5 June, 2013. Wednesday of the Ninth Week
Tob 3:1ff. Tobit and Sarah pray to God in deepest anguish; they beg God to let them die.
Mark 12:18ff. In the resurrection, they will not marry. God of the living, not of the dead.
First Reading: Tobit 3:1-11, 16-17
Then with much grief and anguish of heart I wept, and with groaning began to pray: “You are righteous, O Lord, and all your deeds are just; all your ways are mercy and truth; you judge the world. And now, O Lord, remember me and look favourably upon me. Do not punish me for my sins and for my unwitting offenses and those that my ancestors committed before you. They sinned against you, and disobeyed your commandments. So you gave us over to plunder, exile, and death, to become the talk, the byword, and an object of reproach among all the nations among whom you have dispersed us. And now your many judgments are true in exacting penalty from me for my sins. For we have not kept your commandments and have not walked in accordance with truth before you. So now deal with me as you will; command my spirit to be taken from me, so that I may be released from the face of the earth and become dust. For it is better for me to die than to live, because I have had to listen to undeserved insults, and great is the sorrow wihin me.
Command, O Lord, that I be released from this distress; release me to go to the eternal home, and do not, O Lord, turn your face away from me. For it is better for me to die than to see so much distress in my life and to listen to insults.”
On the same day, at Ecbatana in Media, it also happened that Sarah, the daughter of Raguel, was reproached by one of her father’s maids. For she had been married to seven husbands, and the wicked demon Asmodeus had killed each of them before they had been with her as is customary for wives. So the maid said to her, “You are the one who kills your husbands! See, you have already been married to seven husbands and have not borne the name of a single one of them. Why do you beat us? Because your husbands are dead? Go with them! May we never see a son or daughter of yours!”
On that day she was grieved in spirit and wept. When she had gone up to her father’s upper room, she intended to hang herself. But she thought it over and said, “Never shall they reproach my father, saying to him, “You had only one beloved daughter but she hanged herself because of her distress.’ And I shall bring my father in his old age down in sorrow to Hades. It is better for me not to hang myself, but to pray the Lord that I may die and not listen to these reproaches anymore.”
At that same time, with hands outstretched toward the window, she prayed and said, “Blessed are you, merciful God! Blessed is your name forever; let all your works praise you forever. And now, Lord, I turn my face to you, and raise my eyes toward you. Command that I be released from the earth and not listen to such reproaches any more. You know, O Master, that I am innocent of any defilement with a man, and that I have not disgraced my name or the name of my father in the land of my exile. I am my father’s only child; he has no other child to be his heir; and he has no close relative or other kindred for whom I should keep myself as wife. Already seven husbands of mine have died. Why should I still live? But if it is not pleasing to you, O Lord, to take my life, hear me in my disgrace.”
At that very moment, the prayers of both of them were heard in the glorious presence of God. So Raphael was sent to heal both of them: Tobit, by removing the white films from his eyes, so that he might see God’s light with his eyes; and Sarah,
Gospel: Mark 12:18-27
Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that ‘if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.’ There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; and the second married her and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.”
Jesus said to them, “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.”
Transforming Marriage and Family
Jesus’ provocative remarks about marriage are followed by his clear statement that a heavenly existence is in store for us. We will rise from the dead in such continuity with our earthly life that what we do on this earth affects our joy or punishment in the hereafter. Yet, we will be radically changed, and so will the entire earth be transformed. Even marriage and family will be utterly transformed, yes, but hardly destroyed. If earthly existence affects our heavenly life, one expects that marriages and families will have their impact as well, since love is the determining factor. Our final judgment is decided on whether or not we fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, comforted the sick, visited prisoners (Mt 25:40). If love for strangers and for the ministers of the gospel is so rewarded and so remembered, then surely the love and self-sacrifice in marriage and family life will be too.
The first reading points to prayer being answered in the marriage of Tobit’s son to Sarah. This came as a result of Tobit’s blindness and his son’s search for a cure for it. The marriage brought a cure to Tobit’s blindness, enabled him to see his grandchildren and to die in peace. Tobit speaks of fidelity within marriage, its sufferings and its hopes. In the gospel Jesus declares that patient suffering will have an abundant reward, its hopes will be fulfilled beyond one’s dreams. He defends the resurrection of the body; the instrument for giving and receiving love and affection, for feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, will itself be revived and transformed.
Jesus’ reasoning with the Sadducees about the resurrection would hardly win the day unless there is faith in God’s love and compassion. Faith in God as sharing life and love, as bountifully generous, makes all the difference. God will not raise us to half-life or half-love. What that fullness of life and love will be remains God’s secret, the supreme object of our trust and faith.