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The Everyday Prayer


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


Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Tobit 5,1-22

Tobias then replied to his father Tobit, 'Father, I shall do everything you have told me.

But how am I to recover the silver from him? He does not know me, nor I him. What token am I to give him for him to believe me and hand the silver over to me? And besides, I do not know what roads to take for this journey into Media.'

Then Tobit answered his son Tobias, 'Each of us set his signature to a note which I cut in two, so that each could keep half of it. I took one piece, and put the other with the silver. To think it was twenty years ago I left this silver in his keeping! And now, my child, find a trustworthy travelling companion -- we shall pay him for his time until you arrive back -- and then go and collect the silver from Gabael.'

Tobias went out to look for a man who knew the way to go with him to Media. Outside he found Raphael the angel standing facing him, though he did not guess he was an angel of God.

He said, 'Where do you come from, friend?' The angel replied, 'I am one of your brother Israelites; I have come to these parts to look for work.' Tobias asked, 'Do you know the road to Media?'

The other replied, 'Certainly I do, I have been there many times; I have knowledge and experience of all the ways. I have often been to Media and stayed with Gabael one of our kinsmen who lives at Rhages in Media. It usually takes two full days to get from Ecbatana to Rhages; Rhages lies in the mountains, and Ecbatana is in the middle of the plain.'

Tobias said, 'Wait for me, friend, while I go and tell my father; I need you to come with me; I shall pay you for your time.'

The other replied, 'Good, I shall wait; but do not be long.'

Tobias went in and told his father that he had found one of their brother Israelites. And the father said, 'Fetch him in; I want to find out about his family and tribe. I must see if he is going to be a reliable companion for you, my child.' So Tobias went out and called him, 'Friend,' he said, 'my father wants you.'

The angel came into the house; Tobit greeted him, and the other answered, wishing him happiness in plenty. Tobit replied, 'Can I ever be happy again? I am a blind man; I no longer see the light of heaven; I am sunk in darkness like the dead who see the light no more. I am a man buried alive; I hear people speak but cannot see them.' The angel said, 'Take comfort; before long God will heal you. Take comfort.' Tobit said, 'My son Tobias wishes to go to Media. Will you join him as his guide? Brother, I will pay you.' He replied, 'I am willing to go with him; I know all the ways; I have often been to Media, I have crossed all its plains and mountains, and I know all its roads.'

Tobit said, 'Brother, what family and what tribe do you belong to? Will you tell me, brother?'

'What does my tribe matter to you?' the angel said. Tobit said, 'I want to be quite sure whose son you are and what your name is.'

The angel said, 'I am Azarias, son of the great Ananias, one of your kinsmen.'

'Welcome and greetings, brother! Do not be offended at my wanting to know the name of your family; I find you are my kinsman of a good and honourable line. I know Ananias and Nathan, the two sons of the great Shemaiah. They used to go to Jerusalem with me; we have worshipped together there and they have never strayed from the right path. Your brothers are worthy men; you come of good stock; welcome.'

He went on, 'I engage you at a drachma a day, with the same expenses as my own son's. Complete the journey with my son

and I shall go beyond the agreed wage.' The angel replied, 'I shall complete the journey with him. Do not be afraid. On the journey outward all will be well; on the journey back all will be well; the road is safe.'

Tobit said, 'Blessings on you, brother!' Then he turned to his son. 'My child', he said, 'prepare what you need for the journey, and set off with your brother. May God in heaven protect you abroad and bring you both back to me safe and sound! May his angel go with you and protect you, my child!' Tobias left the house to set out and kissed his father and mother. Tobit said, 'A happy journey!'

His mother burst into tears and said to Tobit, 'Why must you send my child away? Is he not the staff of our hands, as he goes about before us?

Surely money is not the only thing that matters? Surely it is not as precious as our child?

The way of life God had already given us was good enough.'

He said, 'Do not think such thoughts. Going away and coming back, all will be well with our child. You will see for yourself when he comes back safe and sound! Do not think such thoughts; do not worry on their account, my sister.

A good angel will go with him; he will have a good journey and come back to us well and happy.'

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Tobias appears on the scene in this chapter, and he is presented as a son who is attentive to his father’s words and obeys them: "I will do everything that you have commanded me, father" (5:1). He is also wise, because he immediately asks his father what to do (cfr. 5:2). His is not a cold obedience that becomes irresponsible in the end. Tobias listens to his father and engages him in dialogue until he has understood everything adequately. We could say that he discerns the situation with the help of his father’s advice. Furthermore, his father does not fail to answer the questions he asks him. He advises him that it would be good to have a companion for the journey. This passage of Scripture seems to emphasize that it is not good to start a voyage - even the voyage of life, we might add - alone without someone to walk beside us. No one is self-sufficient. We all need someone to help us and accompany us on the voyage. Tobit had already urged his son not to scorn any good advice, and now what he is suggesting will save him from loneliness. Tobias goes outside and finds a good companion, Azariah. To the angelic name "Raphael" (which means "God heals"), the narrator adds the name by which the angel makes himself known in human form, Azariah ("the Lord helps"). Azariah is the help that the Lord had sent for Tobias, answering both Tobit’s and Sarah’s prayer. The angel will give Tobias advice to help him not get lost and not choose the wrong road for the journey. Azariah is the sign of the Lord’s presence, which has been made more tangible by prayer (cfr. chapter 12). With great discretion, God takes his place besides humanity and accompanies us. Tobit seems to understand this. In fact, even though he thinks Azariah is his relative, among the words he uses to reassure his wife he adds: "For a good angel will accompany him" (5:22). But is this not the case every time a brother or sister accompanies us with love in the name of God? Once this angelic companionship has been established the text proceeds on two distinct levels: the level of the reader, who knows Azariah’s real identity, and the level of the characters, who, do not yet know who he is. In substance, however, there is no difference. What counts is letting ourselves be helped on the journey of life. Tobit’s mother, Anna, does not react, and she lets herself be consoled. She knows that a son must leave and that he has to live his own life and begin his own family. It is true that she is very apprehensive and would rather remain in her condition of weakness than see her son risk some misfortune. Tobias leaves to follow a new road, and heaven (the angel) and earth (the dog) are his companions, as if to indicate that everything helps those who undertake the journey of life, not only for themselves but also for others.


01/29/2010
Memory of Jesus crucified


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