Tobit 6:10-11, 7:1, 9-14, 8:4-9

Raphael and Tobias entered Media and had nearly reached Ecbatana when Raphael said to the boy, “Brother Tobias.” “Yes?” he answered. The angel went on, “Tonight we shall be staying with Raguel, who is a kinsman of yours. he has a daughter called Sarah.” As they entered Ecbatana, Tobias said, “Brother Azarias, take me at once to our brother Raguel’s.” And he showed him the way to the house of Raguel, whom they found sitting beside his courtyard door. They greeted him first, and he replied, “Welcome and greetings, brothers.” And he took them into his house. Raguel killed a sheep from the flock, and he and his wife, Edna gave them a warmhearted welcome.

They washed and bathed and sat down to table. Then Tobias said to Raphael, “Brother Azarias, will you ask Raguel to give me my sister Sarah?” Raguel overheard the words, and said to the young man, “Eat and drink, and make the most of your evening; no one else has the right to take my daughter Sarah - no one but you, my brother. In any case I, for my own part, am not at liberty to give her to anyone else, since you are her next of kin. However, my boy, I must be frank with you:: I have tried to find a husband for her seven times among our kinsmen, and all of them have died the first evening, on going to her room. But for the present, my boy, eat and drink; the Lord will grant you his grace and peace.” Tobias spoke out, “I will not hear of eating and drinking till you have come to a decision about me.” Raguel answered, “Very well. Since, as prescribed by the Book of Moses, she is given to you, heaven itself decrees she shall be yours. I therefore entrust your sister to you. From now you are her brother and she is your sister. She is given to you from today for ever. The Lord of heaven favour you tonight, my child, and grant you his grace and peace.” Raguel called for his daughter Sarah, took her by the hand and gave her to Tobias with these words, “I entrust her to you; the law and the ruling recorded in the Book of Moses assign her to you as you wife. Take her; take her home to your father’s house with a good conscience. The God of heaven grant you a good journey in peace.” Then he turned to her mother and asked her to fetch him writing paper. He drew up the marriage contract, how he gave his daughter as bride to Tobias according to the ordinance in the Law of Moses.

After this they began to eat and drink. The parents meanwhile had gone out and shut thedoor behind them. Tobias said to Sarah, “Get up, my sister! You and I must pray and petition our Lord to win his grace and his protection.” She stood up, and they began praying for protection, and this was how he began:

“You are blessed, O God of our fathers;
blessed, too, is your name
for ever and ever.
Let the heavens bless you
and all things you have made
for evermore.

It was you who created Adam,
you who created Eve his wife
to be his help and support;
and from these two the human race was born.
It was you who said,
‘It is not good that the man should be alone;
let us make him a helpmate like himself.’
And so I do not take my sister
for any lustful motive;
I do it in singleness of heart.
Be kind enough to have pity on her and on me
and bring us to old age together.”

And together they said, “Amen, Amen”, and lay down for the night.

Mark 12:28-34

One of the scribes came up to Jesus and put a question to him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: you must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” The scribe said to him, “Well spoken, Master; what you have said is true: that he is one and there is no other. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.” Jesus, seeing how wisely he had spoken, said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to question him any more.

A boy and a girl, in a house all to themselves. To be more specific, the parents had gone out and the boy had just taken the girl to be his wife. What do you think they would do? Surprisingly, Tobias is not like other boy or man. His first instinct is to pray, together with his new wife.

He prays for protection and to make himself clear to God that he has taken Sarah to be his wife, but before that, he has taken Sarah to be his sister. We sometimes hear of remarried Catholics who want to receive Holy Communion and that they are asked to live as “brother and sister”. Very often, our response is to shake our head and say that the Church is not in touch with reality. “How can the Church expect a man and a woman to live together in the same house without having sex?” we ask. “Have those old men in Rome forgotten that we all have sex drives, that we all have sexual urges that need to be met?”

Ah, therein lies the problem. We believe that we all have sexual urges that MUST be met, and the result: we use one another for sexual gratification. When a man uses a woman for sexual gratification, or if a woman uses a man for sexual gratification, they are not loving each other; rather, they are lusting after each other. The thing about using another person for our sexual gratification is that we do not treat them as persons, but objects to be used. In so doing, we are lowering their dignity as human persons to the level of objects.

In Tobias’ prayer, we see that he speaks of Sarah as his sister, his equal. He is not lusting after her, and therefore does not see her as an object to fulfil his sexual desires. Rather, he sees her as a person of equal human dignity as himself.

In the gospel reading, Jesus affirms this behaviour, this attitude towards persons of the opposite gender. Love your neighbour as yourself, he tells us. That means to treat the other person as a person, not an object to be used.

We are all called to be married to God. That is the primary vocation of each person, and Jesus reminds us that when we marry God, we need to love God by sharing our whole being with God. Most of us are also called to an earthly marriage, which involves the sharing of our whole life with our spouse. Indeed we are to love God by loving our spouse. That is why marriage is a sacrament because through this sacrament, we are being directed to God.

This is why marriage must involve love - the sharing of ourselves with our spouse -, and not lust - which is using another person for our desires. This is why in every marriage, every spouse is called to see their spouse firstly as brother and sister. Only by first seeing each other as equals can then two people see each other as husband and wife. If a person cannot see his wife or her husband as an equal, then they cannot love. They can only lust.

And this is the way it was in the beginning, when God created for Adam a helpmate like himself, that is, of the same human dignity.

Let us pray therefore, that husbands and wives learn to see each other firstly as brother and sister, and to love each other by sharing their whole lives with each other.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: Theology of the Body.

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