Clearly Our Blessed Lord has a soft spot in His Heart for widows. The distress of the widow of today’s Gospel touches His Sacred Heart and He raises her son from the dead. This widow is of course a type of the Church who weeps for her dead children, those who have lost the life of the soul and are in a state of mortal sin. There are many in the Church today who are spiritually dead. Sin ravages countless souls. Vice is carrying them off to the grave of eternal damnation. But if holy Mother Church intercedes for them, Christ Our Lord comes out to meet the funeral procession. He touches the bier, and it stops. His touch alone is enough to restore grace, to bring back to life, to renew all things.
But there is another widow in today’s liturgy. At Matins, we started the book of Judith which portrays the valiant intervention of a holy woman who puts her life on the line in order to save her people. The situation the chosen people found itself in was dramatic. Humanly speaking there was no solution. Surrounded by deadly enemies, the leaders of the people had resolved to give in, to hand over to pagans the inheritance of their fathers. It is at this critical point that Judith steps in. She reproaches the leaders for their lack of faith and for putting God to the test. She rises to the task of interceding for the people and obtaining its victory when the leaders failed.
In our day, too, the Church laments losses in numbers. Her prestige among the nations of the world has been gravely compromised both by false doctrines and immoral practices. In the eyes of her enemies, she is being carried off to the graveyard of history. Many of her children, dismayed by the situation, would like to create a new church, as if to give Christ another bride. Like the leaders of Bethulia, they would like to compromise with the world, to seek common ground that would make the Church acceptable to the world. But there is only one God; there is only one Christ and there is only one Church, the one that Christ founded, and she has only one constitution that was given her by her Lord.
It is time for us to be valiant like Judith. Her two weapons were prayer and fasting, and it is thanks to these two spiritual weapons that she remained chaste. The sacred author of her life takes pains to stress this point. After the death of her husband she knew no other man. When she was taken to the chamber of Holofernes, she remained pure. And even after the victory of the Hebrews when she has become famous, she remains a widow till death. In this, she is a type of the Church, the bride of only one man, Christ.
The example of her penance inspires us to be faithful to our monastic life. We know that this is what will save the Church. Just as in the period of the Reformation, when souls were leaving the Church in droves, the counter reformation began with souls seeking to live authentic lives of evangelical purity. So today, the true reform of the Church moves forward whenever a soul renounces itself and spends more time in prayer and self-denial.
Let us close with the very words used by Judith in her prayer to God. These are inspired words, and like the psalms, they can be prayed in the name of the Church, with the same divine efficacy they had in her day:
“I beseech thee, O Lord God.. Thou hast done the things of old and hast devised one thing after another: and what thou hast designed hath been done, for all thy ways are prepared; and in thy providence thou hast placed thy judgments… The Lord is thy name. Lift up thy arm as from the beginning, and crush their power with thy power. Let their power fall in their wrath, who promise themselves to violate thy sanctuary, and defile the dwelling place of thy name, and to beat down with their sword the horn of thy altar… Give me constancy in my mind, that I may despise him: and fortitude that I may overthrow him. For this will be a glorious monument for thy name, when he shall fall by the a hand of a woman. For thy power, O Lord, is not in a multitude, nor is thy pleasure in the strength of horses, nor from the beginning have the proud been acceptable to thee: but the prayer of the humble and the meek hath always pleased thee. O God of the heavens, creator of the waters, and Lord of the whole creation: hear me a poor wretch, making supplication to thee, and presuming of thy mercy. Remember, O Lord, thy covenant, and put thy words in my mouth, and strengthen the resolution in my heart: that thy house may continue in thy holiness, and all nations may acknowledge that thou art God: and there is no other besides thee.” (Judith ch. 9).