6 June, 2013. Thursday of the Ninth Week
Tob 6:11ff. The marriage of Tobias and Sarah.
Mark 12:28ff. Love of God and love of neighbour is worth more than any burnt offering or sacrifice.
First Reading: Tobit 6:10-11; 7:1, 9-17; 8:4-9
When he entered Media and already was approaching Ecbatana, Raphael said to the young man, “Brother Tobias.” “Here I am,” he answered. Then Raphael said to him, “We must stay this night in the home of Raguel. He is your relative, and he has a daughter named Sarah. Now when they entered Ecbatana, Tobias said to him, “Brother Azariah, take me straight to our brother Raguel.” So he took him to Raguel’s house, where they found him sitting beside the courtyard door. They greeted him first, and he replied, “Joyous greetings, brothers; welcome and good health!” Then he brought them into his house. Then Raguel slaughtered a ram from the flock and received them very warmly.
When they had bathed and washed themselves and had reclined to dine, Tobias said to Raphael, “Brother Azariah, ask Raguel to give me my kinswoman Sarah.” But Raguel overheard it and said to the lad, “Eat and drink, and be merry tonight. For no one except you, brother, has the right to marry my daughter Sarah. Likewise I am not at liberty to give her to any other man than yourself, because you are my nearest relative. But let me explain to you the true situation more fully, my child. I have given her to seven men of our kinsmen, and all died on the night when they went in to her. But now, my child, eat and drink, and the Lord will act on behalf of you both.” But Tobias said, “I will neither eat nor drink anything until you settle the things that pertain to me.” So Raguel said, “I will do so. She is given to you in accordance with the decree in the book of Moses, and it has been decreed from heaven that she be given to you. Take your kinswoman; from now on you are her brother and she is your sister. She is give to you from today and forever. May the Lord of heaven, my child, guide and prosper you both this night and grant you mercy and peace.” Then Raguel summoned his daughter Sarah. When she came to him he took her by the hand and gave her to Tobias, saying, “Take her to be your wife in accordance with the law and decree written in the book of Moses. Take her and bring her safely to your father. And may the God of heaven prosper your journey with his peace.” Then he called her mother and told her to bring writing material; and he wrote out a copy of a marriage contract, to the effect that he gave her to him as wife according to the decree of the law of Moses. Then they began to eat and drink.
Raguel called his wife Edna and said to her, “Sister, get the other room ready, and take her there.” So she went and made the bed in the room as he had told her, and brought Sarah there. She wept for her daughter. Then, wiping away the tears, she said to her, “Take courage, my daughter; the Lord of heaven grant you joy in place of your sorrow. Take courage, my daughter.” Then she went out.
When the parents had gone out and shut the door of the room, Tobias got out of bed and said to Sarah, “Sister, get up, and let us pray and implore our Lord that he grant us mercy and safety.” So she got up, and they began to pray and implore that they might be kept safe. Tobias began by saying, “Blessed are you, O God of our ancestors, and blessed is your name in all generations forever. Let the heavens and the whole creation bless you forever. You made Adam, and for him you made his wife Eve as a helper and support. From the two of them the human race has sprung. You said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; let us make a helper for him like himself.’ I now am taking this kinswoman of mine, not because of lust, but with sincerity. Grant that she and I may find mercy and that we may grow old together.” And they both said, “Amen, Amen.” Then they went to sleep for the night.
Gospel: Mark 12:28-34
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbour as oneself,’ – this is much more important that all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.
A Love that is Noble
Some of Holy Scripture’s finest expressions on marriage occur in the Book of Tobit. A noble marriage invitation is spoken by Raguel, the father of the bride, to Tobias, “Sarah is yours according to the rules laid down by Moses. Your marriage to her has been decided in heaven…. From now on she is your beloved.” This sense of God’s blessing continues in the prayer of newly married husband: “Blessed are you, O Lord of our ancestors…. who said, It is not good for the man to be alone. I take this wife not because of lust, but for a noble purpose. Call down your mercy on me and on her, and let us live together to a happy old age.” After blessing God and receiving God’s blessing, we are told that they “went to bed for the night.”
The gospel highlights the “commandment” of love. We normally do not think of love as a law but as a spontaneous response to another. Yet how easily we can love selfishly, in contrast to the noble purpose of Tobias and Sarah in their marriage. True love is: “with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” It reaches out to others as to an extension of ourselves, to “love your neighbour as yourself.” What neighbour is closer than one’s spouse? Such love is “worth more than any burnt offering or sacrifice.” Without love everything else loses in value, while with it we are “not far from the reign of God.”
The trials of love can correct and purify the heart. Between the elderly couple, Tobit and Anna, the providence of God worked to make the good better, the faithful all the more tenacious. The psalmist says of God’s word, “The promises of the Lord are sure, like tried silver, freed from dross, sevenfold refined” (Ps 12:7). Silver ore was placed in a burning cauldron. With strong heat the slack was burnt off and the pure substance remained. Such is the way of true love. It requires a lifetime to become pure and strong, ready for eternal life.