5th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2018
Who hasn't felt like Job at some point in their life? The passage we read today is one of a person weighed down by troubles, depression even. Job's sleep is restless, and far from being refreshing is a kind of torment, anybody who has experienced regular nights of sleeplessness will agree with the sentiment he expressed:
"When I lie down I say, "When shall I arise?"
then the night drags on;
I am filled with restlessness until the dawn". (Job 7:4)
I can understand that, I've never been a great sleeper and frequently, try as I might; there are nights when sleep just doesn't come until the dawn. The whole passage from chapter seven gives us a picture of grey, unremitting painful existence. Job is a victim of forces beyond his apparent control. It isn't an easy story for us to grasp, the book of Job seem so unfair with God playing games, in the life of a good man. It's not an easy read at all, but I suppose we have to accept that part of the story is an exaggeration of the writer to make a very big point, not one I can easily accept, that before God we know so little and we are not the centre of earthly life at all but part of a much larger picture.
Yet, I for one feel sorry that the story lays so much on Job's goodness and trust in a God who seemingly doesn't care about the inflictions meted out: death, sickness, poverty, loss of name, status and family. But maybe that's the point, to get us to look at the multiplicity of Jobs' throughout history, still very present in the violence and greed of our present world. In our media we read and see innocent victims of all kinds of calamities and we hear soften the cries of those who see justice. What is to be done? What answer do we have from a God who lets this take place?
The answer is, like so many things in life, very simple. We look hard at what is going on, we examine our own conscience and we listen again to the voice of Jesus who came to serve and heal and forgive. That is our answer. We don't just stop at the story of Job remaining the victim, we move on looking for one who has an answer and who can help us challenge and change things, one who has wrestled with the demons of the night and day and come out victorious. Mark shows us this:
'Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, "Everyone is looking for you. "He told them, "Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come. "So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee'. (Mk 1:36-39)
Here is the Christ who heals and reconciles, who in his own mission shows us how even death cannot conquer. An ancient hymn calls Christ the 'saving victim' 'salutaris hostia'. Unlike poor old Job, Jesus takes us that step beyond the confines of our earthly problems, challenges the notion of victimhood by pointing out God is not playing games, God is there in it with us…and more importantly through Christ and the Spirit, will help us be victorious!
"If we ceased to desire the goods of our neighbour, we would never commit murder or adultery or theft or false witness. If we respected the tenth commandment, the four commandments that precede it would be superfluous." - Rene Girard I See Satan Fall Like Lightning
"Every Christian is chosen-chosen for similar deeds, namely: to be with the Lord, through unceasing remembrance of Him and awareness of His omnipresence, through the preaching and fulfilment of His commandments, and through a readiness to confess one's faith in Him. In those circles where such a confession is made, it is a loud sermon for all to hear.
Every Christian has the power to heal infirmities - not of others, but his own, and not of the body, but of the soul - that is, sins and sinful habits - and to cast out devils, rejecting evil thoughts sown by them, and extinguishing the excitement of passions enflamed by them.
Do this and you will be an apostle, a fulfiller of what the Lord chose you for, an accomplisher of your calling as messenger. When at first you succeed in all this, then perhaps the Lord will appoint you as a special ambassador - to save others after you have saved yourself; and to help those who are tempted, after you yourself pass through all temptations, and through all experiences in good and evil.
But your job is to work upon yourself: for this you are chosen; the rest is in the hands of God, he who humbles himself shall be exalted."
Saint Theophan the Recluse