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The Everyday Prayer

printable version

Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Tobit 4,1-21

The same day Tobit remembered the silver that he had left with Gabael at Rhages in Media

and thought, 'I have come to the point of praying for death; I should do well to call my son Tobias and tell him about the money before I die.'

He summoned his son Tobias and told him, 'When I die, give me an honourable burial. Honour your mother, and never abandon her all the days of your life. Do all that she wants, and give her no reason for sorrow.

Remember, my child, all the risks she ran for your sake when you were in her womb. And when she dies, bury her at my side in the same grave.

'My child, be faithful to the Lord all your days. Never entertain the will to sin or to transgress his laws. Do good works all the days of your life, never follow ways that are not upright;

for if you act in truthfulness, you will be successful in all your actions, as everyone is who practises what is upright.

'Set aside part of your goods for almsgiving. Never turn your face from the poor and God will never turn his from you.

Measure your alms by what you have; if you have much, give more; if you have little, do not be afraid to give less in alms.

So doing, you will lay up for yourself a great treasure for the day of necessity.

For almsgiving delivers from death and saves people from passing down to darkness.

Almsgiving is a most effective offering for all those who do it in the presence of the Most High.

'My child, avoid all loose conduct. Choose a wife of your father's stock. Do not take a foreign wife outside your father's tribe, because we are the children of the prophets. Remember Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, our ancestors from the beginning. All of them took wives from their own kindred, and they were blessed in their children, and their race will inherit the earth.

You, too, my child, must love your own brothers; never presume to despise your brothers, the sons and daughters of your people; choose your wife from among them. For pride brings ruin and much worry; idleness causes need and poverty, for the mother of famine is idleness.

'Do not keep back until next day the wages of those who work for you; pay them at once. If you serve God you will be rewarded. Be careful, my child, in all you do, well-disciplined in all your behaviour.

Do to no one what you would not want done to you. Do not drink wine to the point of drunkenness; do not let excess be your travelling companion.

'Give your bread to those who are hungry, and your clothes to those who lack clothing. Of whatever you own in plenty, devote a proportion to almsgiving; and when you give alms, do it ungrudgingly.

Be generous with bread and wine on the graves of upright people, but not for the sinner.

'Ask advice of every wise person; never scorn any profitable advice.

Bless the Lord God in everything; beg him to guide your ways and bring your paths and purposes to their end. For wisdom is not the property of every nation; their desire for what is good is conferred by the Lord. At his will he lifts up or he casts down to the depths of the dwelling of the dead. So now, my child, remember these precepts and never let them fade from your heart.

'Now, my child, I must tell you I have left ten talents of silver with Gabael son of Gabrias, at Rhages in Media.

Do not be afraid, my child, if we have grown poor. You have great wealth if you fear God, if you shun every kind of sin and if you do what is pleasing to the Lord your God.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The author reports a long speech made by Tobit to his son Tobias before he sets out on his journey to Rages, a city in Media, to retrieve the ten talents of silver left by Tobit in trust with Gabael. Tobit gives his son lengthy advice that is halfway between what seems like a sort of spiritual last will and testament and a series of careful recommendations about the trip. His first concern (vv. 3-4) is tied to the theme of death and the respect owed to one’s parents. Tobit refers to the dangers Anna faced for the little Tobias and is afraid that both he and his wife might be left unburied! Here, we cannot help but see the analogous fear of abandonment that afflicts the many elderly people of our society, a society that allows people to live longer but also makes their lives bitterer because of the loneliness in which it leaves them. Tobit reminds his son to remember God and to do good, as this is the only way he will be successful. He also gives a long exhortation to almsgiving, which is linked, in a certain way, to remembering God. The Deuteronomic law itself actually considers almsgiving one of the two fundamental duties required of the Jewish person who is faithful to the covenant. After that, almsgiving becomes almost a ritual value: it is one of the most important ways for a devote Israelite to express his or her religiosity (the term almsgiving appears 22 times in the book of Tobit!) Almsgiving, the author writes: "Delivers from death;" that is, it saves people from the danger of a sad or premature death (cfr. Tob 12:9, 14:10-11). Certainly, we are still in the community of Israel, and almsgiving is supposed to be performed for the poor "who practice righteousness," but the importance of giving alms is a thread that runs through the whole of Scripture. Jesus himself will speak about it with extraordinary force. There is no doubt that these pages of Scripture strongly question the Christians of today, in light of the low esteem in which almsgiving is held in comparison to dubiously more effective interventions. Tobit then advises Tobias to find an Israelite wife in order to avoid the danger of idolatry. Recommendations concerning righteous behaviour follow, such as how to give a just wage to workers; how to avoid pride, laziness, and drunkenness; and, finally, how to ask for advice. The speech ends with an invitation to bless the Lord in all circumstances and to trust in Him always.

Memory of the Church