Bookmark and Share

Women involved in the salvation of the people

Pope John Paul II's Catechesis
General Audience, Wednesday, 27 March 1996 - in Italian & Spanish

"1. The Old Testament holds up for our admiration some extraordinary women who, impelled by the Spirit of God, share in the struggles and triumphs of Israel or contribute to its salvation. Their presence in the history of the people is neither marginal nor passive: they appear as true protagonists of salvation history. Here are the most significant examples.

After the crossing of the Red Sea, the sacred text emphasizes the initiative of a woman inspired to make this decisive event a festive celebration: "Then Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and dancing. And Miriam sang to them: 'Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea'" (Ex 15:20-21).

This mention of feminine enterprise in the context of a celebration stresses not only the importance of woman's role, but also her particular ability for praising and thanking God.

2. The action of the prophetess Deborah, at the time of the Judges, is even more important. After ordering the commander of the army to go and gather his men, she guarantees by her presence the success of Israel's army, predicting that another woman, Jael, will kill their enemy's general.

Furthermore, to celebrate the great victory, Deborah sings a long canticle praising Jael's action: "Most blessed of women be Jael, ... of tent-dwelling women most blessed" (Jgs 5:24). In the New Testament this praise is echoed in the words Elizabeth addresses to Mary on the day of the Visitation: "Blessed are you among women ..." (Lk 1:42).

The significant role of women in the salvation of their people, highlighted by the figures of Deborah and Jael, is presented again in the story of another prophetess named Huldah, who lived at the time of King Josiah.

Questioned by the priest Hilkiah, she made prophecies announcing that forgiveness would be shown to the king who feared the divine wrath. Huldah thus becomes a messenger of mercy and peace (cf. 2 Kgs 22:14-20).

3. The Books of Judith and Esther, whose purpose is to idealize the positive contribution of woman to the history of the chosen people, present—in a violent cultural context—two women who win victory and salvation for the Israelites.

The Book of Judith, in particular, tells of a fearsome army sent by Nebuchadnezzar to conquer Israel. Led by Holofernes, the enemy army is ready to seize the city of Bethulia, amid the desperation of its inhabitants, who, considering any resistance to be useless, ask their rulers to surrender. But the city's elders, who in the absence of immediate aid declare themselves ready to hand Bethulia over to the enemy, are rebuked by Judith for their lack of faith as she professes her complete trust in the salvation that comes from the Lord.

After a long invocation to God, she who is a symbol of fidelity to the Lord, of humble prayer and of the intention to remain chaste goes to Holofernes, the proud, idolatrous and dissolute enemy general.

Left alone with him and before striking him, Judith prays to Yahweh, saying: "Give me strength this day, O Lord God of Israel!" (Jdt 13:7). Then, taking Holofernes' sword, she cuts off his head.

Here too, as in the case of David and Goliath, the Lord used weakness to triumph over strength. On this occasion, however, it was a woman who brought victory: Judith, without being held back by the cowardice and unbelief of the people's rulers, goes to Holofernes and kills him, earning the gratitude and praise of the High Priest and the elders of Jerusalem. The latter exclaimed to the woman who had defeated the enemy: "You are the exaltation of Jerusalem, you are the great glory of Israel, you are the great pride of our nation! You have done all this single-handed; you have done great good to Israel, and God is well pleased with it. May the Almighty Lord bless you for ever!" (Jdt 15:9-10).

4. The events narrated in the Book of Esther occurred in another very difficult situation for the Jews. In the kingdom of Persia, Haman, the king's superintendent, decrees the extermination of the Jews. To remove the danger, Mardocai, a Jew living in the citadel of Susa, turns to his niece Esther, who lives in the king's palace where she has attained the rank of queen. Contrary to the law in force, she presents herself to the king without being summoned, thus risking the death penalty, and she obtains the revocation of the extermination decree. Haman is executed, Mordocai comes to power and the Jews delivered from menace, thus get the better of their enemies.

Judith and Esther both risk their lives to win the salvation of their people. The two interventions, however, are quite different: Esther does not kill the enemy but, by playing the role of mediator, intercedes for those who are threatened with destruction.

5. This intercessory function is later attributed to another female figure, Abigail, the wife of Nabal, by the First Book of Samuel. Here too, it is due to her intervention that salvation is once again achieved.

She goes to meet David, who has decided to destroy Nabal's family, and asks forgiveness for her husband's sins. Thus she delivers his house from certain destruction (1 Sm 25).

