Pope Francis and Others on Tobit

Liam noted this link to Pope Francis preaching on Tobit, which is embedded in the daily Roman Lectionary these days. From the Holy Father:

Two just people who live dramatic situations. The first is blinded despite his performing good works, even risking his life, and the second marries seven men in turn, each of whom dies before their wedding night. Both, in their great sorrow, pray to God to let them die.

The prayer for death used to bother me. But in composing my musical and going deep into the book of Tobit for more than a decade, I found that God is entirely capable of handling human lament. Even my personal ill-conceived outbursts. Pope Francis apparently thinks along those lines:

The Pope said that Tobit and Sarah’s wish to die could not be considered blasphemy. In some situations, lamenting one’s misfortunes before God is not a sin but a prayer. Even Job and the prophet Jeremiah cursed the day they were born. “The Lord hears, He listens to our complaints.”

The Pope explained how these biblical readings applied in today’s world, by mentioning three examples of people living in conditions of extreme suffering: malnourished children, refugees, the terminally ill. The worst thing a Christian can do is to look at those who suffer “as though they were an [abstract moral conundrum].” “I do not like it when people speak about tough situations in an academic and not a human manner, sometimes with statistics … and that’s it. In the Church there are many people in this situation,” the Pope said. When one looks at people’s suffering as a moral problem, they become closed and everything turns into an “intellectual game.”

And while I appreciate the Anchoress’s foray into Tobit, and I think her overall message is excellent, the shades of blame of those who suffer divorce is a little over the top for me.

My older brother was divorced four times before marrying one final and fruitful time. Was it just that my Lutheran/Episcopalian sibling wasn’t into Tobit? That he married an alcoholic and women with a few other problems? Or that he was raised in the 40′s and 50′s, in a supposedly family-friendly era where he never got the tools for healthy relationships? I suppose it was his fault he didn’t buy into Ozzie and Harriet and Ward and June.

I think it’s more than preaching a message. People today get preached at all the time. Corporations. PR firms. Parents. Their own kids. Bosses. Celebs. Pundits. Christians, if they hope to be fruitful, might have to learn other languages. Like music and the arts.

Speaking of which, a parishioner asked when we’d produce my musical version of Tobit again. I always look ahead. Never backward. But if you want to look back, it’s here.

Getting back to Pope Francis, I like what he said about resisting the view of suffering as a moral problem. Unless the believer is prepared to dialogue with people of broken families, actually listening to them, and walking with them, as the Lord did, all the right preaching will boil down to that “intellectual game.” And anybody subjected to it will know it.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in Art, The Blogosphere, Tobit, Todd's music and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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