This week has contained some of my favorite readings from the Bible, all within the story of Tobit. This is a great time of year for the daily readings. I think something that is emphasized time and again throughout the Bible is how it's okay to be human - it is in fact necessary for getting closer to God - and no character epitomizes this better than Tobit (though maybe Peter, too).
If you're not familiar with the story, Tobit is a husband and father who is very devout and always looking for ways to help others, including providing a proper burial for his kinsman against the king's wishes. He is really quite aware of his own charitable nature, saying, "I, Tobit, walked in the ways of truth and righteousness all the days of my life, and I performed many acts of charity to my brethren and countrymen" (Tobit 1:3). Not so humble.
Through a series of events he falls into favor with the ruling class, falls back out, must move his family, and survive. Then one night after one of his charitable acts he sleeps outside, gets poo'd upon by a pigeon and wakes up with a blinding "film" over his eyes. The next series of events involves his wife, his son Tobias, his son's future wife, a massive fish and the angel Raphael who basically makes everything better. You can read a summary of the drama here.
Many people focus on the "film" detail of this story and what Tobit's blindness means, symbolically, but I have always been much more interested in Raphael's role. Once upon a time I read that it is good to pray to the angel Raphael for "good meetings," as he is the agent by which Tobias and his future wife Sarah meet, as well as the one who shows Tobias how to find his way home. Of course during his interactions with the family, Raphael does not reveal himself to be an angel, until they try to give him money for his services, at which point he has to come clean: "I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One" (Tobit 12:15). Okay!
Could't we all use a Raphael? Someone to show up, lead the way, fix the mess and not even want a tip? Then I thought - well, we really do. That's what trust and faith in God is all about. You have Jesus and Mary, the intervention of the saints, your guardian angel and loved ones who have passed on. And, I'm guessing, Raphael himself probably shows up every once in a while, incognito, to smooth your path. Just ask him to - he's very good at it, and I bet he'd be much obliged. He'll even remove the blindness from your eyes (from your life).
Above all he asks Tobit and Tobias to always, always, praise God: praise him in front of others for all he has done in your life. "Do not be slow to give him thanks," he advises (Tobit 12:6). I think Raphael knows what he is talking about. As I have written about before, gratitude is a state of mind, it is a habit, it is an orientation toward God. If all else falls away in your life, what you will have left is a relationship with God, sustained by your direct thanks to him for making you and asking you to be as His. Simply making that prayer of thanks is enough.
May Raphael lead us toward the people, places and things that will help us live our lives according to God's will.