As can be easily noted, the Old Testament tradition frequently emphasizes the decisive action of women in the salvation of Israel, especially in the writings closest to the coming of Christ. In this way the Holy Spirit, through the events connected with Old Testament women, sketches with ever greater precision the characteristics of Mary's mission in the work of salvation for the entire human race."

After the Catechesis, Pope John Paul II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai pellegrini di lingua francese

Chers frères et soeurs,
J'accueille très cordialement les pèlerins de langue française, et je salue notamment les prêtres de Montréal, les jeunes, ceux du Collège Sainte Marie de Neuilly et de plusieurs lycées de France ainsi que les nombreux pèlerinages paroissiaux. Que votre séjour près des tombeaux des Apôtres, en ce temps de montée vers Pâques, soit l'occasion de rendre plus forte votre foi en Jésus Christ pour en témoigner généreusement autour de vous! À tous je donne de grand coeur la Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I am pleased to offer a special greeting to the Priests participating in the Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the North American College: may your time spent in Rome renew you in faith, hope and love, so that you may become ever more effective ministers to God's people. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Scotland, Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Finland, Japan and the United States, I invoke the grace and strength of our Lord Jesus Christ.

A studenti delle Isole Färöer e della Danimarca

Мå jeres rejse til den Evige Stad give jer en fölelse af at väre med i hele den kristna verdens forberedelser til påsken. Gud velsigne jer og hele Danmark.

Ai pellegrini finlandesi

Rooman Piispa toivottaa teidät tervetulleiksi. Kaksituhatvuotinen evankeliumi on аinа uusi, ja se ohjaa meitä aina kohti tulevaisuutta. Jumala siunatkoon teitä ja koko Suomea.

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder! Mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung grüße ich alle Pilger und Besucher deutscher Sprache sehr herzlich. Mein besonderer Gruß gilt den Seminaristen der Diözese Aachen sowie den Professoren und Studenten der theologischen Fakultät der Universität Leipzig. Ferner begrüße ich die Gruppe von Eltern, Lehrern und Schülern der katholischen Schulen der Diözese Münster sowie alle Schüler- und Jugend-gruppen aus Deutschland und Österreich. Herzlich begrüße ich auch die verschiedenen Chöre und Männergesangvereine sowie die Gruppen verschiedener evangelisch-lutherischer Kirchengemeinden. Mit meiner Bitte, diese Wochen der Fastenzeit zu einer rechten Vorbereitung auf die Feier der Auferstehung unseres Herrn zu nutzen, erteile ich Euch, Euren lieben Angehörigen und allen, die mit uns über Radio Vatikan und das Fernsehen verbunden sind, von Herzen den Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini belgi e olandesi

Dierbare broeders en zusters, afkomstig uit België en Nederland. Uw bezoek aan de graven van de apostelen Petrus en Paulus valt samen met de periode waarin de christenen zich voorbereiden op Pasen. Moge ieder van u in zijn hart de verlossing ervaren die God heeft bewerkt met de dood en verrijzenis van Jezus Christus, en hiervan getuigen in het leven van alledaag. Van harte verleen ik u allen de Apostolische Zegen.

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas, deseo saludar ahora cordialmente a los visitantes de lengua española, en particular, a los numerosos grupos de estudiantes de España. Saludo también a diversos grupos de peregrinos de Costa Rica, México, Estados Unidos y Alemania. Al agradeceros vuestra presencia aquí e invitaros a vivir cristianamente la Semana Santa, os imparto con afecto mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini di lingua portoghese

Queridos Irmãos e Irmãs, Amados brasileiros das Equipas de Nossa Senhora, queridos cristãos da paróquia lisboeta de Benfica, e todos os peregrinos de língua portuguesa: a minha saudação agradecida e cordial de boas-vindas a todos! Viestes a Roma para revigorar, junto do túmulo de São Pedro, a vossa fé cristã e os vínculos de amor e de obediência à Igreja, que Jesus quis fundar sobre Pedro. Que os vossos corações, fortes na fé, possam estar sempre ao serviço do amor de Deus, e que as suas bênçãos desçam abundantes sobre vós e sobre as vossas famílias!

Ai fedeli croati

Od srca pozdravljam nazočne hrvatske hodočasnike i svima udjeljujem apostolski blagoslov. Hvaljen Isus i Marija!

Ai pellegrini cechi

Srdečně vítám poutníky z jižních Cech! Chvála Kristu! Milovaní, v tomto posvátném postním období mějme stále na zŕeteli nutnost obrácení našeho smšlení, našich srdcí a našich skutků. Pojem « obrácení » se nachází v celém Písmu Svatém. Tolik je důležité! Stejně jako marnotratný syn činil pokání a tak dosáhl odpuštní (Cfr. Luc. 15, 11-32), tak i my prosme Boha o dar obrácení a odpuštění. Všem vám ze srdce žehnám!

