Sunday, 8 February 2015
Job was not an Englishman, 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
We just heard in our first reading how the prophet Job complained about his problems. And it occurred to me as I was reading this that Job was clearly not an Englishman. He was not an Englishman because he actually said it like it was.
Our short text doesn't tell us, but let us remember Job’s situation:
He had lost everything: his flocks and herds had been destroyed, his house too, and all his children. In addition, he was covered from head to toe in boils and pain. And then three friends came to visit him.
Now, if he was an Englishman, when theses three friends came to see him, and asked him, “How are you?”, he would have replied, “Fine, thank you”.
In fact, I've often noted that when I visit people in hospital, when they are obviously NOT fine, they nonetheless say, “Fine, thank you” -its just the English thing to do. As the saying goes, “Mustn’t grumble!”
What I like about Job, however, is just how fully he DOES grumble. And, as a Christian, I take heart that our Sacred Scriptures include texts like this that fully acknowledge the difficulties of life. Unlike some Eastern religions that say that suffering is an illusion, and unlike some Western materialistic lifestyles that try to cheerily pretend its not there, CHRISTIAN religion says suffering is real, its bad -and also teaches that it wasn’t in God’s original plan for creation, it’s a result of the Fall in Original Sin.
So Job miserably says, “Is not man’s life on earth nothing more than pressed service,
his time no better than hired drudgery?...
Lying in bed I wonder, ‘When will it be day?’
Risen I think, ‘How slowly evening comes!’…
My life is but a breath,
And my eyes will never again see joy”(Job 7:1-4.6-7)
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Job should be our model in everything: we need to have patience, and there are many times when we should spare our neighbour by adopting a "mustn't grumble" attitude. But we do need, like Job, to squarely confront the reality of our suffering.
What Job has to teach us, however, does not end in himself. As the Fathers of the Church taught, he points to Christ -even though he didn’t know Christ.
MY POINT to you today is that we can only come to Christ, can only bring our WOUNDS to Him if we first ADMIT that they are there. If we spend our lives like polite Englishmen, and say, “I’m fine, thank you”, then Christ cannot heal the wounds that we each carry inside of us.
And the DEEPEST wounds, the wounds that need healing for ETERNITY, are the wounds in our souls: the weakness we feel, the burden we carry, the sins that need forgiveness.
Let me highlight one phrase from today’s Gospel text, when the disciples tell the Lord Jesus how the crowds related to Him. They said, “Everyone is LOOKING for you”(Mk 1:37).
What about us? Are we, likewise, “looking for” Him in our need?
And let us remember the REASON the people were looking for Him: because they saw how He CARED for the sick and the suffering, cared for people like poor Job. Christ did not move among them as some powerful regal lord who was INDIFFERENT to their pain. Rather, as the texts say time and time again, He had “compassion” on them (e.g. Mt 14:14). And as the many texts record, that compassion expressed itself in how He SPOKE to them, how he LOOKED at them, and what He DID for them. In particular, how often He cured them.
And though He only sometimes cures our bodies, He ALWAYS wishes to give us that deeper healing for the wound WITHIN.
So, to sum that up. Let us not be overly-polite Englishmen. Rather, let us be like Job. Let us admit our need. And let us bring that need to the Lord, because He cares.