Judith, Chapter 15, Verse 1-2
1 On hearing what had happened, those still in their tents were horrified. 2 Overcome with fear and dread, no one kept ranks any longer. They scattered in all directions, and fled along every path, both through the valley and in the hill country.
Judith even in the midst of the enemy camp demonstrates her piety and continues to keep Jewish dietary laws. When offered rich fair she refuses and continues in prayer. Every morning before dawn she leaves the camp to beseech the Lord. She keeps ritual purification and bathes in the spring of the camp. Judith for three days establishes this routine in the camp. She knows she must kill Holofernes before the 5th day when the rulers of the city promised to surrender. She pushes trust in Yahweh to its limits. On the 4th day she is invited by Holofernes to a banquet. She accepts prepares her weapon, her beauty and sallies forth to battle. The power of her beauty is immediately evident. Holofernes is overcome with desire. He drinks too much and lies drunk on the bed. All the guests depart thinking they are getting jiggy with it. They are alone. She prays and draws Holofernes own sword; asks for strength and strikes severing his head from his body. Judith calmly returns to her routine; wraps the head in a food pouch and goes out of the camp for prayer. She goes home and liberation is proclaimed. Victory now needs action. Judith acting as general hangs the head on the city wall and initiates a fake attack on the camp. The cry is heard in the camp of Holofernes: “A single Hebrew woman has brought disgrace on the house of King Nebuchadnezzar!” The troops are dismayed. They run back to Syria.
Building up the Kingdom
Scripture and the Church teach us that we have three divinely ordained purposes that give our lives meaning:
· Salvation — seeking to save our eternal souls and help save the souls of others (that salvation, the Church teaches, is God's free gift but requires our cooperation through faith in God, obedience to his commandments, and repentance of our grave sins).
· Service — using our God-given talents to build God's kingdom here on earth.
· Sanctity — growing in holiness.
The third of these life goals, sanctity, is central to building Catholic character. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says something that is stunning: "Be thou made perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48). St. Gregory put it this way: "The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God." Scripture tells us, "God is love" (1 Jn 4:16). If we want to be like God, our vocation is to love. The essence of love is to sacrifice for the sake of another, as Jesus did. Love is self-gift. What, then, is our goal if we want to develop Catholic character in our children and ourselves? Look to the character of Christ: A life of self-giving.
The high goal of Christ-like character builds on a base of what the Church calls "natural virtues." Among the natural virtues that families and schools should nurture are the four advanced by the ancient Greeks, named in Scripture (Wis 8:7), and adopted by the Church as "the cardinal virtues": prudence, which enables us to judge what we should do; justice, which enables us to respect the rights of others and give them what they are due; fortitude, which enables us to do what is right in the face of difficulties; temperance, which enables us to control our desires and avoid abuse of even legitimate pleasures. These natural virtues are developed through effort and practice, aided by God's grace.
In order to develop a Christ-like character, however, we need more than the natural virtues. We also need the three supernatural, or "theological," virtues:
1. Faith in God, which enables us to believe in God and the teachings of his church.
2. Hope in God, which leads us to view eternal life as our most important goal and to place total trust in God.
3. Love of God, which enables us to love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.
The three theological virtues are considered supernatural because they come from God and have as their purpose our participation in God's divine life. As the Catechism (1813) teaches, the theological virtues are not separate from the natural virtues; rather, they "are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character." The Catholic writer Peter Kreeft points out, "The Christian is prudent, just, courageous, and self-controlled out of faith in God, hope in God, and love of God." The supernatural virtues, like the natural virtues, grow stronger through our effort and practice, in cooperation with God's grace.
The Collegeville Bible Commentary, 1986.