Memory of the Poor

Share On

Memory of the dedication of the basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere where the Community of Sant’Egidio prays every day.

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

Revelation 17,1-7

One of the seven angels that had the seven bowls came to speak to me, and said, 'Come here and I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute who is enthroned beside abundant waters,

with whom all the kings of the earth have prostituted themselves, and who has made all the population of the world drunk with the wine of her adultery.'

He took me in spirit to a desert, and there I saw a woman riding a scarlet beast which had seven heads and ten horns and had blasphemous titles written all over it.

The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet and glittered with gold and jewels and pearls, and she was holding a gold winecup filled with the disgusting filth of her prostitution;

on her forehead was written a name, a cryptic name: 'Babylon the Great, the mother of all the prostitutes and all the filthy practices on the earth.'

I saw that she was drunk, drunk with the blood of the saints, and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus; and when I saw her, I was completely mystified.

The angel said to me, 'Do you not understand? I will tell you the meaning of this woman, and of the beast she is riding, with the seven heads and the ten horns.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The book of Revelation is now approaching its climax, the description of the divine judgment of Evil, incarnated in a woman-metropolis-prostitute called Babylon, which will be followed by the description of the salvation of the just in the city-spouse, the heavenly Jerusalem. One of the angels carries the apostle towards the desert and shows him the "great whore." With the name Babylon, the apostle is making a veiled reference to imperial Rome, the city that persecutes Christians. The biblical prophets commonly referred to the forms of idolatry practiced in great and powerful cities like Tyre, Nineveh, and Babylon as "prostitutes." The Whore is "‘Babylon the great, mother of whores and of earth’s abominations." This name, a sort of satanic mark opposed to the divine seal, is "a mystery," not because it is indecipherable, but because it belongs to the "mystery" of divine judgment and to its transcendent presence in history. Babylon stands for the cities where Christians are still persecuted today and where the poor and the weak are oppressed. There are many cities in today’s world that have sold themselves to the interest and power of the few, and forgotten the justice and mercy they owe to all, especially those who are weakest. Whether in the Church or in another institution, no one today can fail to recognize his or her responsibility towards all these people. Unfortunately, unlike the apostle John, who is amazed that evil has so much power, the risk for us today is to close in on ourselves, in our own little worlds, and become resigned in front of the tragic dominance of Evil. The Whore is seated on the satanic Beast with seven heads and ten horns and covered with blasphemous titles, as if to demonstrate the close link between the pair. The woman is strong with the force of evil: she is clothed in imperial purple and bedecked in jewels like the arrogant prince of Tyre described by Ezekiel (28:13) and, like Babylon, who, according to the words of Jeremiah (51:7), holds a cup full of the dregs of her idolatrous abominations that she gives to her followers to drink in order to drug them. Evil is present in all of its wicked force, but it is also attractive: it is able to gather about itself power (the purple), wealth (the gold), luxury and pleasure (the precious stones and pearls), which are all powerful and seductive forces. John is trying to disturb the reader to keep him from falling asleep in his own pride and resignation and to remind him that the Lord helps his people. After inebriating her followers, the Whore gets drunk herself. But the thing that inebriates her - the wine that clouds her mind - is the blood of Christian martyrs. Upon seeing this conclusion, John is "greatly amazed." On one side he can see the power of evil and its wanton arrogance, but on the other he is reassured by the angel and by the help that the Lord never fails to give the believers of yesterday and today. Even amidst the dramatic "mystery" of evil, the Lord remains the saviour of his children.