarizes them. The first three are: "To loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke." These are actions that free people from oppression, slavery, and subjugation. The yoke was a sign of slavery and oppression. The last action summarizes the first three; "to break every yoke," that is: do not oppress anyone, do not use violence against anyone, indeed, work to free the oppressed. Three more actions follow: "To share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them." We are now looking at poor and miserable people, without the means to live, without food, homes, or clothing. The translation of the last sentence is not "do not neglect your relatives," but "do not hide yourself from your own kin." And who are our kin? They are those who were just named, the hungry, the homeless, the naked. They are "those of your flesh, they are our "true kin." This is an extraordinary statement for the Old Testament, one that will become clear in the Gospels, starting with the beautiful passage from Matthew in which Jesus identifies with "my little brothers and sisters," the poor (Mt 25:40). It is through the practice of this kind of fast that we can become light for the world and healed from our wounds, a fast from ourselves, which expresses itself in concern for and solidarity with the poor and oppressed: "Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly."

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