Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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Feast of Saint Charles Lwanga who with twelve companions suffered martyrdom in Uganda (1886). Memorial of Saint John XXIII.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Tobit 3, 1-11.16-17

Then, sad at heart, I sighed and wept, and began this prayer of lamentation:

You are just, O Lord, and just are all your works. All your ways are grace and truth, and you are the Judge of the world.

Therefore, Lord, remember me, look on me. Do not punish me for my sins or for my needless faults or those of my ancestors.

For we have sinned against you and broken your commandments; and you have given us over to be plundered, to captivity and death, to be the talk, the laughing-stock and scorn of all the nations among whom you have dispersed us.

And now all your decrees are true when you deal with me as my faults deserve, and those of my ancestors. For we have neither kept your commandments nor walked in truth before you.

So now, do with me as you will; be pleased to take my life from me; so that I may be delivered from earth and become earth again. Better death than life for me, for I have endured groundless insult and am in deepest sorrow. Lord, be pleased to deliver me from this affliction. Let me go away to my everlasting home; do not turn your face from me, O Lord. Better death for me than life prolonged in the face of unrelenting misery: I can no longer bear to listen to insults.

It chanced on the same day that Sarah the daughter of Raguel, who lived in Media at Ecbatana, also heard insults from one of her father's maids.

For she had been given in marriage seven times, and Asmodeus, the worst of demons, had killed her bridegrooms one after another before ever they had slept with her as man with wife. The servant-girl said, 'Yes, you kill your bridegrooms yourself. That makes seven already to whom you have been given, and you have not once been in luck yet.

Just because your bridegrooms have died, that is no reason for punishing us. Go and join them, and may we be spared the sight of any child of yours!'

That day, she grieved, she sobbed, and she went up to her father's room intending to hang herself. But then she thought, 'Suppose they were to blame my father! They would say, "You had an only daughter whom you loved, and now she has hanged herself for grief." I cannot cause my father a sorrow which would bring down his old age to the dwelling of the dead. I should do better not to hang myself, but to beg the Lord to let me die and not live to hear any more insults.'

And at this, by the window, with outstretched arms she said this prayer: You are blessed, O God of mercy! May your name be blessed for ever, and may all things you have made bless you everlastingly.

This time the prayer of each of them found favour before the glory of God,

and Raphael was sent to bring remedy to them both. He was to take the white spots from the eyes of Tobit, so that he might see God's light with his own eyes; and he was to give Sarah the daughter of Raguel as bride to Tobias son of Tobit, and to rid her of Asmodeus, that worst of demons. For it was to Tobias before all other suitors that she belonged by right. Tobit was coming back from the courtyard into the house at the same moment as Sarah the daughter of Raguel was coming down from the upper room.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Worn out by pain, Tobit does not turn in on himself, but lifts his voice to God in a sorrowful prayer. It is the first of the five prayers presented in the book of Tobit. Tobit begins with words of praise for the Lord, his justice, and his mercy. Tobit not only does not doubt God’s mercy, he exalts it. He asks God to turn his gaze towards him and to have mercy on him for his and his ancestors’ sins, which have caused so much tragedy and pain. The echoes of many pages of Scripture can be recognized in Tobit’s stern words. They are an example of how the words of Scripture can help us turn to the Lord in prayer. And it is significant that Tobit moves from the first person singular to the first person plural over the course of his prayer, identifying his own fate with the larger story of his people. This horizon should always be present in the prayer of believers. They are never alone before God, but always tied to a people, the community to which they belong and for which they should always invoke the Lord’s help and protection. The eyes of faith make Tobit see that the sad condition which he and God’s own people find themselves is due to the fact that they have strayed away from God and his laws. Overcome by desperation, Tobit asks God to grant him death rather than leaving him the situation into which he had fallen, just as Moses (Num 11:15), Elijah (1 Kings 19:14), and Jonah (Jon 4:3. 8) did before him. For “great is the sorrow within me” (v. 6), he says. On the contrary, in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus will ask the Father to take the bitter cup of death away from him, but he trusts in His will entirely. Tobit’s request to be released to go to the “eternal home” simply means going to the tomb where he would stay forever. Nonetheless, Tobit asks the Lord, “do not, O Lord, turn your face away from me.”This request will find its full answer in the revelation of the resurrection announced to us by Jesus first through his words and then with the events of Easter.