During his weekly address, the Pope said women like the biblical heroine Judith are an example of trusting God amid sufferings and difficulties when it is easy to give up hope and fall into despair.
“This is my opinion, but women are more courageous than men,” the Pope said to applause.
As the Pope arrived for the audience, the sounds of classical music echoed throughout the Paul VI audience hall as a youth orchestra from Bolivia played for the Pope.
Pope Francis focused his audience talk on Judith, “a woman of great beauty and wisdom,” who reproached the people of Israel for their lack of trust in God to deliver them from foreign invaders.
“They were at the point of saying, ‘God has sold us,'” the Pope said. “How many times have we come to situations that test our limits where we are not even able to trust in the Lord? It is an ugly temptation.”
Facing a situation full of despair, the Pope continued, the people gave God five days to intervene. However, even in prayer they doubted that the Lord would help them.
“Five days are given to God to intervene – this is the sin! Five days of waiting but already expecting the end. In reality, no one among the people is capable of hoping,” he said.
Pope Francis said that in the moment of despair, Judith confronts the people’s doubts with the “courageous language” of faith and hope.
Her courage, he explained, is a reminder for Christians “to knock on the door of God’s heart; he is a father, he can save us. This widow risks (everything), even of making herself look like a fool in front of the others. But she is courageous, she goes forward.”
Christians must “never put conditions on God,” the Pope said. Instead, they should allow “hope to conquer our fears.”
“To trust God means entering into his plans without assuming anything” and to believe that “he knows better than us,” the Pope said.
The story of Judith exemplifies the importance of the “courageous counsel” of humble women, Pope Francis said. Their words, he added, contain “the wisdom of God” and should never be “dismissed as ignorant.”
“The words of grandmothers – how many times do grandmothers know the right word to say,” the Pope said. “They give words of hope because they have the experience of life, they have suffered so much, they trusted in God and the Lord gave them this gift of giving us hopeful advice.”
I pray that we can be women pregnant with hope, to bear in this world of ours that often despairs and falls into the temptation of believing that You, O Lord, will not help us when we are most in need. Yours is the Gospel of peace not of despair. Hear our cry, O Prince of Peace. In the midst of our brokenness come to our aid as we trust in you, as Judith encouraged the people of Israel to do in the midst of their desire to be delivered from their enemies.
Give us, O Lord, the grace to be courageous women who, no matter what pain or sorrow, suffering or difficulties we face, move forward and choose to rise up in hope instead of falling into despair. Open our ears to the call to a challenging "war effort". In the words of my own beautiful and courageous mothers who passed from this earth, "our weapons are our collective voices of reassurance to our children, grandchildren, and all who have lost hope for the future..." Give us voices to speak.
I pray we have perseverance to keep knocking on the door of Your heart, O Loving Father, who knows best and can save us.