THE FIRST MARTYRS OF THE SEE OF ROME
When the city of Rome had been devastated by fire in the year 64, the emperor Nero launched a persecution against the Christians, who were thrown to the wild beasts in the arena or soaked in tar and used as living torches. Their deaths are documented in the writings of the Roman historian Tacitus and in Pope St Clement’s letter to the Corinthians.
Entrance Antiphon: Cf. Ps 27: 8-9
The Lord is the strength of his people, a saving refuge for the one he has anointed. Save your people, Lord, and bless your heritage, and govern them for ever.
Grant, O Lord, that we may always revere and love your holy name, for you never deprive of your guidance those you set firm on the foundation of your love. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
First reading: Genesis 17: 1, 9-10, 15-22
When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am El Shaddai. Bear yourself blameless in my presence, and I will make a Covenant between myself and you. You on your part shall maintain my Covenant, yourself and your descendants after you, generation after generation. Now this is my Covenant which you are to maintain between myself and you, and your descendants after you: all your males must be circumcised. God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah. I will bless her and moreover give you a son by her. I will bless her and nations shall come out of her; kings of peoples shall descend from her.” Abraham bowed to the ground, and he laughed, thinking to himself, “Is a child to be born to a man one hundred years old, and will Sarah have a child at the age of ninety?” Abraham said to God, “Oh, let Ishmael live in your presence!” But God replied, “No, but your wife Sarah shall bear you a son whom you are to name Isaac. With him I will establish my Covenant, a Covenant in perpetuity, to be his God and the God of his descendants after him. For Ishmael too I grant you your request: I bless him and I will make him fruitful and greatly increased in numbers. He shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But my Covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear you at this time next year.” When he had finished speaking to Abraham God went up from him.
Psalm 127 (128): 1-5
R/ Indeed the man shall be blessed, the man who fears the Lord.
O blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways! By the labour of your hands you shall eat. You will be happy and prosper.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine in the heart of your house; your children like shoots of the olive, around your table.
Indeed thus shall be blessed the man who fears the Lord. May the Lord bless you from Zion all the days of your life!
Gospel Acclamation: Ps 144: 13
Alleluia, alleluia! The Lord is faithful in all his words and loving in all his deeds. Alleluia!
Gospel: Matthew 8: 1-4
After Jesus had come down from the mountain large crowds followed him. A leper now came up and bowed low in front of him. “Sir,” he said, “if you want to, you can cure me.” Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him and said, “Of course I want to! Be cured!” And his leprosy was cured at once. Then Jesus said to him, “Mind you do not tell anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest and make the offering prescribed by Moses, as evidence for them.”
Prayer over the Offerings
Receive, O Lord, the sacrifice of conciliation and praise, and grant that, cleansed by its action, we may make offering of a heart pleasing to you. Through Christ our Lord.
Communion Antiphon: Ps 144: 15
The eyes of all look to you, Lord, and you give them their food in due season.
Prayer after Communion
Renewed and nourished by the Sacred Body and Precious Blood of your Son, we ask of your mercy, O Lord, that what we celebrate with constant devotion may be our sure pledge of redemption. Through Christ our Lord.
Lepers in Israel, as in the entire ancient world, were banished from the community of men. They had to stay outside the city and could at most beg at the gates. But today, Jesus extends his hand. He touches the untouchable and breaks all taboos. He wants the man to feel a brotherly hand placed on him. And here is the leper who hears in the depths of his being these words whispered by Jesus: “I want it, be cleansed!” A single word from Christ is enough to erase all suffering, to reconnect man to his society. This Word remains ever-powerful today, because if Jesus wants it now, he can cure us of our leprosy: leprosy of the heart, of intelligence, of rejection, of intolerance, of irony. From all this, Lord, if you want, you can heal us. This is our bold and confident prayer for this day.