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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 1, 3; 2,1-9

I, Tobit, have walked in paths of truth and in good works all the days of my life. I have given much in alms to my brothers and fellow country-folk, exiled like me to Nineveh in the country of Assyria.

In the reign of Esarhaddon, therefore, I returned home, and my wife Anna was restored to me with my son Tobias. At our feast of Pentecost (the feast of Weeks) there was a good dinner. I took my place for the meal;

the table was brought to me and various dishes were brought. I then said to my son Tobias, 'Go, my child, and seek out some poor, loyal-hearted man among our brothers exiled in Nineveh, and bring him to share my meal. I will wait until you come back, my child.'

So Tobias went out to look for some poor man among our brothers, but he came back again and said, 'Father!' I replied, 'What is it, my child?' He went on, 'Father, one of our nation has just been murdered; he has been strangled and then thrown down in the market place; he is there still.'

I sprang up at once, left my meal untouched, took the man from the market place and laid him in one of my rooms, waiting until sunset to bury him.

I came in again and washed myself and ate my bread in sorrow,

remembering the words of the prophet Amos concerning Bethel: I shall turn your festivals into mourning and all your singing into lamentation.

And I wept. When the sun was down, I went and dug a grave and buried him.

My neighbours laughed and said, 'See! He is not afraid any more.' (You must remember that a price had been set on my head earlier for this very thing.) 'Once before he had to flee, yet here he is, beginning to bury the dead again.'

That night I took a bath; then I went into the courtyard and lay down by the courtyard wall. Since it was hot I left my face uncovered.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The passage takes us back with respect to the preceding episode. The narrator is trying to depict Tobit as another Job: even greater misfortunes are added to the ones he has already suffered. On the feast of Pentecost, the day when the Israelites remember the gift of the Law, Tobit asks his son, Tobias, to invite some poor people to the festive dinner, as required by the mosaic law (see Deut 16:11). After he goes out, the son returns saying that there has been another execution, and the corpse of a strangled Jew is lying in the middle of the street. Without wasting any time, Tobit gets up from the table, leaves the banquet, goes to the place where the Jew is lying, and buries him. After completing the burial, he cannot go back inside his house because he first has to observe all of the purification rituals prescribed by the law (see Num 19:14-16).But this act of love will be the cause of Tobit’s trouble. To understand what is happening, Tobit cites the words spoken by the prophet Amos against Bethel that describe his situation: “I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation” (Am 8:10).The text translates in the passive voice (“shall be turned”) a verb that in Amos is in the active voice (“I will change”) and that is spoken directly by the mouth of God. But Tobit knows well that it is not God who sends evil, and in this his attitude is similar to Job’s. Obviously this does not eliminate the bitterness of knowing that he has fallen into misfortune even though he has helped the poor. Instead of helping him, his neighbours mock him for his excessively charitable behaviour (v. 8).Their reaction is emblematic: they maintain that Tobit needs to become shrewder, that is, he needs to look out for himself more and not waste time burying the dead. It is a cynical and selfish attitude, and, unfortunately, a common one, that leads people to mock those who act with mercy.

Prayer for the Sick