Scripture Reading for Today: Tobit 3:1-11a, 16-17a (read it here)
Prayer is one of the strongest and most pervasive themes in the Book of Tobit. In this passage we overhear the prayers of the two leading characters in the story, Tobit and Sarah. They are two different people in different places in different kinds of difficulty, but their lives will eventually intersect.
Tobit appears to have been seriously shaken by his previous argument with his wife, Anna—and rightly so. He has wrongly accused her of stealing a goat. This and his total blindness put Tobit in a state of despair. He describes himself as grief-stricken in spirit. It is from this perspective that he turns to prayer.
Tobit begins his prayer by acknowledging God as being righteous, merciful, and true. Only God can heal Tobit from his profound sense of despair. Tobit readily admits his own sinfulness. He sees himself as part of a community, and thus he shares fully in the sins of the community.
Tobit’s prayer leads to his request that God allow him to die. He does not ask for mercy or forgiveness—only death. He sees no real hope for the future.
Keep in mind that at this time Judaism did not yet believe in a resurrection. They believed that everyone ended up in Sheol, which is neither good nor bad. Rewards and punishment had to be given out in the present world.
The scene now changes from Tobit in Nineveh to Sarah, the daughter of Raguel, in Ecbatana in Media. She, too, is in dire stress over the loss of seven husbands before any of her marriages could be consummated.
A demon named Asmodeus is causing all this, and Sarah is being mocked and accused of killing her husbands, one by one. Obviously, Sarah feels frustrated by her circumstances.
Yet, like Tobit, Sarah, even at her low point, does not blame or get angry at God or deny his existence or benevolence.
She is a strong Jewish woman like another Sarah, the wife of Abraham, who also had trouble having children. This Sarah’s frustration, nonetheless, leads her to wish that her life would be ended. After eliminating the possibility of suicide as something that would deeply disappoint her father, she prays to God for death. In her trials she also turns to God for help.
And, through Raphael, Tobit’s blindness will be healed, and Sarah will marry his son and have a family.
In listening to God’s word and receiving Christ in the Eucharist, we are encouraged to place our hope in him.
Let us keep trusting in the Lord’s goodness and providence even in trials and afflictions.
Taught by Mary, let us also pray and encourage those who are in difficulty.
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Que la palabra de Cristo habite y se sienta a gusto en ustedes (Col. 3:16)
Let us make this a blessed day.
Keep Jesus in your mind and heart and share him with all you meet.
Fr. Michael Brizio, IMC
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