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Vol. VII, June 2001

 

The 3rd Instruction, VII: The Angel and "the Whole Truth"
(cf. Tob 12:11)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

The Angel Raphael first acted, then he took Tobit and Tobias aside and taught them. Now he starts to speak of himself: "I will now tell you the whole truth; I will conceal nothing at all from you. I have already said to you, ‘A king’s secret it is prudent to keep, but the works of God are to be made known with due honor.’ I can now tell you that when you, Tobit and Sarah, prayed it was I who presented and read the record of your prayer before the Glory of the Lord. ... I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord" (Tob 12:11-15).

1. It is not without surprise that we read: "now" the angel will "tell ... the whole truth." The Angels are not known to make "long sermons." They just say what is necessary and even more so when they speak of themselves. So answered Raphael: "What does my tribe matter to you?" (Tob 5:8.11). Or to Manoah the angel of Yahweh replied, ‘Why ask my name? It is a name of wonder’" (Judg 13:1-18; cf. Tob 6:4-5; Mt 2:13; Acts 12:7ff. etc.).

This can even be observed in our present life. After some hours in trial, a priest in China standing before a communist tribunal interiorly heard the words: "Be silent!" From that moment on he did the only prudent thing he could do - be silent. As a result his accusers almost despaired as they got nowhere with him. In another example, as a priest, down in Brazil, walked in the backyard saying his breviary he saw a snake, caught it, put it around his arm with the intention to send it to a laboratory and as he walked the short way to his house, he heard a voice say, "Be careful!" A month later he received a letter from the laboratory thanking him for sending them one of the most poisonous snakes there are!

2. When St. Raphael is in conversation with Tobit and Tobias referring to himself, he says: "I will now tell you the whole truth. ... It was I who ...; I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord". As we read through the text we note that he appeared to them walking and speaking as a young man. Does it not make us think of Jesus of Whom St. Paul said, "though He was in the form of God, ... emptied himself taking the form of a servant, ... in the likeness of men" (Phil 2:6-7)? Is this not what we observe here with the angel? There may well be different reasons for the silence he kept about himself up to this point, the end of his mission, and we wish to explore this.

a) There exist reasons why someone may not say "the whole truth" as he may be obliged to be silent; we reflected on this when the angel said, "A king's secret it is prudent to keep, but the works of God are to be made known with due honor" (v.7.11; cf. Circular VII,2). It can be an obligation before God as the author of everything, or an obligation in what regards the matter, which can be a risk if it is made public before its time, or it may also be in regard to the people involved, who may not be ready to hear or handle certain truths.

b) It is also worthwhile to examine the question, what benefit would it have brought if he had told them "the whole truth" at the very beginning?

He could have spared Tobias’ mother the pain and distress caused by the risk of losing the last treasure in this world that she had: her son! However, we may also question this: Is it not the task of the husband to support his wife in such a situation, as Tobit in fact did? And, is it not her task, to carry her grief and understandable maternal suffering in such moments through the trust in the paternal care of the father?

And what would have been the reaction of Tobit, a father with responsibility and sobriety, when his son would have presented to him an angel as companion for his trip? Would they not be paralyzed before the needs of life and leave everything up to God out of holy fear? Should we not recall the reaction of St. John the Baptist, who when he suddenly saw Jesus among his penitents, did not want to baptize him: "I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?" (Mt 3:14)

If St. Raphael would have said right away that he is an angel, would young Tobias have remained humble and obedient to his father? Would he not have spoken of his "secret" during the journey to other people and by that very fact, probably hindered the good outcome of his mission? Would he have had the courage to ask the angel to fetch the money all by himself while he stayed in his father-in-law’s house?

Tobias’ account and daily life make clear, that we fulfill a mission with much more discipline and perfection, when we know less than more.

c) There seem to be good reasons as to why the angel did not reveal his true identity to them. God loves to hide his supernatural action behind the veil of daily life or under the normality and the simplicity of the habitual rhythm of life. While we may call it humility when a human authority acts in this manner, with God it is a request of love. A man loves and cares that his beloved spouse is nicely dressed, but he does not like that all the beauty he knows she has be exposed to everyone. And so, as a priest likes to show the beauty of his church he, however, prefers to show it to those who esteem it and who believe in the treasure that is hidden there, his beloved Lord in the tabernacle. We could observe the wonderful interaction between the family and the heavenly companion, precisely because the angel was hidden under the mantle of being just a human friend.

On the basis of such harmonious collaboration in obedience (cf. Circular VI,9), the angel pushed aside all the clouds of trouble over the life of the family: sadness, age, sickness, poverty and solitude, so that all could find the way to sincere joy, praise and thanksgiving (cf. Circular VI,12 and VII,1). Having reached this point, the time had come to open their eyes and to confess to them "the whole truth": "I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord" (v. 15).

3. Another dimension should be mentioned. To recognize it and to give it life might be the key which will allow our Guardian Angel to "speak" to us.

For this combination of obedience we just referred to, an attitude of silence is required, reservation, which does not like to express or publish all that exists within. It is the humility which does not consider itself or its talents as so important that they need to be exposed, but which desires that the talents and capacities of others may be made known, esteemed, applied and used. This attitude finds its simplest expression in the capacity and willingness to listen. Whoever listens, gives the other space and time to talk. He invites him to communicate himself. Herewith, the two enter in reciprocal appraisal and encounter a marvelous merging and union.

That the angel waited until the end of this story with the revelation of "the whole truth" might find its reason also in this law of communion of free persons. God is love, and therefore does not impose his grace on anyone. In other words, God - and with Him His angels - is silent and remains in silence as long as we talk or even just think. But God and his angels with him would start to talk, that is to communicate their thoughts to man, as soon as man would keep silence and offer his ear in listening. Only in this way, human and earthly life becomes what it was exemplarily in Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception: Receptivity - response to the will of God for his creatures. Could there be a better proof of it than in the chapter 13 of our book, where Tobit starts a "Praise of Zion" which is almost an anticipation of the book of Revelation of St. John: "Blessed be God who lives for ever, for his reign endures throughout all ages! ... What a bliss, if one of my family be left to see your glory and praise the King of Heaven! The gates of Jerusalem will be built of sapphire and emerald ..." (13:1.20).

That seems could have been the background and reason, why the angel waited with the revelation of "the whole truth"!

4. Dear Brothers in the Priesthood! This new perspective which the angel gives us by speaking at this point "the whole truth," opens us also to a new dimension of our priesthood.

How often do we find ourselves in such a situation as the angel, and cannot say "the whole truth". We certainly are not allowed to lie, as an angel never does. So it is first important to be able to keep secrets and to be silent (cf. 12:7.11) May the angel help us towards this virtue which is a great sign of self-discipline, maturity and trustworthiness.

Tobit lived an exemplary life; however, the presence of God through the angel is manifested only as much as is necessary for him, this means God left space for needs, for sufferings and trials. It is difficult when we cannot help materially or spiritually. May the example of the angels give us the courage to respect the limitations of others and the individual guidance of God with each individual soul.

Finally, dear brothers, before we reflect what the angel concretely said, we should pay attention to one common characteristic of an heavenly "communication" for which we should become sensitive to: When "heaven speaks", we should notice the particular characteristic of clarity! The angels may say little, rarely "the whole truth"; but what they say is firm and sure. It is clear because it is the truth, and the truth causes peace! If we miss this "fruit" or observe other signs, then we have reason to doubt at least about the purity of the channel, if not even about the trustworthiness of the source.

May God bring us more and more together with our holy angels, that they can guide us according to the Will of God and that we will not hinder them from telling "the whole truth" to us!

Fr. Titus Kieninger ORC