Daily Devotional for January 12-18
Luke 2: Now the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when Jesus was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the Child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his Mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his Mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Fathers business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his Mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
Prayer: O Give thanks to the Lord for He is good and His mercy endures forever.
Tobias cont. from the Practical Commentary: Chapter 4+
TOBIAS, seeing himself surrounded by so many miseries, thought he could not live much longer. He, therefore, called his son and said: “My son, when God shall take my soul, thou shalt bury my body; and thou shalt honour thy mother all the days of her life; for thou must be mindful what and how great perils she has suffered for thee. And when she also shall have ended the time of her life, bury her by me.
“And all the days of thy life have God in thy mind, and take heed thou never consent to sin, nor transgress the commandments of the Lord our God. Give alms out of thy substance, and turn not thy face away from any poor person. If thou hast much, give abundantly; if thou hast little, take care even so to bestow willingly a little. For alms deliver from sin and death, and will not suffer the soul to go into darkness. Take heed to keep thyself, my son, from all fornication.
“Never suffer pride to reign in thy mind, nor in thy word, for from it all perdition took its beginning. If any man has done work for thee, pay him his hire. See thou never do to another what thou wouldst hate to have done to thee by another. Bless God at all times, and desire of him to direct thy ways and that all thy counsels may abide in Him. Fear not, my son, we lead indeed a poor life; but we shall have many good things (grace and consolations on earth and eternal glory in heaven), if we fear God and depart from all sin, and do that which is good.”
Then the son answered, saying: “I will do all these things, father, which thou hast commanded me.”
Tobias, having thus advised his son, sent him to Rages, a distant city, to collect a debt of long standing. And the young Tobias, not knowing the road, went out to seek a guide who would show him the way.
He had not gone far when he met a beautiful young man, standing ready girt as for a journey. It was the Archangel Raphael. Tobias did not know who the young man was, but he addressed him, saying: “Good young man, knowest thou the way that leadeth to the country of the Medes?” The Angel answered: “I know it.” Then the young Tobias introduced him to his father, who asked him: “Canst thou conduct my son to Gabelus, at Rages?”
The young man replied: “I will conduct him thither, and bring him back to thee.” Then Tobias blessed the two young men, praying: “May you have a good journey; may God be with you on your way, and may His Angel accompany you.” Then they both set out on their journey, and the dog followed them. But his mother wept and said to her husband: “Thou hast taken the staff of our old age, and hast sent him away.”
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me
On the evening of the first day the travellers reached the banks of the river Tigris. Tobias, heated and warm, sat down on the bank and put his feet into the water. Suddenly an enormous fish came up to devour him. Tobias cried out to the Angel: “Sir, he cometh upon me!” The Angel, seeing his terror, exclaimed: “Take him by the gill and draw him to thee.” He did so, and when the fish lay panting before his feet, the Angel said: “Take out his heart, his gall and his liver, for these are useful medicines.” Then, making a fire, Tobias broiled some of the fish, which furnished a repast; then he salted a portion of what remained, to serve as provision for the journey.
When they came to a certain city, Tobias said to his guide: “Where wilt thou that we lodge?” The Angel answered: “There is here a man named Raguel, a kinsman of thy tribe, who has a daughter named Sara: and thou must take her to wife.” Tobias replied: “I hear that she hath been given to seven husbands, and they all died, and a devil killed each of them on the night of his wedding.”
Tobias said this, because he was the only son of his aged parents, and if such a misfortune should befall him, it would bring down their old age with sorrow to the grave. The Angel answered that the devil had such power over those who in their marriage banish God from their heart, and think only of gratifying their passions. “But thou”, he continued, “when thou shalt take her, give thyself for three days to nothing else but prayers with her; then the devil shall be driven away, and you shall obtain a blessing.”
Having entered into the house of Raguel, Tobias made himself known, and was warmly received by Raguel, as the son of an old friend and of a most worthy man. At the same time Anna, the wife of Raguel, and Sara, his daughter, wept for joy. They then prepared a repast for the travellers, and Raguel prayed them to sit down to eat. Tobias told him that he would neither eat nor drink till he promised to give him Sara, his daughter, in marriage.
Raguel seemed to hesitate, but the Angel told him not to be afraid to give his daughter to the young man, for that he feared the Lord. Then Raguel consented, and taking his daughter’s right hand, placed it in that of Tobias, saying: “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob be with you: may He join you together, and fulfil His blessing in you.”
Then they sat down to eat. And Tobias and Sara spent three days in prayer, after which the devil had no power to harm them. Then, at the request of Tobias, the Angel took the note of hand, went to the country of the Medes, collected the money from Gabelus, and returned with Gabelus to be present at the wedding.
Gabelus came with great joy, and when he saw the young husband he wept and embraced him, saying: “The God of Israel bless thee, because thou art the son of a very good and just man, who feareth God, and doeth alms-deeds. And may a blessing come upon thy wife.”
Prayer: Most holy Theotokos save us.
The elder Tobias is the model of a good father. By word and example he brought up his son from his earliest youth in the fear of God. When the time came that he expected to die, he forcibly reiterated the, most important points of his teaching, and his exhortations must have made all the greater impression on the son, because the father preached nothing that he had not himself constantly practised. Tobias cared for the salvation of his son’s soul more than anything, and therefore he admonished him above all things to avoid sin and especially to cultivate the virtues of filial piety, the fear of God, justice, brotherly love, gentleness and a great confidence in God.
The younger Tobias is the model of a good son. He listened eagerly to his father’s beautiful exhortations, and made this promise: “I will do all these things, father, which thou hast commanded me.” He kept this promise most faithfully, as you will see by what follows. If a child does not receive his parents’ advice willingly, he sins against that obedience which he owes them.
We learn some good lessons from this history of Tobias. The Angel advised him to enter into the married state. Therefore that state is good and pleasing to God, and persons who intend to marry should not do so without consulting God by earnest prayer. We also learn that some marriages are bad and full of danger, like those of Sara with her previous seven husbands, who had no religion and no fear of God and no pure motives in their action. It is therefore necessary to prepare oneself by prayer and to purify one’s intention by the highest motives, both before and at the beginning of that holy and difficult state. These lessons have double force in the New Testament, where marriage has been raised by our Lord to the dignity of a Sacrament.
Prayer: Glory to God in the Highest and earth peace good will among men.
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.
Prayer: Glory to Jesus Christ…Glory forever!
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 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.
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).
Prayer: Memory eternal, Memory eternal, may their Memory be eternal. [for the departed]
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.
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.