Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
A Challenge Ever New
This week we hear the Book of Tobit, which won both Jewish and Christian readers. Its story fascinated me even as a boy. The story, written around the 2d Century before the birth of Christ is set during the Jewish Feast of Weeks, which began 50 days after Passover, or late spring as now. It follows one wealthy Jewish family among the many held captive in Nineveh.
As you hear it, listen for several themes: fidelity to torah, the intercessory function of angels, piety toward parents, the purity of marriage, reverence for the dead, and the value of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. See how any of them apply to you and your life.
These early verses sound the themes of fidelity to torah, particularly, sharing with the poor and reverence for the dead. The last one was particularly challenging because the government forbade burial to dead Jews, to make examples of them and likely to mock their rites of burial, which Jews held to be a divine command. Even under pain of execution, Tobit would not reject God’s commands plus he hastened to show reverence for the dead.
Reject is a thread that runs through the gospel. Many, especially the religious professionals, the builders in Jesus' pointed parable, rejected God in favor of themselves. Their lust for power and esteem hardened many against Jesus. God would work through Jesus’ rejection as the Psalmist sang:
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes.Both readings invite us to consider our selves: how much do I weave God’s desires into my daily living? What do I exalt to the point of squeezing God out of my life--which stealthily becomes my rejection of God? Do I have a hero like Tobit to help me focus my heart and actions on living a faithful life, so that I respect more than I reject?
Flickr-image by Lawrence OP used under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical license.