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The Everyday Prayer

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

Memory of Nunzia, a mentally disabled woman who died in Naples; with her we remember all the mentally disabled people who have fallen asleep in the Lord.

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

Judith 16,1-17

Break into song for my God, to the tambourine, sing in honour of the Lord, to the cymbal, let psalm and canticle mingle for him, extol his name, invoke it!

For the Lord is a God who breaks battle-lines; he has pitched his camp in the middle of his people to deliver me from the hands of my oppressors.

Assyria came down from the mountains of the north, came with tens of thousands of his army. Their multitude blocked the ravines, their horses covered the hills.

He threatened to burn up my country, destroy my young men with the sword, dash my sucklings to the ground, make prey of my little ones, carry off my maidens;

but the Lord Almighty has thwarted them by a woman's hand.

For their hero did not fall at the young men's hands, it was not the sons of Titans struck him down, no proud giants made that attack, but Judith, the daughter of Merari, who disarmed him with the beauty of her face.

She laid aside her widow's dress to raise up those who were oppressed in Israel; she anointed her face with perfume,

bound her hair under a turban, put on a linen gown to seduce him.

Her sandal ravished his eye, her beauty took his soul prisoner and the scimitar cut through his neck!

The Persians trembled at her boldness, the Medes were daunted by her daring.

These were struck with fear when my lowly ones raised the war cry, these were seized with terror when my weak ones shouted, and when they raised their voices these gave ground.

The children of mere girls ran them through, pierced them like the offspring of deserters. They perished in the battle of my Lord!

I shall sing a new song to my God. Lord, you are great, you are glorious, wonderfully strong, unconquerable.

May your whole creation serve you! For you spoke and things came into being, you sent your breath and they were put together, and no one can resist your voice.

Should mountains be tossed from their foundations to mingle with the waves, should rocks melt like wax before your face, to those who fear you, you would still be merciful.

A little thing indeed is a sweetly smelling sacrifice, still less the fat burned for you in burnt offering; but whoever fears the Lord is great for ever.

Woe to the nations who rise against my race! The Lord Almighty will punish them on judgement day. He will send fire and worms in their flesh and they will weep with pain for evermore.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Judith leads her people who finally understand the centrality of Jerusalem, the city that the Lord had chosen for himself as his seat. She offers to the Lord all of Holofernes’ wealth that had been given to her, as well as the canopy that she herself carried as a sign of her integrity (cfr. 15:1-14). She offers up everything and preserves the integrity of her commitment to being entrusted solely to God: "she gave herself to no man all the days of her life" (16:22), notwithstanding that the Lord blessed her with a long life. She dispossesses herself of everything, even freeing her maid, who had shared in the danger and anxiety of the undertaking: certainly, this woman had been her preferred maid, yet Judith, in her greatness of heart, does not even keep her for herself (cf. 16:23). According to a custom of that time, the women move forward to dance and sing in honour of Judith, but she knows all too well that it is the Lord alone who saves. She places herself, therefore, at the head of the women and leads the dance and exalts the Lord, who "crushes wars" (16:2), "dispels" them, and brings "them to an end" so that they may be no more. Through the words of the canticle emerges Judith’s joy that absorbs the entire people of Israel, even all of creation itself. With the victory that Judith procured, not only does the battle between her and Holofernes end, but we also glimpse the definitive victory of God’s power over that of evil. The power of evil—as was seen throughout the course of the book, particularly in the first chapters—has countless weapons at its disposal and all nations as its allies, while on God’s side there are only a defenceless people—no, actually just one woman, weak and a widow, but who, in the end, conquers evil. Judith’s canticle echoes that of Moses after his passage through the Red Sea, but its dimension is vaster as it regards the entire history of salvation, a part of which we already see realized in Judith. She is the symbol of the nation, and in calling her the "daughter of Merari," the sacred author seems to want to underline that she is not only a symbol, but a real woman who, even alone and powerless, becomes an instrument of God’s work. It is the concreteness of men and women of faith who in their weak faith have the strength to renew the world and dash the plans of the powerful: "Then my oppressed people shouted; my weak people cried out, and the enemy trembled; they lifted up their voices, and the enemy were turned back" (16:11). The canticle sings of a creator God: not only the God of the history of Israel’s people, but the creator God who assumes full possession of creation. The struggle between good and evil takes on a cosmic proportion. God’s final victory will lead to a renewal of the whole of creation: all creatures will be renewed and, as is written in the Book of Revelation, there will be "a new heaven and a new heart." Those who oppose God’s saving design will be harshly punished on Judgment Day. The canticle, indeed, ends with the image of condemnation. The canticle of Judith is among the greatest in the Old Testament: it expresses God’s definitive victory over evil accomplished through his children’s weakness. In Judith, who represents the entire people of Israel, we glimpse Mary and the Church, who are both called to struggle for the freedom of people from every form of slavery so that they may reach salvation.

Memory of Jesus crucified