Memory of the Church

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Memory of the dedication of the Roman basilicas of Saint Peter’s in the Vatican and Saint Paul’s outside the walls.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Revelation 18,9-20

'There will be mourning and weeping for her by the kings of the earth who have prostituted themselves with her and held orgies with her. They see the smoke as she burns,

while they keep at a safe distance through fear of her anguish. They will say: Mourn, mourn for this great city, Babylon, so powerful a city, in one short hour your doom has come upon you.

'There will be weeping and distress over her among all the traders of the earth when no one is left to buy their cargoes of goods;

their stocks of gold and silver, jewels and pearls, linen and purple and silks and scarlet; all the sandalwood, every piece in ivory or fine wood, in bronze or iron or marble;

the cinnamon and spices, the myrrh and ointment and incense; wine, oil, flour and corn; their stocks of cattle, sheep, horses and chariots, their slaves and their human cargo.

'All the fruits you had set your hearts on have failed you; gone for ever, never to return again, is your life of magnificence and ease.

'The traders who had made a fortune out of her will be standing at a safe distance through fear of her anguish, mourning and weeping.

They will be saying: Mourn, mourn for this great city; for all the linen and purple and scarlet that you wore, for all your finery of gold and jewels and pearls;

your huge riches are all destroyed within a single hour.' All the captains and seafaring men, sailors and all those who make a living from the sea kept a safe distance,

watching the smoke as she burned, and crying out, 'Has there ever been a city as great as this!'

They threw dust on their heads and said, with tears and groans: 'Mourn, mourn for this great city whose lavish living has made a fortune for every owner of a sea-going ship, ruined within a single hour.

'Now heaven, celebrate her downfall, and all you saints, apostles and prophets: God has given judgement for you against her.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

In order to give Christians a reason to hope and trust, the author of Revelation describes the collapse of Babylon, the world superpower responsible for the persecution of Christians. Despite the apparent stability of the Roman Empire, John knows that everything is in the hands of God, and even the Roman Empire is subject to Him. And every power that is not founded on God and his laws but on its own arrogance and interests will see its ruin. This is what happened to Rome, but also, we could add, this is what happened to those ideologies that tried to build models of humanism far from God in the last century. John describes the fall of Rome through the words of those who had contributed to and benefited from the splendour of the city and who let themselves be contaminated by its vices. There are three categories of people: kings, merchants, and shipmasters, basically the political and economic powers whose origin, source of nourishment, and outlet was found in the great metropolises. The kings represent the power of the state, which imitates the unfaithfulness and idolatry of Babylon in all it does. The merchants are the great wholesalers who possess entire fleets to transport their cargo, the embodiment of what today could be compared to the great multinationals. The shipmasters and sailors represent the ministers of the numerous public services. The first lamentation (v. 9-10) is pronounced by the assembly of the potentates of the earth who see their own fate in the smoking ruins of Babylon. They begin with a double "Alas" and end with a note of bitter amazement at such a sudden fall: the Babylonian superpower collapsed like a house of cards in the space of "one hour." The psalmist had already meditated on this fact, "Surely everyone goes about like a shadow. Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; they heap up, and do not know who will gather" (Ps 39:6-7). The second lamentation over Babylon (v. 11-17a) is pronounced by the executives of the great commercial enterprises that revolved around the empire, the primary axis of their existence. The long list of wares (v. 12-13) consists above all of the luxury goods that Rome imported from across the empire and from the most remote of regions. The third and final lamentation is pronounced by the sailors (v. 17b-19). It too opens with the double repetition of "Alas" and it ends with the sad discovery: "In one hour she has been laid waste" (v. 19). In the end, an external voice enters the scene and speaks to the just and the victims of the oppressive power: they watch the divine judgment with joy because for them a nightmare is ending and a new horizon of light and peace is beginning (v. 20). By condemning evil, God does justice to good. The judgment of sinners is but one face of a coin whose other side bears the glory of the "saints and apostles and prophets" - the men and women of God - and the triumph of truth and justice.