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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

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Matthew 23,1-12

Then addressing the crowds and his disciples Jesus said, 'The scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses. You must therefore do and observe what they tell you; but do not be guided by what they do, since they do not practise what they preach. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people's shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they! Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader headbands and longer tassels, like wanting to take the place of honour at banquets and the front seats in the synagogues, being greeted respectfully in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi. 'You, however, must not allow yourselves to be called Rabbi, since you have only one Master, and you are all brothers. You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor must you allow yourselves to be called teachers, for you have only one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Anyone who raises himself up will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be raised up.


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Jesus is in the temple. In his last address to the crowds, Jesus speaks out violently against the “scribes and Pharisees.” They are not the true shepherds of the people of the Lord. But rather than directly attacking their doctrine – which he says is correct and should be maintained – Jesus lashes out against their behaviour, which is remote from the true tradition and displays a cold and empty religiosity, made up entirely of exterior practices. They widen their phylacteries – small boxes containing rolls of parchment containing biblical passages, which are tied to the left arm and the forehead – but they do not act on what they contain. The origin of the phylactery is evocative: the Word of God was to be remembered (forehead) and put into practice (arm). But it was just an exterior practice to the Pharisees. Jesus also says that they “lengthen their fringes”, that is, the braids of fabric fitted with a purple and blue string attached to the four corners of the outer garment. Jesus himself wore them. But ostentatious display destroys the inner meaning of these signs. A similar analysis could be made of their vice of seeking the places of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues. Finally, Jesus takes issue with the “academic’ and official titles that scribes and priests demanded from the people and their disciples. Among those, he emphasizes the most well-known, “rabbi”, or, “my teacher.” Even in this case Jesus does not reject the mission of teaching; rather he emphasizes the uniqueness of God’s Word. All believers are subject to it and should welcome it with faith, communicate it, and live it, always and everywhere. This is the origin of God’s fatherhood over our lives. The Gospel, and not our words or plans, should have authority over our lives. The temptation to accommodate the Gospel to our traditions and those of the world is ever present. Jesus condemned this temptation, and he asks us to do the same. We will discover that true joy and true greatness lie in being servants to the Word of God, that is, listening to it and communicating it to those we meet.

Memory of the Mother of the Lord

Calendar of the week
Sunday, 21 January
Liturgy of the Sunday
Monday, 22 January
Memory of the Poor
Tuesday, 23 January
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
Wednesday, 24 January
Memory of the Saints and the Prophets
Thursday, 25 January
Memory of the Apostles
Friday, 26 January
Memory of Jesus crucified
Saturday, 27 January
Sunday Vigil
Sunday, 28 January
Liturgy of the Sunday