If you’ve ever been to one of our school Masses here at Notre Dame, you know that I’m almost always telling the children that God loves them. I feel like that might be the most important thing we ever learn about God; and that if we learn it – really learn it – then it can get us to heaven. And we see that today in our readings: love is very definitely the theme of today’s Liturgy of the Word. This week we have been hearing readings from the book of Tobit, in which we have the only Scriptural appearance of Saint Raphael the archangel. And today we hear about him entering the story, in the guise of the person of Azariah. Tobit and Tobiah and all the rest don’t know he’s an angel yet, but that will become clear enough when the blessing of love wipes the cataracts away from Tobit’s eyes, and everything becomes clear to him.
And we know that it is love that can do all these things. There’s a lot of sadness leading up to today’s first reading. Tobit has contracted cataracts, and the doctors have only made it worse. Sarah has had six potential husbands, all of whom have died on the wedding night. But we will see that love will clear up old Tobit’s vision, and love will let Tobiah survive his wedding night. Love can heal Tobit’s and Sarah’s broken hearts. And love can reveal that the power of God works in all of our lives, in all of our hearts.
Sometimes we need an angel – literally a messenger of God – to come to know that. During our lives, we can go through periods that are just awful and seem to be devoid of any joy. But love won’t let that be the final answer for any of us. Just as the angel Raphael took the form of Azaraiah and was a blessing to Tobiah and Sarah, so too there may be angels in our own lives, in the form of family or friends or caregivers that end the cycle of sadness in the same way that God’s blessing ended the cycle of death for Sarah’s husbands.
Tobiah and Sarah sang a song of praise to God and said “Amen, amen” before going to bed for the night. They woke up the next morning to rejoice in God’s love in the same way that we can, if we will but realize that there is no commandment greater than the commandment to love God and one another. Death cannot and will not ever win the battle over love.