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Home » Daily Readings

Being Holy in an Unholy Place

Submitted by on Tuesday, 2 June 2009No Comment



This week we are going to have a lectio cursiva of the book of Tobit. Since the selected passages are the same every other year with a few variations, you can be sure that the reading materials from Tobit would be more or less the same as in 2007. In 2005, I wrote a summary of the passages read from Tobit with an overview of the whole book; it is posted here. This year, and especially since I have Daily Inspirations set up, I will give some explanations of the passages as they are offered in the liturgy for meditation.

Here are some backgrounders on the Book of Tobit:

The selection for the day is taken from the introductory part of the book with some passages left out. As laid out in the text of the Scriptures, Tobit 1:1-2:8 can be summarized as follows:

  • 1:1-2 Introduction to the Book; the setting of the story
  • 1:3-9 Tobit’s story before the exile
  • 1:10-15 Tobit when he was exiled
  • 1:16-22 Tobit arrested for burying the dead and freed at the request of Ahikar, his nephew
  • 2:1 Under the reign of Esar-haddon
  • 2:2-8b Tobit buries the dead at Pentecost

If we compare this outline to the contents of the selected passages for the day’s liturgy, we can see highlighted the following:

  1. Tobit of the tribe of Naphtali deported to Nineveh in Syria after the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 721 BC
  2. Tobit’s charity; his sadness at the news that there are dead Jews who are left unburied
  3. The situation of the Jews in the light of a prophecy from Amos
  4. Tobit mocked because of his piety (his commitment to burying the dead)

The liturgy highlights one of the main themes of the Book of Tobit: being just in a place that mocks justice. Seen from the perspective of the OT idea of the devout who live faithful to the Law, these opening lines from Tobit describe to us a man who suffers because of his fidelity to the demands of righteousness, of his love for his fellow Jews and of his acceptance of the burdens of the exile — a punishment that he knows he and his people is undergoing because of sin. A Christian can read these lines in the light of the apostolic exhortations (especially from 1 Peter) about suffering patiently for one’s faith.

(S)ince Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same attitude (for whoever suffers in the flesh has broken with sin), so as not to spend what remains of one’s life in the flesh on human desires, but on the will of God. For the time that has passed is sufficient for doing what the Gentiles like to do: living in debauchery, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and wanton idolatry.

They are surprised that you do not plunge into the same swamp of profligacy, and they vilify you; but they will give an account to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead that, though condemned in the flesh in human estimation, they might live in the spirit in the estimation of God. (1Peter 4:1-6)

    Tobit 1:1-2
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    1Tobias of the tribe and city of Nephtali, (which is in the upper parts of Galilee above Naasson, beyond the way that leadeth to the west, having on the right hand the city of Sephet,)
    2When he was made captive in the days of Salmanasar king of the Assyrians, even in his captivity, forsook not the way of truth,

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