Tobias's Journey Rites Of Passage - Poem by Daniel Brick
Tobit's long hymn of praise to God in chapter thirteen uses language and imagery characteristic of such biblical paens. It is similar to Victory Hymns in historical books and the more militant Psalms. It is the way the writer signals us that ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL. The very next line is: TOBIT DIED WHEN HE WAS A HUNDRED AND TWELVE YEARS OLD AND RECEIVED AN HONORABLE BURIAL IN NINEVEH. How ironic.The man who surreptiously buried disgarded corpses receives a sumptuous burial. Had the world changed so much for the better in his later years?
Now let us return to what seems to be the nadir of Tobit's fortunes.
Reduced to penury because of his good works, abandoned by his Assyrian masters, Tobit's fate seems to be fixed in a permanent fall from wordly success. So it would seem to anyone who looks with mortal eyes, and sees just what there is to see. So far in the story Tobit has been doing God's work on his own initiative with his native human ability, and that may well be the case. But from this point on, there will be divine players in the story and God's Providence presiding
on the outside. Tobit's role will become that of the Witness rather than the actor. It is Tobit the Witness who sings the ecstatic hymn
in Chapter Thirteen.
There is no need to summarize Tobias's journey, not even the wonderful interventions of Raphael. My essay will achieve its closure with a meditation on Tobit's last action, namely, summoning his son
when his own fortunes appear to be lost forever. Why does Tobit summon Tobias? Ostensibly, to retrieve Tobit's wealth in hiding. It will more than cover the family needs forever. Tobit's needs this wealth to support his family and to continue his charitable work.
But to acquire it he needs his son's help, and his son needs the kinsman's help to make the journey.
This is the moment of divine intervention with Raphael the Angel
the agent of God on earth. Raphael performs God's bidding with charm and deference. But I am going to close this essay with a reflection
rather than the narrative. When Tobit summons Tobias and lectures him
for some twenty lines, he is presiding over his son's hasty Rites of Passage. Tobit is passing his mind and mission on to his son, because he has been retired by bad fortune from the life of action. From father to son, the divine mission prevails.
From the Christian perspective we can make a giant leap of understanding, and see in the relationship of Tobit and Tobias, in the son's continuation and fulfillment of his father's work, the eternal paradigm of the Son's Incarnation, Sacrifice and Death and Resurrectiion to fulfill His Father's Will. The fact that the human players are such humble, even insignificant people only clarifies how thoroughly this eternal paradigm permeates the created world. And it emphasizes once again the message of Jesus that THE FIRST SHALL BE LAST AND THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST.
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