Ai teologi greco-cattolici slovacchi

Srdečne pozdravujem gréckokatolickych teológov z Prešova zo Slovenska. Rád vám udel'ujem apoštolské požehnanie, aby ste rástli vo viere a láske. Slava Isusu Christu.

Ai fedeli polacchi

Pozdrawiam serdecznie pielgrzymów z Polski, w szczególności witam: ksiçży biskupów - ks. bpa Materskiego i ks. bpa Kruszyłowicza, z Warszawy - redakcję miesięcznika « Więź », z Lubartowa i Jastkowa - pielgrzymki parafialne, z Gliwic - chór Caritasu « Cantabile », z archidiecezji poznańskiej, z Łodzi - chór dziecięcy « Pędziwiatr », z Częstochowy - nauczycieli szkoły podstawowej, z Buska-Zdroju - pracowników Zakładu Doskonalenia Zawodowego, prócz tego z Dortmundu - « Polskie Kwiaty » z Misji Polskiej, z Osnabrück - Polską Misję Katolicką; grupy turystyczne z Katowic, Opola i Neapolu, z Płocka - Szkołę Podstawową nr 2, innych pielgrzymów z kraju i emigracji oraz Klub Sportowy « Cracovia ». Wszystkich serdecznie pozdrawiam. Dzisiejsza katecheza mówi o różnych postaciach Starego Testamentu - postaciach kobiecych, które jak gdyby przygotowywały drogę dla tej największej postaci kobiecej, jaką jest Maryja, Matka Chrystusa. Postaci te są znane ze Starego Testamentu, w szczególności takie jak Debora, jak Judyta, jak Estera. Wszystkie one mają znaczenie nawet poniekąd symboliczne, ponieważ ostatecznie to, co się do nich odnosi, zapowiada tę jedną największą Niewiastę, którą zapowiedział już Bóg na początku po upadku pierworodnym człowieka: « Ona zdepcze głowę węża ». To zwycięstwo duchowe pokornej Służebnicy Pańskiej trwa wciąż i owocuje w Kościele i w narodach, jak również owocuje jak najbardziej wśród nas, którzy mamy takie wielkie przywiązanie, cześć i miłość do Królowej Polski. Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus!

Ai pellegrini italiani

Saluto con affetto i pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare i sacerdoti e i seminaristi di vari Paesi del mondo, convenuti per un corso del Movimento dei Focolari sulla spiritualità dell'unità. Saluto poi il parroco e i fedeli della parrocchia San Luigi in Pescara, accompagnati dall'Arcivescovo, Monsignor Cuccarese, e il gruppo parrocchiale di Bassano Romano, che ospita alcuni bambini bielorussi della regione di Chernobyl.

Sono lieto di accogliere la delegazione dell'Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi e di benedire il candelabro che nei prossimi giorni verrà recato a Gerusalemme, quale simbolo di fede e di pace. Affido loro il compito di portare a tutti i cristiani che vivono a Gerusalemme un fervido augurio di buona Pasqua!

Saluto, inoltre, i numerosi militari, appartenenti al Reparto Operativo dello Stato Maggiore dell'Esercito ed all'Unità Servizi del Ministero della Difesa, come pure i partecipanti al convegno promosso dall'Alleanza Europea delle Young Men's Christian Association. Desidero salutare anche i numerosi studenti, in modo speciale i folti gruppi provenienti da L'Aquila e da Notaresco, provincia di Teramo.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Rivolgo ora un pensiero ai giovani, agli sposi novelli ed ai malati presenti, tra i quali saluto in particolare il gruppo dell'UNITALSI di Varese.

È vicina ormai la Settimana Santa, e ci apprestiamo a celebrarla consapevoli che, nella Liturgia, i misteri della Redenzione rivivono per noi e ci permettono di crescere nella Grazia meritataci da Cristo. Cari giovani, vedo che siete venuti in tanti a questa Udienza! Vi invito a rinnovare nella Domenica delle Palme la vostra adesione a Cristo, la vostra disponibilità a seguirlo e a renderGli testimonianza. Cari ammalati, meditate frequentemente sulla passione del Signore, per trovare in essa conforto e speranza. Cari sposi novelli, l'immagine del Crocifisso sia sempre presente nelle vostre case: veneratela con grande fiducia.


© Copyright 1996 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana