Sometimes, in certain distant places, Christians are left alone, truly alone. I think about those who are being persecuted along with other religious minorities. But it is possible to suffer from isolation also here, in the West; on the question of the family, often all is left, is to celebrate its intangible value. Society, especially in its lobbying spheres, condemns those who want to keep up life grounded in marriage.
Our mind flies back to the Book of Tobit, whose final drafting took place in Jerusalem around 300 BC; the author addresses his fellow believers around the world, namely the Jewish Diaspora (the true Christian is actually always in diaspora, mixed up with the world, but how can one not be “of” the world?), with the intention to emphasize the features typical of faith. It is the story of two Jewish families who live in exile and on whom doom and hardship befall. Tobit’s family is tested when the man is deported, imprisoned, his assets are seized and, blinded, he is forced to flee. The other family has a daughter, Sara, possessed by a demon who frustrates her frequent attempts to marriage, making her seven husbands die one after another. From both families an ardent and confident prayer rises towards God and He intervenes through his angel Raphael to guide Tobit towards a happy marriage with Sara.
Family is the first life environment for a Jewish. Families in the diaspora were poor, but they gave alms; first of all to those who belonged to their people. “Teach your children as well the duty to do justice and charity” (Tb 14,8).
Hesed ‘‘alms’’ is the practical attitude of magnanimity and generosity, a prerequisite for the formation of a community based on something more than just blood ties. When love touches one’s wallet, Don Oreste Benzi used to say, you know it is true love. Feeling in the other, people become one family, hence one ‘wallet’. Pope Francis has said the same thing: true faith “has to touch one’s pockets.” Sedaqà ‘‘Justice’’ designates a behaviour conforming to the community and shows an act of solidarity that promotes community relations. Emet ‘‘truth’’ is the conduct of a man who is reliable, credible, honest, and faithful. He is the man who builds the community.
Long story short, according to the Book of Tobit, a family cannot be closed in itself; it has to put into practice a generous conduct and share what it has with the other families of God’s people. These qualities of selfless devotion, mercy towards the weakest and the poorest, awareness of being a cell in a larger community. This “cell” is currently being questioned, instead of being defended and protected, as it should be.
Freely adapted from The Five Talents of the Spouses