Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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Memorial of St. Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem. Prayer for Jerusalem and for peace in the Holy Land.

Reading of the Word of God

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Isaiah 49, 8-15

Thus says Yahweh: At the time of my favour I have answered you, on the day of salvation I have helped you. I have formed you and have appointed you to be the covenant for a people, to restore the land, to return ravaged properties,

to say to prisoners, 'Come out,' to those who are in darkness, 'Show yourselves.' Along the roadway they will graze, and any bare height will be their pasture.

They will never hunger or thirst, scorching wind and sun will never plague them; for he who pities them will lead them, will guide them to springs of water.

I shall turn all my mountains into a road and my highways will be raised aloft.

Look! Here they come from far away, look, these from the north and the west, those from the land of Sinim.

Shout for joy, you heavens; earth, exult! Mountains, break into joyful cries! For Yahweh has consoled his people, is taking pity on his afflicted ones.

Zion was saying, 'Yahweh has abandoned me, the Lord has forgotten me.'

Can a woman forget her baby at the breast, feel no pity for the child she has borne? Even if these were to forget, I shall not forget you.


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

The passage we have just read is from the part of the book of Isaiah written during the exile. The sacred author has placed it immediately after the second song of the Servant of Yahweh (Is. 49:1-6). It describes with some emphasis the return of Israel to its country and the rebuilding of Jerusalem. It is a message of joy and hope that involves the whole of creation. All humankind, the heavens, the earth and the mountains are invited to rejoice together because the Lord has not tired of his people, did not forget them, and did not abandon them even when they went far from him. His love is steadfast, enduring and strong. Israel knows well by repeated experience, that the Lord has never forsaken them. But the opposite is true: how many times Israel has turned its back on the Lord to bind itself to other gods! And it is the Lord himself who approaches again and reminds them: "In a time of favour I have answered you" (v.8). We can say that the "time of mercy" is the whole history of Israel. In spite of the unfaithfulness of the people, the Lord cannot "forget". After a period of purification and exile, the Lord is willing to "restore the land," to gather together again the scattered children of Israel and to propose for them a future of peace and prosperity. And He gets close to His people, not as a majestic and unforgiving judge, but as "He who has mercy"; as a tender mother who takes care of her children and feels sorry for them. It is such an exalted and extraordinary love that it is even difficult to understand: "Can a woman forget her nursing-child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you "(v.15). These statements are really unthinkable with reason alone. But they are at the root of our faith. How can we not be moved by such a God who is even ready to mingle with our history, mixed as it is, with sin? And if that were not enough He wanted to go still further with the incarnation of His own Son. The apostle Paul will write: "Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us" (Rom 5:7-8). We will contemplate him before long, as he goes to die for us on the cross.