The Lord Protects His People  by Pope John Paul II


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The Canticle of praise attributed to Judith, a heroine who became the pride of all the women of Israel, because it was her mission to demonstrate the liberating power of God at a dark moment in the life of his people. It was about a victory which the Israelites won in a totally amazing way, a work of God who intervened to rescue them from the prospect of an impending and total defeat.

The sacred author (of Judith) reconstructs the event several centuries later to offer his brothers and sisters in the faith, tempted to discouragement by a difficult situation, an example that can encourage them. So he refers to what happened to Israel, when Nebuchadnezzar, irritated by this people's failure to cooperate with his expansionist plans and idolatrous claims, sent the general Holofernes with the specific order to subdue and annihilate them.

No one would dare to resist him who claimed the honors of a god. His general, who shared his presumption, derided the warning he was given not to attack Israel, because it would amount to attacking God himself.  In reality, the sacred author wants to emphasize this principle, to confirm believers of his time in faithfulness to the God of the covenant:  one must have confidence in God. The true enemy that Israel must fear, are not the powerful ones of the earth, but infidelity to the Lord. This is what deprives them of God's protection and makes them vulnerable. Otherwise, when they are faithful, the people can count on the power of God "wonderful in his power and unsurpassable" (v. 13). The whole story of Judith splendidly illustrates this principle.

God's great work as protector— The work of God appears even more gloriously since he did not rely on a warrior or an army. As happened before, in the time of Deborah, he eliminated Sisera through Jael, a woman (Jgs 4,17-21), now he makes use of an unarmed woman to come to the aid of his people in trouble. Strong in faith, Judith enters the enemy camp, charms the commander with her beauty and kills him in a humiliating way. The Canticle strongly underlines this fact:  "The Lord Almighty has foiled them by the hand of a woman. For their mighty one did not fall by the hands of young men, nor did the sons of Titans smite him, nor did the tall giants set upon him:  but Judith the daughter of Merari undid him with the beauty of her countenance" (Jdt 15,5-6).

Judith is an example of woman's mission—The person of Judith will become the archetype that would permit not just the Jewish tradition, but even the Christian tradition to emphasize God's preference for what is fragile and weak, but precisely, for this reason, chosen to manifest divine power. She is also an exemplary figure who showed the vocation and mission of the woman, called to be man's equal, and to play a significant role in the plan of God.

From the experience of the victory, the canticle of Judith ends with an invitation to raise a new song to God, acknowledging him as "great and glorious". At the same time, all creatures are admonished to remain subject to Him who with his word made everything and with his spirit fashioned it all.

Who can resist the voice of God? Judith recalls it very forcefully:  before the Creator and Lord of history, the mountains shall be shaken to their foundations and the rocks melt like wax (cf. Jdt 16,15). They are effective metaphors to recall that everything is "nothing" before the power of God.

However the canticle of victory does not want to terrify, but to comfort. In fact, God puts his invincible power at the support of those who are faithful to him:  "to those who fear you, you will continue to show mercy" (Jdt 16,15).

   Excerpted from L'Osservatore Romano–3 September 2001 at

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