9th Saturday in Ordinary Time
Tobit 12: 1, 5-15, 20; Mark 12: 38-44
The Book of Tobit is one of the more delightful books in the Hebrew Scriptures. The name Tobias means “God is my good” It recounts the story of an individual who tries to incarnate his name. This individual who seeks to make God his all in all finds himself exiled in an alien land. Even though he is far from his homeland, he has not separated himself from the people of God. In addition to being a devoted family-man, he labors to attend to the needs of the poor and marginalized people around. Him. But here’s the rub. Despite the fact that he is a righteous man, he loses his eyesight, finds himself financially strapped, and gets testy with his devoted wife. This made me think of a line attributed to Eleanor of Aquitaine: “What family doesn’t have its ups and downs?”
The message of the book of Tobit is that God is both just and free. Bad things happen to good people because suffering is not a punishment. The believer is challenged to trust God and to cling to his profession of faith. The fidelity of the son, freed his wife from an oppressive demon and brought joy to his aged father. The first thing Tobit saw as the cloud was lifted was the face of his son who had gone from him in sorrow and had now returned with a message of hope and love. Having continued on the path of God’s commandments, his heart was expanded with an overflow of love and devotion.
The author of today’s reading proceeds to explain all that has happened and how God was faithful in His merciful kindness to Tobit and to Sarah. The angel Raphael then instructs both father and son to give all the praise and glory to God in the presence of His people: “Blessed be God, and praised be His great name” (Tb. 11:14). The self-sacrificing love of the elder Tobias brought comfort to the poor and marginalized of his people. The love and devotion of the younger Tobias brought his father out of darkness, sadness and despair.
If Origen was correct when he said every word of the Old Testament speaks of Jesus, we can reread the story of Tobit in light of the Incarnation. The Beloved Son of God emptied Himself of the grandeur that was His as God and took to himself the nature of a man. In obedience to His Father’s will, He Who did not know sin became sin so that sinful humanity might be recreated in holiness. The Only-begotten Son set out from His Father’s house to journey in a foreign land in search of His bride who was being held captive by an evil spirit. The Lord of Life entered into the realms of darkness and death and brought His bride, the Church, into the Kingdom of Light. Having triumphed over sin and death, Jesus brought His bride home to live with Him in His Father’s house. There, in love’s embrace, may He give us a heart big enough to love Him. And when He returns at the end of time, may He bring us all into everlasting life.