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Posts Tagged ‘innocent suffering’


Job 40:1-5: Arguing with the Almighty – Part V

Monday, February 5, 2018

Jean Fouquet: Job and His False Comforters

I once heard a homily on Job 1:6 in which we discover that Satan/Lucifer has to “cover himself” with light.  He sneaks into the midst of the holy people in order to be in God’s presence. Yet, God sees him there and asks him where he has been and what he has been doing. Satan replies that he has been on earth, roaming and patrolling.  The homilist pointed out that we, God’s adopted children, can come freely into God’s presence but that Lucifer, also known as the Morning Star, has to sneak in when the holy people enter. In other words, the homilist tells us, Satan is going to hang out with people who are clearly doing God’s work and who have free and ample access to the Lord.

Satan brings woes upon Job and for a while, Job is stunned because he does not understand this punishment. His wife tells him to curse God and die; his friends advise him to confess his wrongdoing so that the evil will leave him. Still puzzled, Job feels alone, and these beautiful words in 23:10 describe how we might also feel as we struggle with unwarranted suffering. “I would learn the words with which [God] would answer and understand what [God] would reply to me . . . yet [God] knows my way; if [God] proved me I would come forth gold.”

Still, Satan does not give up and he tries to dupe Job into cursing God. Job thinks that he is no longer in God’s presence; but God has never left him, just as God never abandons us. Satan, in his arrogance and conceit, finally leaves Job alone and goes off to bother someone else. Job continues to worship God from his lonely place, and he continues to make the case with his friends that he is innocent – which he is.

Job is finally rewarded for his argument with the Almighty when God speaks. And like Jesus, The Word Among Us, God replies to our cry for help with questions rather than answers. Where you there when I created the earth? Are you going to be my critic?”  We might think this a cruel response to one in deep pain; but on reflection, we see God’s goodness. It is impossible for Job – or for us – to comprehend creation’s enormous plan. It is alarming for Job – or for us – to see the enormity of our complex universe. It is a colossal challenge for Job – or for us – to react to evil as God does, with an open, forgiving heart.

When we argue with the Almighty as Job does, we – like Job – will want to reply to our living God, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be hindered.” (42:2) God rewards Job – and us – mightily for being the good and faithful servant who asks questions and argues from a clean heart. With this reward comes fresh hope, new wisdom, and the courage to come forth gold. This a story we will want to ponder, a story we will want to share, a story we will want to argue once again with the Almighty. 

Adapted from a reflection written on February 6, 2007.

For another reflection on Job 1

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Proverbs 1:8-19: Greed and Violence

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The writer of these verses is clear and explicit about the wiles of those who might entice us to lie in wait for the honest man or woman who sets our teeth on edge, or who stirs our yearning for some thing or some quality we do not have but want. The writer wants us to remain alert for those who delight in setting traps for the innocent in their search for wealth and power. The wily ones are always looking for new members to swell their ranks.

Walk not in the way with them . . . it may be difficult to see that actions appearing harmless can lead us to dark paths we want to avoid. And so we must be watchful.

These lie in wait for their own blood . . . it may be difficult to see that family, friends or colleagues engage in activities that lead too easily to the ways of violence. And so we must be prudent.

These set a trap for their own lives . . . it is worth more than we can say to step away from plots and schemes that bring down the innocent for our own gain. And so we must be faithful to God.

This is the fate of everyone greedy for loot . . . it is worth more than we can judge to live a life that is void of even the beginning stirrings of envy or greed. And so we must be compassionate and loving.

These are words meant to instruct and warn us. These are verses meant to steer us into The Way Jesus later lays out so clearly. Are these words we can trust? Can we put aside our anxieties when we realize that for millennia traps have been laid for the innocent? Can we hand over our anger to God even as we pray for our enemies? Might we quiet our fears and tame our anxieties while we wait in joyful anticipation of God’s justice? Might we step away from the violence that grows from our human greed, and follow The Way of Christ?

When we compare different versions of these verses, we discover new truth about the violence of greed and the holiness of the innocents who trust in God.

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Job: Protestation of Innocence

Albrecht Durer: Job and his Wife

Monday, July 10, 2017

We share these reflections from Holy Week of 2007 while I am away from electronics. Keeping all of you in prayer at noon each day.

Holy Monday 2007: Job’s last exhausted protestation of innocence. Jesus is accused of challenging Caesar but he is innocent of the charge. We, too, may have been unjustly accused or we may find ourselves innocently involved in terrifying circumstances. We are not alone in this intense suffering.

Jesus tells us that he yokes himself with us in both our joys and sufferings, and so we share thoughts and prayers with one another as we hand over our burden to Christ.

When we use the scripture link and commentary to explore the Book of Job, we find verses that speak to us.

