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Tobit

Tobit remains one of my favorite books of the Bible, causing me to ponder many things every time I read it.

Some of the little thoughts & questions that rattled through my mind as I read it again, in no particular order …

Raphael. It seems to me he is a perfect patron saint for parents as they pray for their children. He gave guidance, healing and protection to Tobit and his family, even pursuing a demon and binding it hand & foot. When he revealed his identity, he said some very interesting things:

  • When Tobit and Sarah prayed, Raphael presented and read the record of their prayer before the Glory of the Lord
  • He did the same when Tobit used to bury the dead
  • Raphael was sent to put Tobit to the test, and at the same time God commissioned him to heal Tobit & Sarah
  • Raphael is one of the 7 angels who enter & serve before the Glory of the Lord
  • When Raphael came to Tobit, “it was not out of any favor on my part, but because it was God’s will.”

Sarah’s Parents. Can you imagine how they felt? They had given their daughter in marriage 7 times, and each time her new husband had died on their wedding night. They loved their daughter dearly. Their hearts must have ached for her, and they also must have felt great dread when Tobias asked her hand in marriage. They admired their relative Tobit and now, it seemed to them, Tobit’s son would lose his life because of their daughter. How bitter it must have been. Raguel got up in the night to dig a grave; and later when it was discovered that Tobias and Sarah were safe and sleeping, he sent servants out to fill the grave in. That made me laugh!

Tobit. While he was being tested, I’m sure he felt great despair. He had spent years risking his own life to bury the dead in secret to please God; he had endured much ridicule for his actions. But when his son Tobias introduced himself to Raguel and also to Gabael in Rages, both men exclaimed with joy what a wonderful man his father Tobit was. Did Tobit know he was admired?

Anna. Tobias & Raphael were delayed in their return to Tobit & Anna. Anna was worried when they first set out on their journey and counted the days, knowing when they ought to return. She watched the road and her fears grew deeper as the days passed with no sign of her only son. How often do we pray with great desperation and love? How often do we despair that the prayer will not be answered in the way we desire? How often do we wish we could just know what has happened and see what is in the future as we wait on the LORD? I have to rejoice with Anna that not only was her prayer answered and Tobias returned safely home, but he brought with him a beautiful wife who gave them grandchildren.

There is just so much in this story; it is rich in every way.

 

 

 

Women Priests

Even after this, Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but again made priests for the high places from among the common people. Whoever desired it was installed as a priest of the high places.
(1 Kings 13:33)

That passage jumped out at me recently. In the Old Testament times, priests were only allowed from the tribe of Levi, and only “unblemished males” could serve. That isn’t politically correct to our ears, but it is how God explicitly stated it.

Today we have ongoing debates about whether women should be allowed to serve as priests.

Personally, I have no problem with women serving as pastors or ministers in denominations where the communion bread and wine are believed to be symbolic (or are not part of the church service at all).  Pastor Karen was such a balm to my family’s pain when dad died; she was wonderful ministering to us and I gratefully credit her with opening a door through which my dad was able to re-enter church, to worship, and to feel at home.

But in churches where we believe that the bread and wine literally become the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, I respect and support the church’s stand that only men can serve as priests. The reasoning goes beyond Jesus selecting men as His disciples; it involves the priest standing as Christ the Bridegroom and the church His bride.

I don’t entirely grasp all of the theological arguments, but I get the gist of it. And I trust that the church that can trace a direct line of leadership from Peter to Pope Francis, has the authority and wisdom to maintain a priesthood as Christ established it.

As in Old Testament times, our worship is not supposed to be about what pleases “me.” It’s supposed to be about what pleases God, whether or not we entirely understand the reasons. As I read the ongoing commentaries on whether women should be allowed to serve as priests, I often hear the arguments being that “I want …” “It’s important to ME … ” “It’s MY desire … ” “I have the right … ” “You can’t tell ME / deny ME …”

And the passage at the top of this blog post rings in my ears … “Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way” and “whoever desired it was installed as a priest.”

The more that those outside the church insist the Catholic church “must” change, the more I hope and pray it stands firm, not swaying in the wind to appease the world and people who will never choose to be part of the Catholic church anyway.

 

 

Little gods

I have been praying for those who don’t believe in God, and for those who have left the Church.

Sometimes I wonder why God doesn’t give each person a clearer sign of His presence as He did for Paul. In a flash of light He knocked Paul to the ground, revealing Himself and Paul believed.

Couldn’t God do that for my loved ones? Couldn’t He reveal Himself more clearly and help them to see Him?

But I guess it isn’t so simple nor clear-cut that everyone would respond as Paul did. Balaam had nearly the same experience as Paul. His donkey talked to him and Balaam talked to the Spirit of God; he knew that the Spirit was forbidding him to curse Israel, yet he continued trying anyway.

In 1 Samuel 5 the Philistines had captured the ark of God and twice found their god Dagon laying prostrate before it. They suffered from plagues of mice and from hemorrhoids and finally summoned their priests to find out how to return the ark of the LORD to the Israelites.

