5 October 2006: Thursday of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time
Job 19, 21-27; Psalm 27; Luke 10, 1-12
The Book of Job in the Old Testament wrestles with the question of suffering and the goodness of God. It probes the depths of our faith in spite of suffering. The Prologue to the Book tells us a background story, a blameless man (blameless: healthy, whole, and socially responsible) is deprived of wealth, posterity, and health, but keeps his faith in God. The book had the courage to move beyond simple acceptance of God’s will (e.g. when one is deprived of all things important of him/her), to ask hard questions such as, “If God does look after the just and always punishes the wicked, why does the opposite seem to be our real experience, in which evil people prosper from their deeds and the honest or good person never gets ahead?” (Job 21, 7-17). Ultimately, from the midst of doubt and questioning, Job teaches us trust in God; that the last word in our lives is not the bad news but the good news.
There is nothing like the absence of assurance to haunt every step we take, to make us afraid in making decisions and undertaking it. Each day becomes a day of uncertainty. When we finally come to bed to rest, our minds keep on thinking of the future and there is no one there to meet us or guide us. It would have been a frightening world. It becomes worse when circumstances seem to be against us, like a bad day. When we feel that everything has been removed from us. When all we have is bad news. In UP, we realized we were stripped of our ‘esteem’ ---- we were once popular and on top of the class in high school, only to discover that there are people better than us; or suddenly our allowance which seemed to be bigger in the provinces, now becomes of small value in the city. Or, finding ourselves alone in the university without friends, or flunking our subjects which we thought we were good at. We experience break-ups of long-time relationships. Worse, our families often experience difficulties, whether a death in the family or the violent adjustment when someone works abroad. Or we experience how some people would gossip about us, destroy our name (Sinisiraan niya ako sa aking mga kaibigan!) and reject us. These are the times when we find ourselves experiencing the absence of God or questioning his existence; the times when we question from the depths of our hearts, “Natutulog ba ang Diyos?”
The first reading immortalizes Job’s words, “But as for me, I know that my Vindicator lives!” The work of faith gives us the assurance we need, that despite the pain, we will survive and turn out to be better persons. That eventually, we will realize our dreams; that we were meant for greater things; that we will find the person right for us. The depths of our faith is eventually tested when we hope against all hope, when we still trust in the Lord’s goodness despite the worse things that is happening to us. The intensity of our faith is finally probed by the passionate longing for the presence of God in the midst of the real experience of His absence, as Job would eventually request for God’s appearance. And finally, Job would admit, “I only heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you” (Job 42, 5).
And so in the midst of difficulties, we assure ourselves using the words Job used, “I know my Savior lives!” In spite of his pain, Job believed that eventually the truth will set things right, and that God will come to his rescue. If we say those words, “I know my Savior lives!” we will put ourselves in the line of many who have survived and whose heart remained steadfast in God. We will be in the line of