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Posts Tagged ‘Tobit’


Tobit 2: Mockery

Friday, July 13, 2018

It is so easy to say that the story of Tobit is about healing and reparation and then move on to another story; yet today’s Noontime gives us the opportunity to sit with a portion of this narrative and to reflect on its meaning in our own lives.  We see Tobit’s virtue and courage in the first chapter where he is introduced; and we understand that he is a Jewish man who practices his faith and lives with his family in exile in Nineveh, Assyria.  Tobit is unusual, however, in that he shares his meal and his clothes with the poor, and he buries the dead bodies of those slain by the enemy and left for the birds and animals to consume.  On this particular day, Tobit has brought back the corpse of a man that was left in the market.

Commentary will point out that Tobit enters the house after a simple ablution and does not wait for the ritual seven days as is required in Numbers 19:11-19. He washes himself, eats his meal, and while he waits for sunset so that he might bury the unknown man, he meditates on Amos 5:11 and 8:4-6 from the prophecy which criticizes the wealthy who trample the poor and steal their grain rather than feeding or helping them.  Tobit cries at all of this sadness and finally he buries the dead man once the sun has gone down.  As a consequence of all of this goodness, he is mocked by his neighbors . . . and even his wife.  We do not know if Tobit sleeps outdoors because of the heat or because he has been in contact with a dead body, but in either case, the consequence is the same . . . he becomes blind.  In this way, the writer sets up the story for us: “The pious Israelite suffers because he attends to the needs of others”.  (Mays 722)

When we reflect on Tobit’s circumstances we might find ourselves in his story.  How often do we follow the rules – even at great emotional and fiscal cost – yet we feel blind to the success others enjoy and are even made to feel foolish?  We know that others do not adhere to the basic requirements of life and yet they seem to suffer no negative consequences.  We may find ourselves wondering why we do what God asks if all we receive in return is the disdain of others.  We see that ridicule and derision are the tools most frequently used by those who operate in cliques.  Respect for one another, a sense of fair play, and reward for doing as God asks seem at first to bring fierce suffering rather than reward and The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men. (Psalm 12:8The good man suffers because he attends to the needs of others.  So why try to do as God asks if the reward is . . . mockery?

We cannot in one day hope to understand why bad things happen to good people and why bad people seem to live free of consequence.   We can, however, begin to take small steps toward the understanding that God brings goodness out of evil . . . always . . . that the wicked only appear to escape consequence . . . always . . . that goodness brings a reward from God far greater than any we can devise for ourselves . . . always . . . and that it is in union with God that we experience true and lasting happiness . . . always.

Jesus himself is ignored and mocked by many.  Why should we be excluded from this treatment at the hands of those who fear goodness?  From childhood I was taught that self respect is the only respect we need earn.  I learned from my parents that cliques are formed by those who need them most.  I was taught to see that blindness comes in many forms and that what we call disability can actually be a boon.

As an adult I have come to understand how wise my parents were, and I try to pass this wisdom on to my children and grandchildren.  I have come to know that the only good opinion that matters is God’s; and that I need not unravel all the evil in the world or convert all the wicked.  I recognize that God has asked me to play a role in his kingdom building . . . and this I try to do as well as I am able each day, trying to see creation as God does – as the dawning of something new and beautiful each day.  So this is how I have arrived at responding to anyone who may ridicule me for conforming to God’s will: I live in the belief that those who practice exclusion rather than inclusion live in fear . . . and that those who mock us most are most in need of our understanding, our patience, our prayer and our love.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 722. Print.


Image from: https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/earth-from-space-15-amazing-things-in-15-years

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 22, 2011.

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Tobit: Prayers for Death . . . and Birth

Juan de Valdés Leal: The Archangel Rafael

Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 24, 2017

God hears the pleas of two desperate people in two distant places, and he sends his special messenger Raphael to guide Tobiah in the healing of Sarah and Tobit.  Tobiah is first the faithful son and later the courageous and abiding spouse.  Sarah sees no reason for her existence based on a series of marriages that fail because a demon has become enamored of her. She becomes separate from everyone in her intense and desperate grief.  Tobit, a good main who is faithful to his Jewish beliefs, has also become separate his blindness. Yearning for the light, he seeks death rather than continue in the darkness.  He, like Sarah, feels alone; they both search for the reason that God has visited punishment upon them when they know themselves to be innocent of doing wrong.  They stand judged by others because Old Testament thinking saw misfortune as a punishment for sin.  Some of us may from time to time feel like this man and woman.

Yesterday in chapter three, we read that Tobit and Sarah’s desperation has reached such depths that each, in distant privacy, prays for release from this world.  As they pray for death, their prayers rise to God intertwining like spirals of incense.  God hears these petitions and sends Raphael to accompany the faithful Tobiah in his journey to knit together these wounded souls.  God intervenes when we sometimes least expect it . . . and in very surprising and confounding ways.

