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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Judith 8,28-36

Uzziah replied, 'Everything you have just said comes from an honest heart and no one will contradict a word of it.

Not that today is the first time your wisdom has been displayed; from your earliest years all the people have known how shrewd you are and of how sound a heart.

But, parched with thirst, the people forced us to act as we had promised them and to bind ourselves by an inviolable oath.

You are a devout woman; pray to the Lord, then, to send us a downpour to fill our storage-wells, so that our faintness may pass.'

Judith replied, 'Listen to me, I intend to do something, the memory of which will be handed down to the children of our race from age to age.

Tonight you must be at the gate of the town. I shall make my way out with my attendant. Before the time fixed by you for surrendering the town to our enemies, the Lord will make use of me to rescue Israel.

You must not ask what I intend to do; I shall not tell you until I have done it.'

Uzziah and the chief men said, 'Go in peace. May the Lord show you a way to take revenge on our enemies.'

And leaving the upper room they went back to their posts.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

With her words to the chiefs Judith has not only reproached them for having put God to the test: she has won them over to a religious vision of the situation they are living. The two elders can but say: "Now since you are a God-fearing woman, pray for us, so that the Lord may send us rain to fill our cisterns" (8:31). Seized by fear and sorrow for what is happening they no longer hope for salvation and cannot even pray. In effect, prayer and hope go together. Judith, in the days of the siege has already prayed for salvation and in such a way as to make her available in any way. She has intuited that there is a way out, but not through power. Weakness is the way chosen in order to confound the strong and powerful of this world. Thus it was with David who had defeated Goliath. And, in the New Testament, the apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians: "Consider your own call, brothers and sisters:* not many of you were wise by human standards,* not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one* might boast in the presence of God. 30He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption ... Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done" (1 Cor 1:26-28; 3:10-13). Judith is aware of the power which comes from faith in God, and tells the elders: "Within the days after which you have promised to surrender the town to our enemies, the Lord will deliver Israel by my hand" (8:33). And she asks them to trust. Trust in God goes hand in hand with trust in his representatives: "Only, do not try to find out what I am doing; for I will not tell you until I have finished what I am about to do" (8:34). The absolute novelty of the event is meant to signify how unforeseeable God’s action is, and how far it is from normal human logic. How could one even think of defeating such an immense army? However, against what appears to men to be an invincible army, a woman ventures out, and moreover, she ventures out by herself. She is wise because she is docile to God and she is luminous with a superhuman beauty for her faith in the Lord is reflected in her.

Memory of the Saints and the Prophets