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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Tob. 10–12]

FOURTEEN days had passed since the marriage of Tobias, and his parents at home began to be exceedingly sad, and they wept together, because their son did not return. But his mother was quite disconsolate, and she groaned and sighed: “Woe, woe is me, my son, why did we send thee to a strange country; the light of our eyes, the staff of our old age, the comfort of our life, the hope of our posterity!” Then Tobias said to her: “Hold thy peace, our son is safe.” Yet she would not be comforted, but went out into all the ways that she might see him coming afar off.

Now Tobias the younger said to Raguel: “I know that my parents count the days, and their spirit is afflicted within them.” However, Raguel pressed him to stay a little longer, but in vain. He then gave him Sara his wife, and the half of all he possessed, saying: “May the holy Angel of the Lord be with you in your journey, and bring you through safely, and may you find all things well about your parents.”

When the travellers had made half the journey homeward, the Angel said to Tobias: “Let us go before and let the family softly follow after us.” They did so, and Raphael told Tobias to take with him the gall of the fish, because it would be very useful.

Meanwhile Anna sat daily beside the way on the hill-top; and while she watched, she saw him coming far off. When she was sure that it was her son coming, she ran to tell her husband. She had scarcely done so when the dog which had accompanied her son on the journey, running before, reached the house, wagging his tail and jumping for joy, as if he had brought the news. Thereupon, the elder Tobias, blind as he was, groped his way and went out to meet his son. And they all wept for joy.

Young Tobias then rubbed his father’s eyes with the gall of the fish, and he saw; and the old man exclaimed: “I bless Thee, O Lord God of Israel, because Thou hast chastised me, and Thou hast saved me, and, behold, I see Tobias, my son!” Seven days after, Sara and her retinue arrived, and completed the joy of that favoured and happy household.

Then the son related to his parents all the benefits he had received from the young man, his guide. He said they could never repay him for all he had done for him, but asked his father’s permission to give him one half of the money he had received from Gabelus.

The father willingly consented, and they pressed the young man to accept the money. But the heavenly messenger said to them: “Bless ye the God of heaven, and give glory to Him in the sight of all that live; because He hath shown His mercy to you. Prayer is good with fasting and alms, more than to lay up treasures of gold. When thou didst pray with tears, and didst bury the dead, I offered thy prayer to the Lord. And because thou wast acceptable to God, it was necessary that temptation should prove thee. The Lord hath sent me to heal thee, and to deliver Sara, thy son’s wife, from the devil. For I am the Angel Raphael, one of the seven who stand before the throne of God.” Hearing this, they were seized with fear, and all fell prostrate on the ground. Still the Angel told them not to fear, but to bless and thank the Lord, who had sent him to do His holy will in their regard.

Having spoken thus, he vanished from their sight, leaving the little family lost in wonder and gratitude to God. The elder Tobias lived forty-two years after these events to share in the happiness of his family, and died at the age of one hundred and two years. Tobias, his son, lived to be very old; he saw the children of his children, who remained faithful, and were beloved by God and man.

The Goodness of God. This story of Tobias shows us most clearly how good God is to His servants. He gave old Tobias a good son; He sent His Angel in the form of a man to guide him; He gave the son a rich and virtuous wife; He cured the father, granted him a happy old age in the midst of God-fearing children and grand-children, and blessed his family for many generations. God changed Tobias’ suffering to great joy; for who could describe the father’s happiness when, after four years of blindness, he once more saw standing before him his beloved son, on whose account he had endured so much anxiety? The sufferings he had gone through made his present joy all the greater. God sends tribulations to the just, in order that He may reward their patience with great joys, often given in this world, but always in heaven.

The blessings brought by piety. St. Paul (1 Tim. 4:8) writes thus: “Godliness is profitable in all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” Piety made old Tobias a good father, training his son in virtue; it kept him from sin, and urged him to the ceaseless practice of good works; it won for him the favour of King Salmanazar, and gave him patience under his sufferings, filling him with consolation. Piety made the young Tobias an affectionate and dutiful son, a virtuous youth and a holy man, the joy and support of his parents. It drew down on both father and son God’s protection and blessing on earth, and untold glory in heaven. True interior piety cannot be too highly valued.

The love of parents for their children is fully illustrated by this story.

The filial love of children for their parents. In young Tobias was fulfilled the promise attached to the observance of the Fourth Commandment: “that thy days may be long in the land &c.”

