Memory of Jesus crucified

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Feast of Mary of Mount Carmel.

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 6,10-21

Holofernes having commanded his tent-orderlies to seize Achior, to take him to Bethulia and to hand him over to the Israelites,

the orderlies took him, escorted him out of the camp and across the plain, and then, making for the hill-country, reached the springs below Bethulia.

As soon as the men of the town sighted them, they snatched up their weapons, left the town and made for the mountain tops, while all the slingers pelted them with stones to prevent them from coming up.

However, they managed to take cover at the foot of the slope, where they bound Achior and left him lying at the bottom of the mountain and returned to their master.

The Israelites then came down from their town, stopped by him, unbound him and took him to Bethulia, where they brought him before the chief men of the town,

who at that time were Uzziah son of Micah of the tribe of Simeon, Chabris son of Gothoniel and Charmis son of Melchiel.

These summoned all the elders of the town. The young men and the women also hurried to the assembly. Achior was made to stand with all the people surrounding him, and Uzziah questioned him about what had happened.

He answered by telling them what had been said at Holofernes' council, and what he himself had said in the presence of the Assyrian leaders, and how Holofernes had bragged of what he would do to the House of Israel.

At this the people fell to the ground and worshipped God.

'Lord God of heaven,' they cried, 'take notice of their arrogance and have pity on the humiliation of our race. Look kindly today on those who are consecrated to you.'

They then spoke reassuringly to Achior and praised him warmly.

After the assembly Uzziah took him home and gave a banquet for the elders; all that night they called on the God of Israel for help.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Holofernes, sure of final victory, does not kill Achior immediately, as his advisers would wish, but has him taken to Bethulia, the city where the Jews had taken shelter. Holofernes believes that Death will overtake Achior once he has seen the extermination of the Jews which he on the other hand, had prophesied was impossible. Holofernes’ soldiers thus take Achior close to the walls of the city. The Jews, the moment they see the troop of soldiers, think it is an attack, and move against the small group of soldiers who, in reality, had no intention of attacking the city, but were only bringing a prisoner as a "gift" to the Jews. The soldiers are unaware that in this way they are making themselves God’s instrument for the salvation of Achior, who will be received in the city and particularly amongst the Hebrew people. The Jews seize the prisoner and lead him into the city to interrogate him. Upon hearing Achior’s account the Jews understand that what he had told Holofernes came from God. They receive him then as a member of the community. Moreover, knowing Holofernes’ purpose to destroy the whole people of Judah, they all begin to petition the Lord. At the end of the day, Uzziah, the head of the little city, celebrates a banquet as if it were a feast. It is striking that in a moment as difficult as the one the city is going through, they have a banquet. In truth, when there is faith in the Lord it is possible to make merry even if the times are difficult. For, faith reinforces our hope; believers know that the Lord will always intervene in favour of his people, and so they have nothing to fear. Israel well knows that in order not to succumb to the enemy they must recognize their own weakness and trust only in the Lord. Focus on the self -it makes no difference if it is oneself or one’s community- must give way to the Lord. The believer, or the community, must never substitute themselves for God. And we should be attentive because even virtues can become obstacles when they become reasons for pride or distinguishing oneself from others. The believer’s only assurance is the Lord. As we lift up our gaze from ourselves and direct it to the Lord, the more we find him attentive in the defence of our cause. The Jews recognize this in the prayer which they immediately make to the Lord: "Lord, God of heaven, look at their haughtiness, have pity on the humiliation of our race and look kindly on this day on the face of those who have consecrated themselves to you." The Lord helps those who take refuge in Him, the psalms often sing. And Paul the apostle will say: "God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are" (1Cor 1:28).