This post is part of a reflective Lenten series, originally published as Facebook posts on my personal account.
Lenten practice, day #11.
Reference: Tobit 11: 1-18
This chapter is the climax of the story—all of the rising action, even the wedding of Tobiah and Sarah, culminates at this point (look at all those literary terms I just threw around! Looks like 5th grade paid off, after all).
I love the excitement of the story as Raphael, under the guise of simply wanting to help prepare for the welcoming feast before everyone arrives, takes Tobiah and sprints ahead. The scene unfolds like it’s straight out of a movie: I can see the cameras panning and the artistic touch as the text even details “the dog running along behind them.”
This moving ahead of the rest of the caravan is beautiful for two reasons. First, Tobiah’s reasons: get to the parentals earlier, relieve their stress earlier, and have a feast prepared for his beautiful bride as she enters the home of his youth for the first time. Secondly, for Raphael’s reasons: Get Tobiah home as quickly as possible (he’s already almost 7 days late), relieve the suspense in which Tobit and Anna have been living for at least 18 days, heal Tobit and relieve the blindness he’s suffered from for many years, allow him to once more see his son and his own wife Anna, encourage him to prepare a feast for the rest of the caravan that is on its way (something he has not been able to do for many years, and this inability has greatly pained him), finally have his vision restored in time to witness the arrival of his new daughter-in-law, and ultimately (although Raphael may not have planned this part) to lay eyes on an angel when Raphael finally reveals his identity). (Sorry, that was a spoiler. Not till Chapter 12.)
Point being, Raphael is so excited to fulfill God’s wishes for Tobit and his family that he literally runs ahead to get there faster.
Good point for reflection: How often do we race towards God’s plans for us? And how often do we shrink away from them, concerned that they won’t be what we want? As readers with a God’s-eye view, it makes sense to us as Raphael races ahead with Tobiah. We encourage him on—go faster!! Look what wonder is about to take place!!—and although Tobiah was probably a little confused at Raphael’s enthusiasm, he runs towards home nonetheless. It’s okay to have reasons that are different than God’s (Tobiah and Raphael were running for different reasons—after all, Tobiah didn’t know what Raphael did), the point is that we’re always willingly following God’s lead and running towards him. Following an angel of heaven will only get you one place: God’s arms.
Okay. So when they get home, without even saying hello and essentially ignoring his sobbing mother, Tobiah goes directly up to Tobit, blows into his eyes, adds a quick “Courage, father,” and spears the guts into his eyes. Man, that must have stung something awful. (The Bible sort of underestimates and uses the phrase “it made [his eyes] smart.”) You can imagine poor blind Tobit’s surprise. “Oh, hey there, son! It’s great to see you! Well, not *see* you, but you know. Man, I was so worried, I just—AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH WHAT THE IN ALL THAT IS HOLY WAS *THAT*?!?! MY—AHHGGG MY FREAKING EYES!!!! TOBIAH WHAT THE [ancient profanity] WAS THAT IM ALREADY BLIND. AGGGHHH WAIT TILL YOUR MOTHER CATCHES YOU CAUSE YOU ARE GOING TO GET IT SO HARD. ANNA DON’T LET HIM GET AWAY. AHHHHHHHSWEETGAHENNAITBURRRRNNNSSSSSSSS.” (Disclaimer: That is not a direct quote. But it’s probably close.)
Also, I’m starting to think that the phrase “Courage, __(relation)__” is more of a warning than anything. Before Sarah witnesses Tobiah’s death in her chamber (or what she believes will be death), her mother is all, “Be brave, daughter. Courage.” Aaaaand we can safely conclude that every other time except this one, that was followed promptly by finding the man next to her in bed lifeless.
Or, from another perspective, looking strictly at what is in the Bible and not imagining what might have happened “behind the scenes” before/after the narration, one could argue that “Courage, ___(relation)___” is almost a prelude to the miraculous—each time it’s said in this book, it’s followed by a miracle! Courage, indeed, opens wide the door to the divine.
Anyway, Tobiah smears the dead animal innards into his father’s eyes (lovingly, I’m sure), it stings for a bit, and then, bam, the cataracts start peeling off.
I’d like to take a moment to appreciate the lack of medical expertise here, because it makes the book that much more authentic. Cataracts occurs on the lenses of one’s eyes, which are behind the cornea (the clear covering over your eyes). Yet “Beginning at the corners of Tobit’s eyes, Tobiah used both hands to peel off the cataracts.” Well, ouch.
Peeling crap off your dad’s eyeballs, eh? How’s that for father-son bonding?
Anyway, obviously there was a lot of rejoicing going on.
However, the party doesn’t stop there and neither do the blessings. When Tobiah finally tells his father that his trip was successful, etc, and mentions he has a wife now, Tobit gets so excited that he rushes to the gates of Nineveh to meet her. People in the town are all like doing double-takes and stuff cause this guy who was blind is now walking (quickly) all by himself and that’s pretty cool. Tobit greets Sarah enthusiastically, calling her “daughter” over and over and over—you can bet it’s a word he doubted he would ever feel on his own lips!
They go inside and party for another 7 days. Man. 21 days for one wedding? Impressive!