Prayer for the sick

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Feast of St. Charles Lwanga who with twelve companions suffered martyrdom in Uganda (1886). Memory of Blessed John XXIII.

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

Hebrews 3, 7-19; 4,1-2

That is why, as the Holy Spirit says: If only you would listen to him today!

Do not harden your hearts, as at the rebellion, as at the time of testing in the desert,

when your ancestors challenged me, and put me to the test, and saw what I could do

for forty years. That was why that generation sickened me and I said, 'Always fickle hearts, that cannot grasp my ways!'

And then in my anger I swore that they would never enter my place of rest.

Take care, brothers, that none of you ever has a wicked heart, so unbelieving as to turn away from the living God.

Every day, as long as this today lasts, keep encouraging one another so that none of you is hardened by the lure of sin,

because we have been granted a share with Christ only if we keep the grasp of our first confidence firm to the end.

In this saying: If only you would listen to him today; do not harden your hearts, as at the Rebellion,

who was it who listened and then rebelled? Surely all those whom Moses led out of Egypt.

And with whom was he angry for forty years? Surely with those who sinned and whose dead bodies fell in the desert.

To whom did he swear they would never enter his place of rest? Surely those who would not believe.

So we see that it was their refusal to believe which prevented them from entering.

Let us beware, then: since the promise never lapses, none of you must think that he has come too late for the promise of entering his place of rest.

We received the gospel exactly as they did; but hearing the message did them no good because they did not share the faith of those who did listen.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

After the parallel between Jesus and Moses, the author of the Letter relates the historical Israel with those who make up the Christian community – among whom are many of Jewish origin. It begins by citing the second part of Psalm 95, which condemns the deafness of the people of Israel in the years of the exodus in the desert. The psalm, in truth, begins as a hymn of invitation to enter the sanctuary: “O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! … O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” (Ps 95:1-6). Perhaps the author wanted to underline that the new people of disciples has already entered the house of the Lord and thus should even more hear the Word of God and not harden their hearts, as did the Israelites at Massah and Meribah. One may say that, as the mercy of God toward us has been more extensive than he had for the people of Israel in the desert, so our readiness to listen to the Word of God ought to be far more prompt than that which the Jews had in the desert. In any case, it is from hearing the Gospel that depends our entry into the house of the Lord and our remaining there as a family. For this reason the author of the Letter asks not only not to go away from God, that is, from listening to his Word, but also to “exhort one another every day … so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” There is a great pastoral wisdom in this instruction: only an effective fraternity, day by day, guarantees a continuing discipleship. The author addresses the whole community. All the “brothers and sisters” have the responsibility to be attentive to one another and to care above all for those who no longer pay attention to the voice of God. Pastoral responsibility is not an obligation only of the “leaders” (13:17); every Christian is invited to keep their eyes open so that their brother or sister may not be lost. One may say that to each disciple is entrusted the “Paraclisis”, that is, the power to console the brothers and sisters to prevent the “sclerosis” of the heart, a hardening which renders man and woman bitter, discontented and egoistical. Those who let their self be seduced by sin lose union with God and separate their self from the community of saints. It is not possible, in fact, to be a disciple of Jesus on one’s own account or separated from the brothers and sisters: one is a disciple only if one hears together the Word of God. In the Scripture it is the Holy Spirit itself who speaks and builds up into one body those who listen to it. Continuity of hearing makes of disciples those who listen to him. And the “today” of the Letter is daily life illuminated by the Gospel. Thus we enter “the rest” that the Lord grants to his faithful. Of course, we also have the temptation to complain of the Lord, to lose sight of his promises, not to listen to his voice, as the Jews did in the desert, but if we listen faithfully to the Word of God “you will enter my rest,” says the Lord to us.