Memory of the Church

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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 14,2-15

He had been sixty-two when he went blind; and after his cure, he lived in comfort, practising almsgiving and continually praising God and extolling his greatness.

When he was at the point of death he summoned his son Tobias and gave him these instructions,

'My son, take your children and hurry away to Media, since I believe the word of God pronounced over Nineveh by Nahum. Everything will come true, everything happen that the emissaries of God, the prophets of Israel, have predicted against Assyria and Nineveh; not one of their words will prove empty. It will all take place in due time. You will be safer in Media than in Assyria or in Babylonia. Since I for my part know and believe that everything God has said will come true; so it will be, and not a word of the prophecies will fail. 'A census will be taken of our brothers living in the land of Israel and they will be exiled far from their own fair country. The entire territory of Israel will become a desert, and Samaria and Jerusalem will become a desert, and the house of God, for a time, will be laid waste and burnt.

Then once again God will take pity on them and bring them back to the land of Israel. They will rebuild his house, although it will be less beautiful than the first, until the time is fulfilled. But after this, all will return from captivity and rebuild Jerusalem in all her glory, and the house of God will be rebuilt within her as the prophets of Israel have foretold.

And all the people of the whole earth will be converted and will reverence God with all sincerity. All will renounce their false gods who have led them astray into error,

and will bless the God of ages in uprightness. All the Israelites spared in those days will remember God in sincerity of heart. They will come and gather in Jerusalem and thereafter dwell securely in the land of Abraham, which will be theirs. And those who sincerely love God will rejoice. And those who commit sin and wickedness will vanish from the earth.

'And now, my children, I lay this duty on you; serve God sincerely, and do what is pleasing to him. And lay on your children the obligation to behave uprightly, to give alms, to keep God in mind and to bless his name always, sincerely and with all their might.

'So then, my son, leave Nineveh, do not stay here.

As soon as you have buried your mother next to me, go the same day, whenever it may be, and do not linger in this country where I see wickedness and perfidy unashamedly triumphant. Consider, my child, all the things done by Nadab to his foster-father Ahikar. Was not Ahikar forced to go underground, though still a living man? But God made the criminal pay for his outrage before his victim's eyes, since Ahikar came back to the light of day, while Nadab went down to everlasting darkness in punishment for plotting against Ahikar's life. Because of his good works Ahikar escaped the deadly snare Nadab had laid for him, and Nadab fell into it to his own ruin.

So, my children, you see what comes of almsgiving, and what wickedness leads to, I mean to death. But now breath fails me.' They laid him back on his bed; he died and was buried with honour.

When his mother died, Tobias buried her beside his father. Then he left for Media with his wife and children. He lived in Ecbatana with Raguel, his father-in-law.

He treated the ageing parents of his wife with every care and respect, and later buried them in Ecbatana in Media. Tobias inherited the patrimony of Raguel besides that of his father Tobit.

Much honoured, he lived to the age of a hundred and seventeen years.

Before he died he witnessed the ruin of Nineveh. He saw the Ninevites taken prisoner and deported to Media by Cyaxares king of Media. He blessed God for everything he inflicted on the Ninevites and Assyrians. Before his death he had the opportunity of rejoicing over the fate of Nineveh, and he blessed the Lord God for ever and ever. Amen.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The story ends with Tobit’s death, which is linked to the deaths of the great patriarchs of Israel. Before dying, he makes a long speech to Tobias that has the flavour of a last will and testament: forever faithful to God, Tobit not only knows how to judge the present but also is able to understand the meaning of history and so is able to "see" the future. He announces to Tobias the destruction of Nineveh foretold by the prophet Nahum. In truth, the destruction of Nineveh had already occurred. The author is not interested in historical chronology. Once again, what he wants to emphasize is the effectiveness of the Word: it is not futile and always reaches its fulfilment. This is what happened to Nineveh, too. But the deportation of Israel, which is obviously a calamity, can also be an opportunity to return to God. This is the message that shines through the entire fabric (lit. filigree) of the book: the Babylonian exile is not the last word on Israel. The Lord is preparing his people for a return to their homeland and places before their eyes a rebuilt Jerusalem. Not only will Israel find a home in it, but all of the peoples of the earth will hurry to make their own homes there. And "those who sincerely love God will rejoice, but those who commit sin and injustice will vanish from all the earth" (v. 7). Tobit’s exhortation that his son continue to practice almsgiving and mercy now takes on even more weight. He not only has to practice all of this himself, he also has to pass it down to his children: "Your children are also to be commanded to do what is right and to give alms" (v. 8), because almsgiving saves us from death (v. 11). Tobias also dies, but his death is as serene as his father’s and like the deaths of the holy patriarchs, men and women who were faithful to God and his people.