 

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Job 3Misery

Wednesday, October 12, 2016peace-in-christ

We continue our reflections on peace and we find that even in the depths of misery, there is peace. 

In the Biblia de América, the commentary refers to the technique used in this book as a dialog of the deaf.  This certainly explains how we so often feel misunderstood, misheard, misspoken, misunderstanding.  As humans, we are often poor at expressing ourselves clearly . . . and we are equally poor at hearing well.  Job’s three friends, in an effort to either console Job in his misfortune or to justify themselves in their good fortune, do not fully comprehend the depths of Job’s misery.  He is innocent.  He has followed God’s precepts well.  He has done nothing wrong.  He has done all things well . . . yet he suffers tremendously.  This does not fit the Old Testament thinking that if we do as we are asked to do, we will not suffer.  Goods and good times come to us as a reward.  Suffering and pain come to us as a punishment.  Job struggles to find the logic in what has happened to him, and here in the opening chapters he is clear about his grief; yet his friends will reply as if they have not heard the idea their friend struggles to communicate – he has done nothing wrong and still he suffers greatly.  Job, looking for justice and compassion, will find only preaching and separation from his friends.  It is not until the end of this travail that he will see the wisdom and awesome power of God.  And for his fidelity and his willingness to suffer . . . Job will receive compensation beyond his imaginings.

Still, we are struck by the phrase: a dialog of the deaf.  Is this the way we listen to one another?  Are we bent on finding answers?  On ending pain?  On bending circumstances to our own will?  Why do we not hear?  Perhaps the other’s experience is beyond anything we can imagine.  Perhaps others frighten us and we fear contagion.  Perhaps we do not want to admit that discipline from God is necessary and that our role is to abide by those who suffer.  Perhaps we are not willing to become co-redeemers with Christ and enter into the salvific pain which redeems us as well as our enemies when we pray for their conversion.

Job speaks of wishing he had never been born.  This is true misery for this admits that we would rather be without God and free of pain than with God and suffering with God.  Yet we only become truly free when we give over our self-control to the guiding hands of God.  We can only become truly happy when we agree to live a life which depends on God’s plan for our happiness rather than our own.

True freedom and true joy can wipe out the kind of misery Job expresses here.  Authentic faith, enduring hope, genuine love . . . these are the antidote for deep and inconsolable misery . . . and these come from God alone.  As sufferers here in this life we can listen more to one another, we can abide more with one another, and rather than recriminations, accusations or platitudes . . . we might offer God’s peace to one another.

This is the power, the mystery and the comfort that comes from saying to one another . . . may Christ’s peace be with you.  For it is the only peace that knows the depth of pain that cries out . . . if only I had not been born.  It is the eternal peace of God with which God graces all life.  If only we might find a way to listen . . .

Adapted from a reflection written on February 17, 2009.

LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA. 8th. Madrid: La Casa de la Biblia, 1994. Print.

 

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Job 8: Taking the Dare – Part II

Vladimir Borovikovsky: Job and his Friends

Vladimir Borovikovsky: Job and his Friends

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Satan believes that he can tempt Job into doubting God’s abiding friendship. Job’s friends make conditions worse. Today we read a speech from Bildad who believes that Job has brought ruin upon himself; but this friend is not privy to Satan’s challenge and dare as we are.  Bildad operates from his own experience and from the information he has at hand; he believes that Job has sinned and that he suffers as a result.  There is no calculus in his mind for innocent suffering, and so here and in his second speech (Chapter 18) he encourages Job to confess and repent of his wrongdoing.  This is something Job cannot do, of course, for he has not sinned.  There is nothing to confess.  He suffers innocently.

Teresa of Ávila is correct.  Our intimate relationship with God is a challenging and arduous journey.  Rather than being a state of mind or condition, it is a process in which our hubris, fear, suspicion and independence are winnowed away until we are left with humility, obedience, trust and love.  When we meditate on the entire story of Job we are given the opportunity to examine our own journey with God and the quality of our faithfulness.  Do we cling to God because of favors that might be granted us?  Do we count God as a friend because we hope to receive certain blessings?  Is this a relationship in which we do for God only because God is the best bet, carries the greatest weight, wields the greatest force and is the generally accepted deity?  Or do we claim God as our own because God claims us?  Do we humble ourselves before God because we understand that we are creatures created from God’s love?  Do we hand ourselves over as objects of the dare – as Job does – because ultimately we trust God more than we trust ourselves?

If a friend approaches us in our misery and encourages us to fess up about something we have done when we have, in fact, done nothing to merit our pain: what is our response?  Do we enter into the dare?  Do we count on ourselves and our own resources?  Or do we count on God?

Adapted from a favorite written on May 5, 2010.

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