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THE CONTRAST BETWEEN TOBIT AND THE PHARISEES

Father Francis's picture
Ninth Week of Ordinary Time

Tobit 1:3,2:1-8 & Mk. 12:1-12

Today we begin reading from the Book of Tobit, the story of a devout lsraelite family forced to live in exile in the pagan city of Nineveh. The purpose of the Book was to encourage the people of God who had been taken from their homeland to remain faithful. Tobit kept to the customs of his religion and, although the Pharisees would make the same claim for themselves, what a difference there was between the two!

Tobit was a generous man. He wanted to share a substantial homecoming meal with a needy Israelite so he sent his son to find one. When his son returned with news that an lsraelite had been murdered and left in the street, Tobit immediately abandoned his meal and went to do all that was necessary for the burial of his fellow countryman. The meal eaten later was one of mourning instead of festivity as planned originally.

Would the Pharisees have behaved like that? They loved the law but did they love their fellow human beings enough to do the same? Certainly not! There are several occasions in the Gospels when the Pharisees criticised Jesus for healing someone on the Sabbath because it was against their idea of the Law. Loyalty to the Law was in their head but not in their hearts.

Like the tenants in today's Gospel parable, the Pharisees were greedy and murderous. That parable struck them quite forcefully. They realised that it was aimed at them because they had rejected God's messengers in the past and because they were not good stewards taking care of what God, the vineyard owner, had entrusted to them. Their religion was one-dimensional and self-serving; although they observed all the rituals they had no real love for God or man. In contrast, Tobit demonstrated his faith by his generosity and his courage. He was determined to do what was right, even running the risk of punishment from the Ninevites.

Doing what we are happiest doing in the practice of our religion is often the easiest part. It is much harder to do our Catholic duty when we have to leave our own comfort zone or it requires change to our plans which will make our life more difficult. This is the difference between Tobit and the Pharisees, and it was Tobit who won God’s approval.

Lord Jesus, help us to realise there are times when caring for someone who needs our support, even though we might be reluctant to get involved, is what You want us to do.

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