Thursday, June 08, 2017

“Grateful for All of It” by Colleen O’Sullivan

When Tobit saw his son, he threw his arms around him and wept.  He exclaimed, “I can see you, son, the light of my eyes!”  Then he said, “Blessed be God and praised be his great name, and blessed be all his holy angels.  May his holy name be praised throughout all the ages, Because it was he who scourged me, and it is he who has had mercy on me.  Behold, I now see my son Tobiah!”  Then Tobit went back in, rejoicing and praising God with full voice for everything that had happened.  (Tobit 11:13b – 15c)

Praise the Lord, O my soul;
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God while I live. (Psalm 146:2)

Lord, may your praise be the song on my lips as I reflect on the ways in which you have blessed me.

"Tobit heals his father's blindness,"
Domingos Sequeira (1768-1837),
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Many years ago, I went on my first 8-day, silent retreat.  I had no idea what to expect nor any confidence that I could, in fact, be quiet for that long.  Being silent turned out to be no problem.  The shock came during my first meeting with my retreat director when I was asked to reflect with gratitude on the blessings of my life.  “Not just the good things,” he said, “but the negative things as well.”   I wondered why anyone would want to be thankful for the bad things that had happened to them.

Too bad I wasn’t more familiar then with the story of Tobit and his family.  Tobit is living in Nineveh with other exiles from the northern our Scripture reading for today opens.  He hasn’t had an easy life.  He is blind, the result of a freak encounter with bird droppings while resting after doing a good deed by burying a murder victim left lying in the street.  The blindness put a great strain on his marriage, and, after a time, sent him spiraling down into depression, even causing him to pray for death.

One day Tobit remembers a sum of money that he has put away for safe keeping in a place called Media.  He dispatches his son to go and fetch the sum for them.  Tobiah, the son, is gone for so long that his parents begin to fear that something has happened to him.  It has, but not anything like the disaster the parents are envisioning in their worried states of mind.

Tobiah has just arrived home in today’s reading.  He is accompanied by the Archangel Raphael, God’s messenger of healing, and a new wife.  He has with him the ingredients it will take for a remedy for Tobit’s blindness.  The potion is applied, and Tobit is ecstatic.  He can see again.  The son he had feared dead is, instead, right in front of him in vibrant Technicolor clarity.  The daughter-in-law is lovely.  And the money the family needs is all there, thanks to Raphael.  They are all safe and sound.

To hear Tobit pray, you would never imagine all the tumult he has been through in his life.  He praises God for everything that has happened.  If he hadn’t been exiled, who knows whether he would have met the woman he married or had his son Tobiah.  If he hadn’t been blinded, maybe God would never have sent the Archangel Raphael to them.  Certainly, there would have been no reason for Tobias to travel to Media.  And if the son hadn’t traveled with the Archangel, who knows if there would ever have been a cure for the blindness.  There certainly wouldn’t have been such a lovely young woman in Tobiah’s life.

Once you start seriously reflecting on your blessings, you discover that it’s actually very difficult to separate the bad from the good.  God has a way of taking the very worst times in our lives and working them into some of the best times.  To wish the negative away would be wishing a great deal of the positive away at the same time.

When you are praying today, spend a little while on the same assignment I was given on the first day of that 8-day retreat.  Look back over your life.  Pray with thankful hearts for every place where you see the hand of God.

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