Memory of the Church

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Memory of Mary Magdalene. She announced to the disciples that the Lord was risen.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Judith 9,1-14

Judith threw herself face to the ground, scattered ashes on her head, undressed as far as the sackcloth she was wearing and cried loudly to the Lord. At the same time in Jerusalem the evening incense was being offered in the Temple of God. Judith said:

Lord, God of my ancestor Simeon, you armed him with a sword to take vengeance on the foreigners who had undone a virgin's belt to her shame, laid bare her thigh to her confusion, violated her womb to her dishonour, since, though you said, 'This must not be,' they did it.

For this you handed their leaders over to slaughter, and their bed, defiled by their treachery, was itself betrayed in blood. You struck the slaves with the chieftains and the chieftains with their retainers.

You left their wives to be carried off, their daughters to be taken captive, and their spoils to be shared out among the sons you loved, who had been so zealous for you, had loathed the stain put on their blood and called on you for help. O God, my God, now hear this widow too;

for you have made the past, and what is happening now, and what will follow. What is, what will be, you have planned; what has been, you designed.

Your purposes stood forward; 'See, here we are!' they said. For all your ways are prepared and your judgements delivered with foreknowledge.

See the Assyrians, with their army abounding glorying in their horses and their riders, exulting in the strength of their infantry. Trust as they may in shield and spear, in bow and sling, in you they have not recognised the Lord, the breaker of battle-lines;

yours alone is the title of Lord. Break their violence with your might, in your anger bring down their strength. For they plan to profane your holy places, to defile the tabernacle, the resting place of your glorious name, and to hack down the horn of your altar.

Observe their arrogance, send your fury on their heads, give the strength I have in mind to this widow's hand.

By guile of my lips strike down slave with master, and master with retainer. Break their pride by a woman's hand.

Your strength does not lie in numbers, nor your might in strong men; since you are the God of the humble, the help of the oppressed, the support of the weak, the refuge of the forsaken, the Saviour of the despairing.

Please, please, God of my father, God of the heritage of Israel, Master of heaven and earth, Creator of the waters, King of your whole creation, hear my prayer.

Give me a beguiling tongue to wound and kill those who have formed such cruel designs against your covenant, against your holy dwelling-place, against Mount Zion, against the house belonging to your sons.

And demonstrate to every nation, every tribe, that you are the Lord, God of all power, all might, and that the race of Israel has no protector but you.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Prayer fills Judith’s life. Besides her words, her very body becomes a prayer to the Lord who has made his dwelling in Jerusalem. She is a woman, she is far away, but she knows she should put herself in communion with the official prayer of all Israel. Judith is not full of herself or her pride. She does not even think of herself as a lone heroine. Judith, uniting herself to the temple of Jerusalem, personifies the whole people of Israel who raises its prayer to God. With her words she gathers up their history, each personal history as well as that of the people as a whole. Offering to God the history of his family she reminds herself that the Lord has a unique way of weaving his designs, which is not always understandable to humans. Thus, we are not called to judge the facts or suggest solutions to the Lord. But rather, each believer is called to pray to the Lord that he intervene. And nothing makes prayer more effective than when we make ourselves available to be involved, when we offer ourselves to the Lord as his instruments. Judith offers the Lord everything within her means and everything that her faith intuition has lead her to do. Prayer always leads the believer to become involved in God’s work. She tells the Lord: "Put in my widow’s hands the strength to accomplish what I have planned" (9:9). From the believing heart, that is, from a love passionate for God and His designs, flows out the light to discern what to do and the energy to bring it to fruition. In her prayer clearly appears the conviction that the true clash is not between herself and Holofernes but between idolatry and fidelity to the Lord, between arrogance and humility, between human impudence and that weakness which relies on the Lord who "crushes wars" (9:7) and who cannot abandon the place and the people in whom he has put his dwelling. Judith well "knows" that the Lord in whom she hopes is "the God of the lowly, helper of the oppressed, upholder of the weak, protector of the forsaken, saviour of those without hope ...Lord of heaven and earth" (cf. 9:11-12). In her faith we are able to discern the traits of the Father whom Jesus will clearly reveal to us. Judith’s mission is intended not only to save the life of her people thirsty for lack of water, but also to restore them to a full faith in the Lord. She asks the Lord for help with the work she wants to accomplish. She does not pray for herself but rather, that through her actions the Lord will show his true face. The Israelites, slipping in their trust and resigned to the power of evil, had clouded in their hearts the face of God. Judith, a woman and moreover a widow, is able to make the beauty and the strength of God’s face shine in the hearts of the people.