‘You know neither the scriptures nor the power of God’: it is a striking statement to take with us from today’s readings and to ponder throughout the day.
Today’s first reading introduces us to another of the main characters in the Book of Tobit, Sarah who will become the wife of Tobias, the son of Tobit. She has her own strange misfortune, pestered as she is by a strange demon that kills off her husbands as soon as she marries them. She is in despair about this at the same moment in which Tobit is in despair about his situation. Each of them is simple, honest and direct in their questions and in their laments, and it endears them to us.
The Sadducees by contrast are not simple, honest and direct. Like the other groups we’ve been hearing about in recent days, they are trying to catch Jesus with their question. It comes at an angle and is not honest. They do not believe in the resurrection of the body and nor do they believe in spirits. It is strange that materialists should have provided the high priests, for it seems that the high priestly families at the time of Jesus were Sadducees. They present an argument to show the absurdity of believing in the resurrection, telling an unlikely story about a woman marrying seven brothers. But their interest is not in the truth or in the happiness of people. Their interest is in catching Jesus out and putting him in a corner, if possible embarrassing and compromising him.
‘Get to know the scriptures and the power of God’, is Jesus’ answer to them. Tobit and Sarah are about to be helped by the power of God in the form of the archangel Raphael who is sent by God to resolve the problems of both. Through the angels, God’s power is applied to particular situations and circumstances. God does not want Tobit or Sarah to die and he wants to rescue them from their despair. Raphael is his servant in fulfilling this plan, helping them to live and to live happily.
Jesus reminds us that God is about life and not death, that he is God of the living and not of the dead, and that what God wants is life and the abundance of life. Death as we experience it now was not part of his plan. It is the devil’s work but this last enemy too is overcome in the resurrection of Jesus. His victory over death establishes definitively and forever that God is the God of the living and not of the dead.
Let us seek to live as Tobit and Sarah, simply, honestly and directly, knowing the scriptures and the power of God. We pray that we may enter ever more deeply into the wisdom contained in the scriptures and that we may experience in our lives, even today, the healing presence of God’s power.