Rembrandt: The Angel Rafael Leaving Tobit and his Family

The journey that Tobiah takes is a long and complicated one.  Yet he accepts his father’s request, finds a traveling companion (Raphael in disguise) and perseveres faithfully without fully understanding how his actions will result in anything good.  He continues, he obeys, he listens for and answers the call.  This is how we must live.  It is how we must act.  This is how we find consolation and healing. It is how we encounter God.  This is how we become wounded healers.  This is God’s plan.

So after reflection with the story of Tobit, we pray.

Sometimes we must reach the point of desperation in order to know what we truly hold sacred . . . and that we are sacred healers.

Sometimes we must fall into the abyss in order to find God’s abiding presence . . . and our own divinity.

Sometimes we must cry out from our aloneness in order to understand that true and deep hope is also bold and outrageous . . . and that God’s best hope lies in us.

Sometimes we must be victim to our darkest fears in order to lay aside our anxieties . . . for then we see them as prison bars that separate us from God.

Sometimes we must be blind in order to see.

Sometimes we must feel unloved in order to be loved and to love truly and deeply.

Sometimes we must reach the point of desperation in order to know what we truly hold sacred. And in that spot, in that distant place that is actually dep within, we will find our consolation, our birth in Christ.  Amen.

For a beautiful rendition of Angels We Have Heard on High, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5mdybeyLVc

Adapted from a reflection written during Advent 2007. Tomorrow, on Christmas Day, the Messiah arrives.

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Tobit 3:24-25: The Mystery of Trusting Wisdom

The Third Sunday of Lent, March 19, 2017

school of Titian Rafael

The School of Titian: Tobias and the Archangel Rafael 

We recall the lessons we learned with these verses yesterday: God is good, we are good, life is brutal and unpredictable but also good because it brings us to God; the faithful need not fight, they only need to stand and refuse to do anything that causes them to abandon their God.

There is nothing more important to hear, to learn or to repeat to others than the lessons Tobit teaches us today.  All human suffering can be quenched by these precepts.  All human understanding is capable of taking in these ideas; but not all humans have the will to enact what they hear.  That is why we cannot read this story too often.

Wisdom is sometimes defined as patience in the waiting to hear God’s voice.  One definition puts wisdom in its proper place  as coming from God over time – in God’s time and not in our time.  When we think of the wise people we know, we discover that they share a few characteristics in common.

  • Wise people do not often react instantly to an emotional moment; they pause to allow God to speak through them.
  • Wise people declare their thoughts with the wisdom of ages; they have spent a good portion of their lives with and in scripture.
  • Wise people display a certain amount of serenity; they know that all that surrounds them is not real, the justice of the next world, not this.
  • Wise people do not regularly become impatient; they understand that we are here to practice for that which is real, the love of the next world, not this.
  • Wise people display and embody empathy; they have suffered a great deal, and they have allowed themselves to be transformed by this suffering.
  • Wise people do not think first of saving themselves; they have made their suffering salvific, and freely give themselves as co-redeemers with Christ.

The wisdom of the book of Tobit is just this kind of wisdom.  In this story, wisdom maintains her mystery; she is seen as the ultimate act of stepping into the abyss with God. The ultimate act of suffering for and through God. The ultimate act of trust in God.

Wisdom rises from suffering, endures in fidelity, heals in love, restores in hope, and lives in trust.  We can never hear this story too often.

Adapted from a reflection written on March 10, 2008.

 

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Tobit 8: Expulsion of the Demon

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Pierre Parrocel: The Marriage of Tobias and Sarah

Pierre Parrocel: The Marriage of Tobias and Sarah

This is a story which everyone needs to read often. From the NAB Catholic Study Edition: “The Book of Tobit is a complex literary work with a very uncomplicated moral. The book narrates important incidents in the lives of three people: Tobit, Sarah, and Tobiah. It tells the story of their tragedies and triumphs. The author weaves the stories of these three people together very skillfully so that the book results from the intersection of three different but related plots. This rhetorical feat of weaving the stories of these three people so tightly has a theological purpose. The author wishes to show how God can mange the circumstances of people’s lives in order to bring God’s plans to fulfillment. Its primary religious message is simple: God rewards those who are faithful.” This is a message we need to hear.

The book is considered by some as a religious novel only, while others see it as inspired by the Holy Spirit. We like the story because it tells of healing. And this healing happens through the Archangel Raphael through whom, “God manages . . . circumstances in order to ensue that God’s own purposes come to fruition. The story assumes God’s sovereignty in people’s lives and God’s determination to reward the just. When the just suffer, there is a limit to that suffering. Once that limit occurs, God will intervene. Sometimes that intervention is miraculous.”  This is a message we want to take in.

God considers that Sarah has suffered enough and so he confronts the demon who is enamored of this young woman, but the confrontation occurs in a quiet way. This demon, as we hear earlier in 6:15, “loves her, [so] he does not harm her; but he does slay any man who wishes to come close to her.” So rather than wage battle, as we humans would do, God sends Raphael to accompany the young Tobias, who in turn expulses the demon using means given him by Raphael – which is the part of the story we hear today. The footnotes in the NAB point out that this is not an exorcism. Rather, the demon retreats because of the power of the earnest prayer of the two young people. From the footnotes, “It is clear that the author places primary emphasis on the value of prayer to God, on the role of the angel as God’s agent, and on the pious dispositions of Tobiah.”

