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Home » Daily Readings, Old Testament, Wisdom

A Catechism on Marriage

Submitted by on Thursday, 4 June 2009No Comment

Today’s selection from Tobias jumps over a lot of things. From yesterday’s selection until now, two chapters are left out, the one about the purpose for Tobias’s journey (4:20-21) which is prefaced by a long speech about what Tobias should do when his father dies (4:1-19) . Tobiah is to get his father’s money which was entrusted to a relative who lives in a land far away. Tobit also advised his son to take somebody to the journey as a guide. He meets Raphael who introduces himself as Azariah, a relative of theirs (5:4-14). Along the way, the two companions catch a fish for dinner and Raphael tells Tobiah to keep the liver, gall and heart. The angel explained to his companion that the heart and liver when burned give off smoke that drives away the devil; the gall is for bringing back sight. Thus, in these two medicinal values of the internal organs of the fish, the reader is given an idea of how Tobias will bring about the healing of his father and Sarah.

The liturgical reading presents to us the wedding of Tobias and Sarah. We find out however that this event happens because of Raphael’s instrumentality. In fact, our modern image of Cupid illustrated as a winged baby shooting arrows that make people fall in love is based on an ancient idea: that angels have something to do with love and marriages. Here is an outline of the full context from which our selected passages were taken

  • 6:10-13 Raphael (disguised as Azariah) advises Tobias to go to Raguel’s house so as to marry his daughter
  • 6:14-15 Tobias’ objection on the grounds that he would not like to be killed by a demon
  • 6:16-18 Raphael’s assurance that this would not happpen; Tobias falling in love with Sarah
  • 7:1-9 The meeting of Raphael and Raguel
  • 7:10-15 The marriage of Raphael and Sarah.
  • 8:1-3 Tobias drives out the demon.
  • 8:4-8 The first night of Raphael and Sarah together

Comparing the full context with the selected passages, we realize that the emphasis of the liturgy is on Raguel’s and Tobias’s conversation regarding the marriage and the prayer of Tobias and Sarah on their first night together as husband and wife. The ideas highlighted here are: (a) marriage is a vocation (it is made in heaven), and (b) marriage is not a matter of sex but of something more. The prayer of the newly weds is itself worth paying attention to: It is a berakah where God the creator is blessed (v. 5), with a narrative based on the creation of Adam and Eve (v.6), Tobias’ intentions for marrying (v. 7a) and the petition that they grow old together (7b).

The intention of the liturgical reading is clearly a catechism on marriage. Marriage is a vocation where God calls a man and a woman to be together for life. We are not yet in a stage of salvation history where celibacy is something valued1. A man and a woman is meant for marriage. In Tobias’ prayer, it is emphasized that one of the purposes of marriage is companionship. This is indicated by the narrative part of the prayer and the petition that the partners grow old together. The other purpose of marriage — the education of children — can be drawn from other texts.

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  1. celibacy is based on the fact that Jesus did not marry, the conviction that celibacy is of benefit to the growth of the Church is apostolic, and that it too is a vocation, thus making possible the existence of those who are “eunuchs for the kingdom of God” []

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