Job 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-16
Psalm 119:66, 71, 75, 91, 125, 130
In today's first reading, we meet Job, a man whose name has become synonymous with suffering. But we read today, the end of the story, a very happy ending. In fact, I sometimes think that the epilogue of the book of Job could be summed up with the words: "And Job lived happily ever after." But of course there is much more to the story than the happy ending. It is what came before the ending that gives meaning to the story of Job.
Job was a good and just and God-fearing man who was suddenly afflicted with tremendous suffering. Today, many of us are afflicted with suffering and as it did with Job the question arises, why me? Why do I have to endure this suffering? As we struggle with our suffering, very often no answer is forthcoming, nor did Job receive an answer about his sufferings. When I struggle with suffering and recall the story of Job, I am reminded that Job was very patient in the face of suffering. So patient in fact, that today we sometimes use his name to demonstrate patience. For instance, we say that so and so has "the patience of Job."
Job did suffer greatly, and even reached the point where he wished he had never been born. Yet the author of the book of Job tells us that: "In all this (suffering) Job did not sin, nor did he say anything disrespectful of God." Rather the author quotes Job thus: "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord!" I don't know that I would have the patience and the goodness of Job were I to suffer as he did, but I do know Job gives all of us a powerful response to the question of suffering. And that response is not to ask why, rather to be patient and trust in the Lord during times of our sufferings just as Job did his. Further, it is to hope, as Job did, that suffering will be followed by great happiness if we remain faithful to the Lord. Today, unfortunately, we see people around us who react in a negative way to suffering and blame God for their misfortune. For me, Job is a very powerful example of a different and much better response to suffering.
In today's gospel reading, Jesus welcomes his 72 disciples back from
their first missionary journey. Their mission was successful, and
a big reason why it was successful, is that they, like Job, had learned
to trust in and depend on the Lord.
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