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Jim McDermottJune 09, 2023
Photo by Cristiano de Assunção, courtesy of Unsplash.

A Reflection for Friday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Find today’s readingshere.

Tobit is not a terribly long book, just 14 chapters, one of them only 250 words. But if you’ve been going to Mass this week, that might surprise you, because, good Lord, the readings have been long and convoluted.

But in preparing to write this I went back and read the whole book. And I found a lot about the book of Tobit that’s interesting. First of all, unlike most books of the Bible, it’s written in the first person. Even Jesus himself never gets the chance to directly address us.

Tobit is also a really good person. When his entire ancestral house deserted the house of David and Jerusalem to worship a statue of a calf (never a good choice), he was the only one that stayed faithful to God. After Assyria invaded and he was taken into captivity in Nineveh along with many other Israelites, he would secretly bury the Israelites murdered in random government purges, putting his whole family in danger.

But maybe the coolest thing, especially given the reading today, is that Tobit tells the story of his salvation twice. In the first three chapters we learn who he is, watch him get blinded and become despondent and super controlling of his wife Anna, and then repent, telling God he’s sorry and he will accept whatever life God wants for him. And we’re told that God heals him, as well as rescuing his distant relative Sarah, who has watched seven husbands killed on their wedding night by a demon who wants her to give up hope. (Sarah’s story is seriously a nightmare.)

Truly, so often it’s only in going back again and again to the moments of our own salvation—the old photos, the wedding videos, the old haunts or saved letters—that we are able to fully receive the gifts that God has meant for us.

But then Tobit jumps back in time and shows exactly how that salvation happens. And suddenly we’re on this whole wonderful buddy adventure involving Tobit’s son Tobias, the angel Raphael and a courageous, reverse Passover where Tobias has to agree to spend the night with Sarah, trusting that God will protect him from getting demon-murdered, too. (Again, Sarah’s story: so crazy.)

When Tobias comes home, we get his incredibly tender moment of him applying an ointment to his father’s eyes, after saying “Courage,” which is the very same advice Raphael gave Tobit before Tobias left, and also pretty close to what Tobit had previously advised Tobias. And when his eyes clear, the very first thing Tobit sees is his son. And he weeps. (And O.K., maybe so do I.)

There’s an article worth writing about the logic of breaking up into readings a book that really needs you to sit down and read it all at once. (Lectionary planners, can we talk?) But I also celebrate the choice of Tobit to return to the story of his salvation and walk more slowly through it. How often does it happen that we blow by the good things of life without really stopping to savor them? The first glance is not the sunset, nor the first taste of the feast.

Truly, so often it’s only in going back again and again to the moments of our own salvation—the old photos, the wedding videos, the old haunts or saved letters—that we are able to fully receive the gifts that God has meant for us.

More: Scripture

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