22 Pentecost, October 21
The loss of Job’s family and property and the loathsome sores covering his flesh work a deeper wound in his mind. Stunned and silenced at first, silencing even his friends who behold his suffering, Job finally pours out words of bitter anguish. Why do I suffer? Why am I suffering like this? Could any guilt I bear justify such crushing pain? If only I could sleep in death.
In the end, the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind. “You make the winds your messengers, fire and flame your ministers” (Ps. 104:4). The magnitude and mystery of created being is a theophany revealing all that Job cannot know. If he cannot know the universe and all its workings, he cannot approach with human knowledge the God who holds it in being. God asks, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7). Do heavenly beings shout for joy while a righteous man withers in anguish? God answers, but not with the hoped-for explanation. God is beyond knowing, the universe is beyond knowing, senseless suffering is beyond knowing. Not knowing, a man may quiet his inner debate with God and simply go on with living. “But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:13). Life begins again when the debate is over. This is an imperfect consolation, but it is a consolation nonetheless.
The Lord answered Job, we might say, a second time, not with the magnitude and mystery of creation, but with the Word made flesh, a man of sorrows. Bishop Zeno of Verona, a fourth-century saint venerated in both the Orthodox East and Catholic West, compared Job to Jesus. “Job was disfigured with ulcers. Jesus, by assuming flesh, was lowered to the defilement of the sins of the entire human race.” “Job sat on a dunghill filled with worms. The Lord too lived on a true dunghill, that is, on the mud of this world among people, who are the true worms, boasting of diverse crimes and deviant desires” (Tract 15, 2). Thus Jesus embodies Job. Jesus carries his disease, is stricken, afflicted, wounded, crushed, punished, oppressed, cut off from the land of the living, counted as one who is wicked (Isa. 53:4-9).
“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cried and tears” (Heb. 5:7). An ancient though contested verse in St. Luke’s Gospel describes the deeply human prayer of Christ our Lord: “In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like drops of blood falling down on the ground” (Luke 22:44). From the cross he said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). From his gored side he poured out blood and water.
Jesus drinks the cup of human suffering; he is baptized into a death he does not deserve. He is one of us, but more than what we are. His divine life and power, though shrouded by human weakness, is never extinguished. What he touches, he recreates and divinizes, making sinners the sons and daughters of God. This is a more perfect consolation, to know that God goes where we go, to know that we have a high priest who understands, to know, in faith, that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the resurrection of Job and all his sons and all his daughters.
Look It Up
Read Mark 10:38.
Think About It
Every person must drink this cup.