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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 14,1-10

Judith said, 'Listen to me, brothers. Take this head and hang it on your battlements.

When morning comes and the sun is up, let every man take his arms and every able-bodied man leave the town. Appoint a leader for them, as if you meant to march down to the plain against the Assyrian advanced post. But you must not do this.

The Assyrians will gather up their equipment, make for their camp and wake up their commanders; they in turn will rush to the tent of Holofernes and not be able to find him. They will then be seized with panic and flee at your advance.

All you and the others who live in the territory of Israel will have to do is to give chase and slaughter them as they retreat.

'But before you do this, call me Achior the Ammonite, for him to see and identify the man who held the House of Israel in contempt, the man who sent him to us as someone already doomed to die.'

So they had Achior brought from Uzziah's house. No sooner had he arrived and seen the head of Holofernes held by a member of the people's assembly than he fell on his face in a faint.

They lifted him up. He then threw himself at Judith's feet and, prostrate before her, exclaimed: May you be blessed in all the tents of Judah and in every nation; those who hear your name will be seized with dread!

'Now tell me everything that you have done in these past few days.' And surrounded by the people, Judith told him everything she had done from the day she left Bethulia to the moment when she was speaking.

When she came to the end, the people cheered at the top of their voices until the town echoed.

Achior, recognising all that the God of Israel had done, believed ardently in him and, accepting circumcision, was permanently incorporated into the House of Israel.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

One could say that in the Book of Judith, the sacred author recognizes the primacy of the Lord and of faith in Him more than the primacy of Israel. This is what the struggle against the idolatrous power of Nebuchadnezzar is about. The two lives of Judith and Achior, recounted in this passage, intersect in this struggle against this power. Their stories are at once opposed and parallel. After warning Holofernes, Achior is not believed and is expelled from the camp, but is received in Bethulia (where, instead, people paid him attention). Judith, on the other hand, sets out from the city of Bethulia, and is welcomed into Holofernes’ camp, where she wins his trust. Both, of course, oppose Holofernes who, out of pride, is unable to accept the truth about which both are speaking to him. The Lord saves both Achior and Judith in their weakness. Certainly, only Judith (who personifies Israel) is the victor, and it seems as though she wants to tell only Achior what she had done (cf. 14:9), although she says it in the presence of all the people, who rejoice in her victory. Achior, indeed, needs to hear Judith so as to see past her as the agent of the victory and to see God as the true author of everything. Judith, a believer, gives everything to the Lord who acts through his witnesses throughout history. She—like every believer and like every community of believers—is called to witness to the weak strength of God’s love and illuminate those who allow their minds and hearts to be moved. Achior, actually, heard Judith and "saw all that the God of Israel had done; he believed firmly in God. So he was circumcised, and joined the house of Israel, remaining so to this day." Judith’s testimony encouraged Achior to go beyond the present and to choose to belong to the people of the covenant. In him are represented all those who will come to know the God of Israel, even without belonging to the people of Israel by blood relation. We could say that in Achior are represented all those about whom the apostle Paul will write: "and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree" (Rom 11:17). The apostle writes this for Jesus’ disciples so that they, out of respect to Israel, may not boast about the faith they received and that renders them participants in the eternal covenant with God. In this passage, therefore, a space for faith opens up for those touched by Judith’s preaching and witnessing. After having demonstrated and spoken about the weak strength of God’s love, Judith touched Achior’s heart, and he then decided to join Israel, not through the bond of blood, but through the "faith" in the strength of the God of Israel. In post-exilic Judaism, there existed diverse ideas and attitudes toward other nations. Some thought that the victory of God’s people would be secured through the destruction of the nations. Others waited for the messianic era in which the pagan peoples would ask to be a part of God’s people. Malachi and Zephaniah announced that all the peoples of Earth would know the Lord: Egypt, Ethiopia, and the people of Cush would worship God. Even Babylon would say: "In you, Jerusalem are my springs." Achior is only one person, but in him we see the beginning of a universal prospective present in Judaism, which will come to full fruition in the Gospel.

Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

Calendar of the week
Sunday, 22 October
Liturgy of the Sunday
Monday, 23 October
Memory of the Poor
Tuesday, 24 October
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
Wednesday, 25 October
Memory of the Saints and the Prophets
Thursday, 26 October
Memory of the Church
Friday, 27 October
Memory of Jesus crucified
Saturday, 28 October
Memory of the Apostles
Sunday, 29 October
Liturgy of the Sunday