This week we follow the story of Tobit and his son Tobiah, Jews living in exile in Nineveh. Tobit is determined to obey God's law no matter what the cost. He has already been threatened with execution once for burying a dead man, but that wasn't going to stop him from doing it again.
When we first meet Tobit, he is about to sit down to a fancy meal, but he decides that he's missing something. Other people are hungry, and at least one of them should be able to share this fine supper. So Tobit sends Tobiah to find a God fearing person to eat with them.
Tobiah hardly gets out the door before he is met with a horrifying sight. One of their fellow Jews has been strangled in the street and his body left to the dogs and birds. Tobit springs to his feet when his son rushes back to get him. He dashes out, grabs the body, hides it in an empty room, and buries it after dark. Only then does he finally eat his supper, and then he does so in mourning rather than joy. The life of an exile, he reflects, is full of sorrow.
But Tobit is not afraid. Even when his neighbors mock him and remind him of the danger he is courting, he is determined to do the right thing. He knows that there is really nothing to fear when he is obeying God, and he trusts that God will care for him no matter what.
Tuesday – Not Perfect
Yesterday we met the righteous Tobit who is determined to follow God's commandments even in the midst of exile. Today, however, we see another side of Tobit. He is, we discover, just like everyone else: human and therefore definitely not perfect.
First, Tobit makes a rather foolish decision that has some serious consequences. He falls asleep leaning up against a wall in his courtyard, a move which results in eyes filled with bird-dropping-related cataracts. This freak accident leads to four years of blindness for Tobit.
His wife, Anna, goes to work weaving cloth to make enough money to support the family, and she does such a good job that her employer gives her a young goat as a bonus. Tobit hears the goat and jumps to the worst possible conclusion, accusing his wife of stealing the animal. Anna protests her innocence, but Tobit refuses to believe her.
Anna becomes angry and, with some justification, asks her husband, “Where are your charitable deeds now? Where are your virtuous acts? See! Your true character is finally showing itself!”
Tobit may be a pretty good guy for the most part, but just like the rest of us, he is far from perfect.
Wednesday – Two Prayers
To his credit, Tobit immediately regrets his harsh words toward his wife. He bursts into tears and raises his prayer to God, repenting his sins and begging for death. He cries out to God, trust Him and placing himself in God's hands yet also asking God to take him away from his life of misery.
Meanwhile, many miles away, a young woman walks along the edge of despair. Sarah has had seven weddings, but every time a demon has killed her new husband on their wedding night. Now a maid has accused her of strangling those men. Sarah climbs up to the highest point of her house, intending to hang herself and escape her misery, but at the last moment, she has second thoughts. She doesn't want to cause her father grief, and deep down, she knows that killing herself is wrong. So she prays, intending to ask God to grant her a natural death.
Instead, though, Sarah opens her mouth and proclaims, “Blessed are You, O Lord, merciful God, and blessed is Your holy and honorable name. Blessed are You in all Your works for ever!”
God hears the prayers of both Tobit and Sarah. He hears, and He answers. The angel Raphael sets off to begin his healing mission.