Vol. VI, October 2000


The Angel – Mediator Between Man and Man (cf. Tob 9)  

Dear Brothers in the priesthood!

After the beautiful lesson on the fruits of obedience and prayer (ch. 8), the initiative of Tobias towards Raphael might surprise us. Tobias asked Raphael to go alone to Gabael and to get his father’s money.  

1. a) "Tobias called Raphael and said to him: ‘Brother Azariah, take along with you four servants and two camels and travel to Rages. Go to Gabael’s house and give him this bond. Get the money and then bring him along with you to the wedding celebration. You witnessed the oath that Raguel has sworn; I cannot violate his oath. For you know that my father is counting the days. If I should delay my return by a single day, I would cause him intense grief’" (vv.1-4). Scripture does not relate any further conversation between the boy and the angel on this occasion. Tobias is not yet aware that he has a real angel as companion, so it is natural for him to ask such a favor from him.

b) But the angel could have presented some arguments in order to avoid such a humbling service. He could have insisted in his mission as companion of Tobias, such that he could not lose sight of him. Or he could have argued that Raguel would not believe him and refuse to hand out the deposited funds, since he was just a hired worker, moreover that he comes with so many servants and animals which do not seem to testify to the simplicity of Tobit. This, however, is an all too human way of reasoning. After all, it was Raphael himself who proposed the marriage, and now he helps in any way he can to fulfill the will of the father as well. "Raphael, together with the four servants and two camels, traveled to Rages in Media, where they stayed at Gabael’s house. Raphael gave Gabael his bond and told him about Tobit’s son Tobias, and that he had married and was inviting him to the wedding celebration" (v. 5).

c) As Raphael had no problem following the petition of Tobias, so Gabael had none with the message and the loyalty of Raphael. Is this due to the sanctity of the petitioner or the sanctity of the one asked? Gabael did not question the messenger, nor did he show any hesitation as we might expect. However, Gabael had no ulterior motives in accepting the deposited money, and so he willingly returned it, the seals on the bags being untouched: "Gabael promptly checked over the sealed moneybags, and they placed them on the camels. The following morning they got an early start and traveled to the wedding celebration. When they entered Raguel’s house, they found Tobias reclining at the table. He sprang up and greeted Gabael, who wept and blessed him, exclaiming: ‘O noble and good child, son of a noble and good, upright and charitable man, may the Lord grant heavenly blessing to you and to your wife, and to your wife’s father and mother. Blessed be God…’" (v. 5-6).

It must strike us that we find again, at the end or as fruit of the angelic actions, persons who are of one heart, in peace with one another, and full of the praise of God issuing from a sincere heart! 

2. Is this example of the angelic help not too marvelous? How often people ask the question, out of a correct fear or respect: "Can I ask my angel to do me a favor?" Is it possible and justified to ask our angel to do something for us, to ask him even to resolve material problems?

In support of a positive answer, the text offers various reasons, which might be understood as conditions:

a) The real need of help and man’s incapacity to resolve it: Tobias did not invent a need or create this situation. It was not he who stopped at Raguel’s house but the angel, his guide whom his father asked to follow. And here, his hands are bound twice, first by the oath towards his father-in-law and second by the anxiety of his father at home, who is "counting the days" until his return. He sees a real need not to delay his absence from home; whatever could help to shorten it should be done, be it even to ask his companion to go alone to Gabael.

b) The sincere effort of man to do all that is in his hands: Then, Tobias, not knowing how to make himself free, tried at least to help Raphael as much as possible within the limits imposed upon him. He gives Raphael all the useful means provided by his father-in-law: four servants and two camels.

c) The righteousness and justice: Further, Tobias fulfilled the duty of trustworthiness and justice and entrusted to Raphael his father’s certificate, the half of the document which his father shared with his relatives many years before (cf. 5:3). Raphael gave to "Gabael his bond."

d) The generosity and love: Finally, the fact that Tobias was hindered because he "had married" so suddenly is rather a questionable argument under normal circumstances (cf. Lk 14:20). However, Raphael’s familiarity with the family and the invitation to the celebration of the wedding speaks of a frankness and concrete proof of trustworthiness, which eliminates any doubt. Gabael acted promptly, took the money, traveled to the wedding, and blessed them.

