Throughout this past week the church has been listening to the readings from the Old Testament book of Tobit. It is a skillfully constructed story that combines morality, prayer, and East Asian folklore. The story setting places Tobit in the Assyrian territory of Nineveh. Outside of his native land of Israel, Tobit faces affliction, bad breaks, and misfortunes. The story becomes popular beyond the Jewish circles. Adapted by numerous cultures, the wisdom in the story reminds the listener that amidst all the things life may throw at you, be faithful to God, and lean on God. Patients, endurance, and prayer are all elements of wisdom to be learned in life and passed on to the next generation.
We see that also in the gospel today. The ability of the widow to trust in God beyond her financial security. Yet Jesus also calls into accountability those who “devour the houses of widows.”
Both of these themes ring true for us in our world today. This pandemic has shifted financial resources. Financially, nothing is as predictable now as it seemed to have been two years ago. Some have lost a tremendous amount. Others find themselves ahead. While still others keep shifting their earnings, expenses and assets like a big shell game. And, with all that going on, we still have those who prey on others. Coercion, intimidation, manipulation still continue through all these years pending its greedy face against the vulnerable.
Our Universal Church celebrates this day the feast of Boniface, a great Missionary in Europe who was instrumental in reorganizing the church in Germany and the Frankish kingdom. Living in the eighth century as a Benedictine monk, he was sent to preach the Gospel in Germany, earning the title “Apostle of Germany.” His respect earned him greater responsibility as he was named Abbot and eventually Archbishop by Pope Zachary. He died as a martyr when a group of barbarous pagans interrupted the confirmation of a group of neophytes. It wasn’t a storybook ending. Boniface was living in a conflictual society and yet remained devoutly focused on Christ. The poor widow of the gospel is also focused on the providential care of God. And the wisdom of Tobit in the first reading reminds us to continue to thank, praise, and bless God. Ultimately, the refrain from our Responsorial Psalm needs to be etched into our hearts this day— Blessed be God, who lives forever.
Fr. David Colhour, C.P. is the local superior of St. Vincent Strambi Community in Chicago, Illinois.