Memory of the Poor

Share On

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 4,9-15

All the men of Israel cried most fervently to God and humbled themselves before him.

They, their wives, their children, their cattle, all their resident aliens, hired or slave, wrapped sackcloth round their loins.

All the Israelites in Jerusalem, including women and children, lay prostrate in front of the Temple, and with ashes on their heads stretched out their hands before the Lord.

They draped the altar itself in sackcloth and fervently joined together in begging the God of Israel not to let their children be carried off, their wives distributed as booty, the towns of their heritage destroyed, the Temple profaned and desecrated for the heathen to gloat over.

The Lord heard them and looked kindly on their distress. The people fasted for many days throughout Judaea as well as in Jerusalem before the sanctuary of the Lord Almighty.

Joakim the high priest and all who stood before the Lord, the Lord's priests and ministers, wore sackcloth round their loins as they offered the perpetual burnt offering and the votive and voluntary offerings of the people.

With ashes on their turbans they earnestly called on the Lord to look kindly on the House of Israel.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Judah prepares for the battle, but God’s people know well that their true weapon for war is prayer. In the whole book there is not a word about an army of Jews that will face Holofernes’ army. Only after Holofernes is killed, when the entire people goes against the enemy’s army, it is only then that the men come out and take up military action, killing and massacring the enemy. The only weapon for combat is prayer and penance. Judaism, even before Christianity, knows the efficacy of prayer; it is the only action which has power over God’s heart. Besides, Israel’s army was wholly inadequate to fight against Holofernes. But God did not give Judaism, nor does he now give the Church, human means to combat the world’s might; on the contrary, he has given the believers the power of prayer which bends God’s own heart. God did not give Israel power over things or over men, or riches or strength or military alliances. Every other power could compromise the purity of the faith that Israel should place in God, and could perhaps imply complicity with the powers of the world. Israel will overcome when it relies only on God, when it entrusts itself fully to God. Likewise, Jesus fulfils his saving mission, in Gethsemane and then on the cross abandoning himself to the Father’s will and in prayer. He turns to the Father to cling fully to his will and he prays for those who crucify him. The whole of Christian life is union with God and Christ in order to combat evil and bring creation to fulfilment with "the new heavens and the new earth" of which the Book of Revelation speaks. Before the king who wants to defeat Judah, the high priest, the priests, the people of God, all the people of Judah put on sack cloths and raise their hands in supplication to heaven. Even the herds are covered in sackcloth, as in the book of Jonah, where the king of Nineveh orders that even the sheep, the oxen, everyone must fast and put on sackcloth (Jonah 3:7f). In any case, the prayer goes up to God as everyone’s plea, that of the whole community, including women and children. God’s heart yields to this prayer. It is the only condition for overcoming evil. God will work salvation, even through a single woman, as occurs with Judith. Humans await God’s aid, but the enemy’s threat continues and tightens the siege. The people, besieged in the city, are already dying of hunger. But now, when all human hope seems to fail, God intervenes to save. It was not the high priest, not Uzziah, the head of the city, but a poor widow who would strike down Holofernes.