Guardian Angels. This story fully confirms the Catholic doctrine about guardian Angels. Tobias’ parting words to his son: “May God’s Angel accompany you”, plainly show that he believed in the protection of guardian Angels. By Raphael’s actions we can see what it is that our guardian Angels do for us, since they do for us in an invisible manner just what he did, visibly, for young Tobias. He guided him, protected him on his long and perilous journey, showed him what was the right thing to do, and prayed for him and his father. This is what our guardian Angels do for us. The Angel’s words: “When thou didst pray with tears, and bury the dead, I offered thy prayer to the Lord”, show us plainly that the holy Angels know all about our prayers, sufferings and labours, and carry our prayers and good works before the throne of God, uniting their prayers to ours, and interceding for us. The example of Tobias shows us how we ought to conduct our selves towards our holy guardian. Tobias reverenced the holy Angel, obeyed his directions, executed his commands, called on him in the hour of danger, and showed him the most heartfelt gratitude.

Humility of the holy Archangel Raphael. He gave all the glory to God.

Gratitude shown by the old and the young Tobias towards their benefactor. They wished to give him half of what they possessed. Gratitude is pleasing, whereas everybody detests ingratitude.

Good works. The Angel of God praised Tobias on account of his prayers, fasting and alms-deeds, thereby putting such works before us as excellent, and pleasing to God. Under the head of “prayer” we are to understand all acts of worship both interior and exterior: for Tobias did not merely pray, but offered sacrifice, and observed the great feasts of God. Under the head of “fasting” are included all acts of mortification. Tobias observed all the laws regarding abstinence from certain food: he shortened his night’s rest to bury the dead, and bore all his sufferings with patience and resignation. Under the head of “alms-deeds” we are to understand all the works of mercy which Tobias practised in such a high degree, comforting the afflicted, feeding the hungry, and burying the dead. Now, why are these good works enjoined on us? Firstly, because by prayer we prove our love of God, by fasting our love of ourselves, and by alms-deeds our love of our neighbour. Secondly, because these three good works united represent the most perfect offering which we can make to God, for by prayer we offer Him our soul, by fasting our body, and by alms all we possess. Thirdly, because these three good works are the best weapons against our three enemies: by prayer we can fight against pride, by fasting against the lust of the flesh, and by alms-deeds against the lust of the eyes.

Imperishable treasures. Why is “prayer, with fasting and alms, better than laying up treasures of gold”? Because gold and earthly treasures can be taken away from us, and must inevitably be taken away by death, whereas our prayers and other meritorious works are real treasures which no one can take away, but which will go into eternity with us, and obtain for us a favourable judgment. Earthly treasures make it difficult to die, but heavenly treasures make it easy. Therefore our Divine Saviour says: “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (New Test. XXI).

The prayer of praise and thanksgiving. A great many men err by offering up only prayers of petition, quite neglecting either to praise or thank Almighty God. The Angel expressly urged Tobias to offer up prayers of praise and thanksgiving, and Tobias was in the habit of doing so.

The wings of prayer. Our prayers should be joined to fasting and alms-deeds, or in other words to works of self-denial and charity. By this means they have greater power, are more pleasing to God, and are more surely heard. The holy Fathers say therefore: “Fasting and alms are the two wings with which our prayers fly to heaven.”

The sufferings of the just serve the double purpose of proving them and of increasing their merits. “Because thou wast acceptable to God, it was necessary that temptation should prove thee”, said the Angel to Tobias.

Great awe and veneration were experienced by both father and son when they discovered that an Angel of the Most High had appeared to them in the form of a man. “Being seized with fear they fell upon their faces on the ground.” How much more reverence ought we to feel each time we are in the presence of the most holy Sacrament, in which our Lord is really and personally present with His Divinity and sacred Humanity.

A good education produces good fruit for several generations. Tobias the younger, having received a good education from his father, brought up his own children in the fear of the Lord; and they too, in turn, brought up their children well. So it happened that the descendants of Tobias “continued in good life and in holy conversation, and thus were acceptable both to God and man”.

APPLICATION. Do you keep in mind that your holy guardian Angel is always with you? Do you commend yourself to his care, and obey his inspirations?

Do you take pains, like young Tobias, to be a joy to your parents, and to spare them anxiety and vexation? Do you return home as soon as you can, when you are sent out by them on an errand?








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