Memory of the Mother of the Lord

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Memory of Gigi, a child from Naples who was violently killed. With him we remember all the children who suffer and who die because of human violence. Prayer for all children.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Nehemiah 3,33-4,17

When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became furiously angry.

He ridiculed the Jews and in front of his kinsmen and the aristocracy of Samaria he exclaimed, 'What are these pathetic Jews doing . . . ? Are they going to give up? Or offer sacrifices? Or complete the work in a day? Can they put new life into stones taken from rubbish heaps and even charred?'

And beside him Tobiah of Ammon remarked, 'If a jackal were to jump on what they are building, it would knock their stone wall down!'

Listen, our God, for we are despised! Make their sneers fall back on their own heads! Send them as booty to a land of captivity!

Do not pardon their wickedness, may their sin never be erased before you, for they have insulted the builders to their face!

Meanwhile we were rebuilding the wall, which was soon joined up all the way round to mid-height; the people put their hearts into the work.

When Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that repairs to the walls of Jerusalem were going forward -- that the gaps were beginning to fill up -- they became very angry,

and they all plotted to come and attack Jerusalem and upset my plans.

We, however, prayed to our God and organised a guard day and night to protect the city from them.

But in Judah the saying went, 'The strength of the carrier falters, the rubbish heap is so vast that by ourselves we cannot rebuild the wall!'

And our opponents said, 'They will never know or see a thing, until we are in there among them, and then we shall massacre them and put a stop to the work.'

Now when the Jews who lived near them had warned us ten times over, 'They are coming up against us from every place they live in,'

men took up position in the space behind the wall at those points where it was lowest, and I organised the people by families with their swords, spears and bows.

Aware of their anxiety, I then addressed the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, 'Do not be afraid of them. Remember the great and awe-inspiring Lord and fight for your kinsmen, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your homes.'

Once our enemies heard that we were forewarned and that God had thwarted their plan, they withdrew and we all went back to the wall, each one to his work.

From then on, half my own retainers went on working, while the other half stood by, armed with spears, shields, bows and armour to protect the whole House of Judah as they rebuilt the wall.

The carriers were armed, working with one hand and holding a spear in the other.

Each builder had his sword strapped to his side as he built. Beside me stood a trumpeter.

I then said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, 'The work is great and widely spread out, and we are deployed along the wall some way from one another.

Rally to us wherever you hear the trumpet sounding; our God will fight for us.'

And so we went on with the work from break of day until the stars came out.

At the same time I also told the people, 'Let every man, with his attendant, spend the night inside Jerusalem; we shall spend the night on guard and the day at work.'

Neither I, nor my brothers, nor my attendants, nor my bodyguards, ever took off our clothes; each one kept his spear in his right hand.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The rebuilding of the city walls again meets with strong opposition. How many obstacles to Nehemiah’s attempt at unity and living together in Jerusalem! There seems to emerge an envy toward those who seek the means to live together peacefully in a way that unites one single community of diverse people. But Nehemiah does not lose heart, even if his response perhaps clashes with our sensitivity, due to the language he uses and his recourse to armed defence. Nehemiah’s first response is prayer. In just two verses (vv. 36-37), we have a concentrate of quotes from several psalms, which is almost surprising. And yet the power of prayer lies also in the repetition of the prayers composed by others before us. The Bible is full of prayers that take up others that are older. Men and women who have preceded us suggest to us the words with which to turn to the Lord. Is it not always thus when we open the Bible to make it the book of our own prayer? The Psalms is the book of prayer that Jews and Christians have not stopped using. The same persons take up and use ancient prayers. For example, in the Magnificat, Mary takes up Hannah’s canticle found in 1 Sam 2 and others of the First testament. Nehemiah’s response quotes supplication psalms, especially in the sections that call for the destruction of enemies (Pss 35; 58; 59; 69; 109; 137). They are words that express an act of faith in a God who can radically change the lot of his people contrary to anything that could be expected. In them appears the mark of the power and efficacy of prayer: "Turn their taunt back on their own heads, and give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover (that is, do not forgive) their guilt, and do not let their sin be blotted out from your sight..." And when it is asked: "Do not cover their guilt, and do not let their sin be blotted out from your sight," a quote from Jeremiah is being repeated. The believer knows that God will not abandon him or her to the hands of his or her enemies. This is why one dares to turn to God with ancient words that manifest trust and certainty of victory over those who plot evil, always lurking around the life of believers.