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Judith 9The Author of Events

Friday, September 7, 2018

Caravaggio’s Judith

Commentary will tell us that Judith is an apt symbol for Israel in this story as she is a childless widow, a defenseless figure in society and one who is to be protected rather than stalked and raped.  What we read today is Judith’s Prayer, and through it we have a view of Judith’s plan to act as God’s agent.  In some way – she does not tell us exactly – Judith will use her words and her guile against the enemy.  Many wonderful lessons come from this story and one of them is that despite any action she takes herself, Judith continues to see God as the author of all events.  Judith’s ego does not claim success as her own other than her willingness to be God’s instrument.  She further identifies God through a beautiful litany as the God of the lowly, the helper of the oppressed, the supporter of the weak, the protector of the forsaken, and the savior of those without hope.  If we ever wanted a description of God, Judith gives it to us . . . with simplicity and power.

Judith is so faithful to God and knows God so well that after she calls upon the Lord she petitions this God of the humble who authors all events to allow her to act on God’s behalf – and to do so in a subtle and beguiling way.  The entire story is well worth our reading and if you have time in these hot and hazy days of summer, sit with Judith for awhile.  You will be rewarded.

Caravaggio: Judith Beheading Holofernes

THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE tells us on page 520 that although we do not know the identity of the author of this story, and although we cannot determine the reasons for its origin, we do know that it was written to strengthen the faithful in the belief that God truly lives among them.  “The book of Judith is a tract for difficult times; the reader, it was hoped, would take to heart the lesson that God was the Master of history, who could save Israel from her enemies.  Note the parallel with the time of Exodus: as God had delivered his people by the hand of Moses, so he could deliver them by the hand of the pious widow Judith . . . Any attempt to read the book directly against the backdrop of Jewish history in relation to the empires of the ancient world is bound to fail.  The story was written as a pious reflection on the meaning of the yearly Passover observance”.   Clearly Judith’s story is one that we will want to read when we feel that we stand alone before an imposing enemy; it is one we will want to read when we have lost the feeling that God is with us.  Perhaps as we read Judith’s prayer today, we will want to pray along with her . . .

All merciful and ever-tender God, take us up to cradle us away from danger.  You care for the abandoned, the betrayed and the forsaken.  Gather us up into your safety, bring us into your fold today and every day.   

All good and ever-compassionate God, you shepherd the lowly, the meek and the humble.  You defend the oppressed, the beaten, and the weak.  You allow the oppressor to succumb to their own plots.  Rescue us, heal us and restore us today and every day.

All loving and passionate God, you care for the vulnerable, the powerless and the marginalized.  You bring goodness out of all that is wicked and evil.  You turn harm back on its author.  Cure us, mend us, and renew us today and every day. 

Almighty and ever-powerful God, you know all things before they come to pass.  You see and hear all things that are beyond our comprehension.  You accomplish all things that are beyond our ability.  Remain with us, protect us and guide us today and every day.  

You who are the author of all events and lover of the lowly, hear our cry and come to our aid.  Remain with us today and every day.  Amen. 


A re-post from August 8, 2011.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.520. Print.

Image from: http://www.wpclipart.com/art/Paintings/Artists_A_to_C/Caravaggio__Judith_Beheading_Holofernes.jpg.html

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