Memory of the Church

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Remembrance of Saint Therese of Lisieux, a Carmelite nun with a deep sense of mission of the Church.

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

Nehemiah 8, 1-4.5-6.7-12

all the people gathered as one man in the square in front of the Water Gate, and asked the scribe Ezra to bring the Book of the Law of Moses which Yahweh had prescribed for Israel.

Accordingly, on the first day of the seventh month, the priest Ezra brought the Law before the assembly, consisting of men, women and all those old enough to understand.

In the square in front of the Water Gate, in the presence of the men and women, and of those old enough to understand, he read from the book from dawn till noon; all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.

The scribe Ezra stood on a wooden dais erected for the purpose; beside him stood, on his right, Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; on his left, Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam.

In full view of all the people -- since he stood higher than them all -- Ezra opened the book; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.

Then Ezra blessed Yahweh, the great God, and all the people raised their hands and answered, 'Amen! Amen!'; then they bowed down and, face to the ground, prostrated themselves before Yahweh.

And Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabab, Hanan, Pelaiah, who were Levites, explained the Law to the people, while the people all kept their places.

Ezra read from the book of the Law of God, translating and giving the sense; so the reading was understood.

Then His Excellency Nehemiah and the priest-scribe Ezra and the Levites who were instructing the people said to all the people, 'Today is sacred to Yahweh your God. Do not be mournful, do not weep.' For the people were all in tears as they listened to the words of the Law.

He then said, 'You may go; eat what is rich, drink what is sweet and send a helping to the man who has nothing prepared. For today is sacred to our Lord. Do not be sad: the joy of Yahweh is your stronghold.'

And the Levites calmed all the people down, saying, 'Keep quiet; this is a sacred day. Do not be sad.'

Then all the people went off to eat and drink and give helpings away and enjoy themselves to the full, since they had understood the meaning of what had been proclaimed to them.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The chapter begins by describing the great moment of unity of the people living in Jerusalem: "All the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate." The reading of the "book of the law of Moses" creates this unity: "and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law." We can suppose that this is a reference to the Pentateuch, which during the period after the exile increasingly became the heart of the faith-life of Israel, along with worship performed in the temple in Jerusalem. In truth, the word "Law," that is, the "Torah" in Hebrew, does not refer just to the Pentateuch; it also means the teachings of God in general. Consequently, the word has a broader meaning than a set of rules and regulations to follow. The Law is read from an elevated place, a platform, like in the synagogue, or like the pulpit in a church, so that the Word of God can be heard by all, but also so that the book can bee seen. It is beautiful to see what happens to those who listen to the book: first the people rise to their feet as soon as they see the book opened, and then they kneel down and prostrate themselves as a sign of veneration and devotion towards the book of the Word of God. This passage encourages us to develop true devotion for the book of the Word of God to help us read it and listen to it in an atmosphere of concentration and prayer. The author notes that the gathered assembly read and listened to the reading of the text and the interpretation that was given. Ever since then, it has been clear that reading on one’s own is not enough to understand the book of the Word of God. The Word of God must always be read in the context of the people, within the Church, in order to hear the interpretation also. Listening together in prayer moves the heart, even, as in this case, to the point of tears. But Ezra tells the people not to mourn or weep, but instead to rejoice, "Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." If we listen to the Word of God with our heart, it satisfies our hunger and thirst: "One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." It gives us the chance to share with those who have nothing, wipes away the sadness so typical of those used to only listening to themselves, and bestows on everyone the joy of the presence of God, who is the strength of life.