Abraham de Papre: Tobit and Anna

Abraham de Pape: Tobit and Anna

What can we take away from all of this? It is clear and simple. The faithful need not wage war. They need not struggle against life’s obstacles. Rather, they must seek healing through God, remain faithful to their covenant promise, practice authentic prayer, and they must believe in miracles. This is a message we will want to remember.

And so we petition our good and gracious God.

Keep us always watchful for the angels you send to us – even though we are so busy that we often miss them.

Call us in such a way that we are open to your healing miracles – because we need them.

Look kindly on us as we struggle along the torturous pathways of this life – because we are nothing without you.

Keep us ever mindful of your desire to do all good things for us – even as we rail against the suffering which disciplines us so well.

May we join with young Tobias and Sarah as they prayed to you, “’Blessed are you, O God of our fathers; praised be your name forever and ever. Let the heavens and all your creation praise you forever. . .’ They said together, ‘Amen, amen,’ and went to bed for the night.”

Today we remember as we reflect . . . we are Easter People.

Adapted from a Favorite written on June 5, 2007.

 

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Genesis 23 & Tobit 3: God’s Yardstick – Sarah

Strength in Reliance

Jan Provoost: Abraham, Sarah and an Angel

Jan Provoost: Abraham, Sarah and an Angel

Saturday, January 9, 2016

In these opening days of a new year, we look for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

Two women named Sarah figure in scriptures and today as we remember their stories we better understand that God’s promise is so often delivered through surprise. Choose one of these stories – or both if there is time – and look for God’s yardstick.

Genesis Chapters 12-23 tell us the story of Sarah, wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac. Although we know this story well, it is likely that we have not spent time beyond the basic facts that are obvious to us. She traveled with her husband and his family from Ur to Haran and was barren for much of her married life. She was so beautiful that her husband asked her to pose as his sister to avoid creating jealousy among Egyptian leaders and endangering his life. She suggested that her husband take her slave Hagar to his bed so that he might engender an heir with her; then later asked him to banish the slave and child when the younger woman took on a disparaging attitude. Sarah prepared a meal for strangers and then laughed when they told her that she would conceive at the age of 90. She was buried in Machpelah Cave near Hebron. When we focus on even a portion of her story, we find that Sarah shows humor, resiliency, and openness to God’s presence in her life.

Jan Steen: Tobias and Sarah on their Wedding Night

Jan Steen: Tobias and Sarah on their Wedding Night

Tobit 3 introduces us to Sarah who prays for death to come to her quickly. In Chapters 6-12 we follow Tobias and Sarah as the angel Raphael ushers them through danger. We may know this about the Sarah who marries Tobias: she is married to seven men who die on their wedding night, she and Tobit pray for death at the same moment and God hears them both, she travels from Ecbatana to Nineveh and back to Ecbatana with Tobias who – with help from the angel Raphael – routs the demon who has plagued her. When we explore her story, we find that Sarah withstands false accusations that mount against her by relying on God to solve problems that appear to have no solution.

Strength that flows from reliance on God and belief that with God all things are possible. This is the yardstick with which these two women measure their lives.

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joyTuesday, November 18, 2014

Tobit 5

Joy and Desperation

We move further into the Old Testament looking for stories of joy that might surprise us. If today’s story calls you to search further, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. For the next few says, our story is taken from the Book of Tobit.

If you have not had time for the story of Tobit, begin to read it today. It brings us a world of frustration and renewal, desperation and hope, deep sorrow and overwhelming joy. It features the healing touch of the Archangel Gabriel and the surprising good news that even the most dire circumstances give us a reason for courage and happiness.

Rembrandt: Sarah Waiting for Tobias

Rembrandt: Sarah Waiting for Tobias

Tobit 5:9-10: Then Tobias went out and called [the young man], and said, “Young man, my father is calling for you.” So he went in to him, and Tobit greeted him first. He replied, “Joyous greetings to you!” But Tobit retorted, “What joy is left for me anymore? I am a man without eyesight; I cannot see the light of heaven, but I lie in darkness like the dead who no longer see the light. Although still alive, I am among the dead. I hear people but I cannot see them.” But the young man said, “Take courage; the time is near for God to heal you; take courage.” Then Tobit said to him, “My son Tobias wishes to go to Media. Can you accompany him and guide him? I will pay your wages, brother.” He answered, “I can go with him and I know all the roads, for I have often gone to Media and have crossed all its plains, and I am familiar with its mountains and all of its roads.”

Rembrandt: Tobit and Anna

Rembrandt: Tobit and Anna

When we welcome the stranger into our lives we may unwittingly welcome a healing angel. When we open ourselves to the gift of courage we may unknowingly find the surprise of quiet joy. When we trust in God’s messengers to guide us along unknown roads we may suddenly find new paths to cross uncharted plains and looming mountains.

Spend time with the first five Chapters of Tobit today and discover the surprise of God’s healing presence. Look for Anna and Sarah, and anticipate what might happen with the desperation that has taken over their lives.

For more about anxiety and joy, click on the image above or visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

 

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