They knew their suffering came from the God of Israel; they weren’t doubting His existence or power. They saw that their god was powerless before God. But they did not turn toward God.

What is it like to worship a god with no power, all-the-while knowing there is a God who offers so much more?

I guess we all know what it’s like – we all have worshiped our little gods that do not satisfy, that cannot save. And we have all witnessed people of faith drawing strength and peace and comfort from God while they are in impossible situations.

I pray that God will continue working in the lives of everyone who does not yet believe. He knows each heart and what each individual most needs – whether a small quiet whisper or to be knocked off their donkey in a flash of blinding light. I trust the LORD will reveal Himself to each one so that all will turn to Him, love Him. For their sake and for His glory, this is my most heartfelt prayer.

Tears from a heart of stone

I read a wonderful blog this morning by Msgr. Charles Pope* about true sorrow for our sins.

In part, he wrote:

“In times like these, when self-esteem is overemphasized, personal responsibility is minimized, and excuses abound, we do well to ask for the gift of tears. We do well to ask for a profound and healthy grief for our sins.

… Note that these tears are not meant to be tears of depression, discouragement, or self-loathing. The tears to be sought here are tears of what St. Paul calls “godly sorrow.” Godly sorrow causes us to have sorrow for our sins but in a such a way that it draws us to God and to great love, gratitude, and appreciation for His mercy. (2 Cor 7:8-11)”

I think one of the biggest lessons I learned during my dark time was how easily I can deceive myself and rationalize my sins, and how greatly that separates me from God. Like a stubborn child I hid in a dark corner while He waited patiently for me. In retrospect I can see that He even stood guard, protecting me from sliding further away into a deeper harm’s way.

God brought forth water from the rock for the Israelites in the desert.

I pray God draws water from the rock of my hardened heart … that He softens my heart, shows me what He will, and draws forth tears of godly sorrow both for myself and for those around me.

*Msgr. Pope’s post can be read in full here

 

 

 

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This is your family …

At mass last night a young family took up the gifts before communion … a beaming mother and father and three children.

For a moment I thought, “I wish those were my kids and grandchildren, part of my family.”

And immediately I heard … “This IS your family.”

I looked around the church. I don’t know many names and Mark & I don’t go to the social functions. But I know so many of the faces; we sit next to them at mass or greet them at the door or pray for them silently when they seem to be struggling. I often weep as I watch people returning from communion, each one unique and beautiful in his or her own way – young, old, healthy & robust, stooped & fragile; all races and sizes … the body of Christ.

THIS is your family.

Love your family by blood; enjoy them and be blessed when you are together.
But THIS is where you are, now.
These are the people close to you, now.
This is your family.
Love them, too.

Yes, LORD. Speak more … your servant is listening.

Reciprocating

In the first chapter of the book of Job, we read that Job’s children would hold feasts and invite their friends. Afterwards, Job would offer sacrifices for his children in case they had sinned, and he did this habitually.

That really struck me one day and I thought about how great it would be if I could offer sacrifices today for my children’s actions, for the forgiveness of their sins. And I thought about sacrifices … what would be considered a good sacrifice today?

THE perfect sacrifice has already been made … Jesus Christ gave Himself as the perfect sacrifice for all of our sins.

And the words of the chaplet of Divine Mercy leapt to mind … “I offer you the body and blood, soul and divinity of your dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and for those of all the world.”

Praying the chaplet of Divine Mercy quickly became one of my favorite prayers – I pray it several times a week inserting names on each bead: “For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on Tom and on the whole world. For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on Julie and on the whole world … ”

And I ponder this reciprocating process … Jesus gave Himself as the perfect sacrifice, and I offer His sacrifice to our Father.

We love God because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

God provides material goods for us … we tithe back 10% to Him.

Long ago I realized “I” couldn’t do anything for anyone else … the best thing I can do for my loved ones, whom God gave into my care, is to give them back and entrust them into His care.

God’s design is so beautiful; I love the way it draws us deeper into relationship with Him, receiving and giving in a reciprocating cycle of tenderness and love.

Routines

I have many routines that turn me toward God. Some are daily such as arising early to read and pray; reflecting on the daily mass readings over my lunch half-hour; prayer at bedtime. Others are weekly – Adoration and morning mass during the week.

When I travel I am thrown out of my routines, and it used to trouble me that I could so easily be distracted from prayer and time with God.  But I’ve learned that those times, too, can be used by God to refresh and bring new life into our relationship.

How beautiful is His creation and what a blessing to be able to see some of it anew when traveling, from mountains to oceans to countryside; plants and animals and starry skies.

And when surrounded by the people I most treasure in the world, isn’t their presence and their love an expression of God’s own presence and love?

I miss my routines and set times spent spiritually with Him and am glad to return to them. And I also treasure the times when His presence is tangibly expressed through others.

I am so very blessed.

Love 1 John 4 12

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