Reflection on the Daily Readings for 6/01/09 by Fr. Bertrand Buby, SM
Scripture: Year 1 (B). Mon. Tobit 1;1;2.2:1-9. Psalm 112:1-2.3-4.5-6. Mark
12:1-12. Lectionary # 353.
Ordinary time begins this morning with the colorful story of Tobit, a
deuterocanonical book. Though we call this ordinary time, the Scriptures
are never ordinary in the message, their challenges, their call to turn
again and again to the Lord. We start with a first person account which is
extraordinary for a writing coming from 200 B.C. The father of the family
is named Tobit (a name based on the word for “good” in Hebrew, Tov). And
that he is, but he does have some further growth to be truly a saint as we
will see in tomorrow’s reading where he and his wife have a family
This book has many literary forms within it and it shows us a good look
into the religious minded Israelite of the time in which it was written.
The book fits in very well with the values of both Jewish and Christian
life and offers the reader some delightful passages. There is the constant
presence of the Providence of God which carries the book to a triumphal
finish. The meticulous observances of Tobit show that he is pious and even
a scrupolous man. The Pharisaic background comes through in the presence
of the angel Raphael, the archangel of healing.
In our first selection from Tobit we witness his charity in risking his
life to bury those who are lying in the street dead either from being
murder or by an accident. Here it is murder. There is the careful
observance of rituals and fidelity to prayer, fasting, and observance of
all the commandments. From a Christian point of view the corporal works of
mercy shine through in this book perhaps more than elsewhere in the Bible.
“Tobit thus is a model of the exiled Israelite (in Nineveh of present day
Iraq) who expresses his faith by serving the needs of his fellow Israelites
who are suffering in Nineveh(in Iraq). Thus the book has a relevant
meaning for those trying to bring unity and peace there today. Hopefully,
its message that ends in happiness could soon be attained in Iraq.
Naturally, we all feel rather shocked by the abrupt ending of the feast of
Pentecost, but the book starts with Tobit thanking God during this feast of
Pentecost, fifty days after the Passover. Perhaps, this may help us
getting in tune with the ordinary after fifty days of great joy and
celebration of the Easter season. The Feast of Pentecost or Weeks
(Succoth) is described in Deuteronomy 16:9-11. The practical doing of
God’s will as seen in ritual, works of mercy, and the commandments are most
worthy of our attention and exercise as we start “ordinary time.”
The parable found in Mark’s gospel shows us the wicked tenants who kill the
servants and eventually even the son of the landowner. These criminals are
just the opposite of who Tobit is and who his family members are. It is a
striking contrast of the good and the bad so easily seen in our world.
Both Jesus and Mark are involved in the telling of this parable which has
some characteristics of Jesus’ way of the one punch parable as well as the
allegorical interpretation that happened early in the Christian community
interpreting the parable as Mark hands it on to us with some of his
personal touches. We may wish to reflect on it as an authentic parable of
Jesus and as a community development seen within it as it moves more into
an allegory. It does make it easy for us to think about Jesus as the son
in this parable; the servants who are beaten and some killed are linked to
the prophets. Psalm one offers us some wisdom in the contrasts we see in
Tobit and the evil tenants. Amen.