The promptness of St. Raphael is certainly evidence that prayerful humility and sincere responsibility is answered by the help of the holy angel. Goodness will cause, in the end, goodness again as its authentic fruit (cf. Rom 12:20f;13:10).  

3. Here, the holy angel acts as mediator between Tobias and Gabael, between man and man. The angel’s mediation is qualified by his readiness and trustworthiness, by his understanding and other capacities, checked at the beginning by father Tobit. But still, we witness here a miraculous intervention of an angel. This brings up the important question: Can we expect similar concrete help of the angels in our ordinary life, too? Different observations may help us to believe that we can ask for the help of the holy angels in almost all circumstances.

a) First, we see that the holy angels have acted many times on behalf of others, even so concretely as here in the life of Tobias: The angel brought Habakuk with the meal he was preparing to Daniel (cf Dan 14:33-39), and an angel led Phillip to the road, where the Eunuch was traveling and reading in the prophet Isaias about Jesus (cf Act 8:26-40). In our times, we know that Blessed Padre Pio invited his penitents to send their angel to him, just as Tobias sent Raphael to Gabael. And when Padre Pio appeared to souls, we might sincerely ask if it was always he himself or if it might not have been his guardian angel, whom he might have sent in his place? Is this not a sign, illustrating how natural we should trust in the help of our holy guardian angel, talk to him about our situation, and ask for his help?

b) In these examples we see also what we might ask from the holy angel: He cares for spiritual needs. For example, he helps Phillip to administer the sacrament of baptism to the Eunuch; also, he cares for the physical needs and provides a meal for the persecuted Daniel. Therefore, we might ask for his help in any need.

c) If we can count on the help of the holy angel in all matters, should we then not become more aware of how he helps us? The Church teaches that the holy angels collaborate in all our good works (cf. CCC, 350). We believe, too, that nothing happens without clear awareness and decision of God (cf. CCC, 302-303, 313-314), and the holy angels are the faithful servants of all His words (cf. CCC, 329). This means that it can be that the angels do something "incredible" like miraculously assume a human body and talk or act by means of it. For instance, the holy angels can cause a noise which wakes someone up or makes someone move from a dangerous place. In the boyhood of Bl. Pope Pius IX, his angel intervened in this fashion. While serving as an altar boy, a person appeared on the far side of the altar and beckoned to him to come over. He went and immediately thereafter a large statue came crashing to the floor where he had just before been standing. In the meantime, the beckoning figure had disappeared. In most cases, however, the angels simply inspire someone with an interior impulse to say certain words or, for instance, to visit a neighbor in the hospital, to call someone up, or to say just a prayer for a certain person. The holy angels have many means and ways to help and to fulfill our petitions.

Like all good persons, the angels will do whatever good they can do if it is the will of God; and here, nothing is too low for them, as they understand this help for man as their way of imitating Christ.

In conclusion, we should not care so much to know how God and the angels act in favor of us, but we should trust that they do help! Recognizing our limitations, we should appeal to the holy guardian angel for help. He is our companion on the journey through life; let our confidence in him be natural as was that of Tobias. We believe in God and His servant, angels, and that God will do what is salutary for us, often through his angels. God will never resist a humble but trustful prayer! Our Holy Father reminded us of the old principle: "We need to trust in God as if everything depended on him and, at the same time, to work generously as if everything depended on us" (John Paul II., Consecrated life, 73). 

4. Dear Brothers in the Priesthood! How often we are confronted with unforeseen situations! How often we should have to bilocate if we were to help in every situation!

May this felicitous experience of Tobias–simply asking his angelic companion to do what he himself could not do under the circumstances–open a really helpful and consoling perspective for us and encourage us to have still more confidence and work more concretely and naturally together with our personal guardian angel and with the guardian angels of others.

We can call for the help of the holy angels and ask that they may work first for us and also through us. No matter what our mission is or what its demands are, when we try our best, we may trust and hand over the rest to the holy angels.

Our priestly life will become much easier, become more deeply united to God, and become more effective with less emphasis on ourselves.

May the praise of the Lord always be the final end: the end of everyday life: the end of all our pastoral effort, and the end of our life here on earth and in heaven, joined with the everlasting praise of the angels!

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC