Re the Daily Office Readings September 22 Anno Domini 2020

Benjamin Constant

The Lessons: Judith 8:9-17; 9:1, 7-10; Acts 18:12-28; Luke 3:15-22

Note: the first link connects to all of chapters 8-9.

Luke. Yesterday’s reading—bumped by the Feast of St. Matthew—introduced John and began a course reading of Luke that will continue into late Advent. There John called for fruit proving repentance, and gave examples. Here John—switching agricultural metaphors—reminds us that our choices yield identities: wheat or chaff. No inside track for the privileged, no judges to bribe; just choices to be made.

Judith. Today we meet Judith—and the Lectionary leaves too much on the cutting room floor. Of the many striking elements in Judith’s prayer (chapter 9), here are three:

  1. Judith emphasizes God’s hand in events—past, present, and future (vv.5-6). But this does not stop her asking that God make her plan successful.
  2. Judith describes God’s character: “But you are the God of the lowly, helper of the oppressed, upholder of the weak, protector of the forsaken, savior of those without hope.” She sounds something like Hannah; Mary sounds like both.
  3. Judith’s opening (vv.2-4) reveals perhaps unexpected freedom to read against the grain of Scripture. In Genesis 34 prince Shechem seizes and lays with Dinah. Her brothers Simeon and Levi respond by slaughtering all the males in his city. Their father Jacob rebukes the brothers, and on his deathbed doubles down on the rebuke. But here Judith celebrates their action in response to the outrage. Judith’s plan builds on their action to prevent further outrages.

Judith, written with the Maccabean violence against Hellenistic outrages fresh in the mind, reads Israel’s traditions in support of that violence. The context in which we read and the choices we make in reading matter.

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