Friday, October 5, 2012

“The purest suffering bears and carries in its train the purest understanding”

The more we are afflicted in this world, the greater is our assurance in the next; the more we sorrow in the present, the greater will be our joy in the future. - St. Isidore of Seville

(Scripture Text: JB 38:1, 12-21; 40:3-5)
The LORD addressed Job out of the storm and said:

Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning
and shown the dawn its place
For taking hold of the ends of the earth,
till the wicked are shaken from its surface?
The earth is changed as is clay by the seal,
and dyed as though it were a garment;
But from the wicked the light is withheld,
and the arm of pride is shattered.

Have you entered into the sources of the sea,
or walked about in the depths of the abyss?
Have the gates of death been shown to you,
or have you seen the gates of darkness?
Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all:
Which is the way to the dwelling place of light,
and where is the abode of darkness,
That you may take them to their boundaries
and set them on their homeward paths?
You know, because you were born before them,
and the number of your years is great!

Then Job answered the LORD and said:

Behold, I am of little account; what can I answer you?
I put my hand over my mouth.
Though I have spoken once, I will not do so again;
though twice, I will do so no more.

There’s just no getting around it.

Whether physically or emotionally or both, each of us will encounter suffering at some point in our lives. It’s part of living in this world— something poor old Job knew quite well. In addition to his storm of misfortunes, Job also had to endure the baseless philosophizing of his friends. In discourse after discourse, they tried to convince him that he was being punished for some ser­ious hidden sin and that he should turn away from such a cruel God. But Job remained steadfast.

In the end, God appeared and silenced these men. He reminded Job that as Creator of all things, he is always in control. Job had not sinned, and the fact that he never turned his back on God made his righteousness shine all the more.

In his apostolic letter Salvifici Doloris, Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote that the Book of Job “is not the last word on this subject… . In a certain way it is a foretelling of the Passion of Christ.” Jesus, though innocent, endured bitter suffering— including betrayal by close friends. And in his suffering, he not only redeemed us; he revealed the redemptive power implicit in all hardship and pain. To explain this, papal preacher Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa asked: “What do you do to reassure someone that a par­ticular drink contains no poison? You drink it yourself first, in front of him. This is what God has done for humanity: he has drunk the bitter cup of the passion… . At the bot­tom of the chalice, there must be a pearl. We know the name of that pearl: resurrection!”

Both of these spiritual masters show us that the best way to deal with suffering is to find its redemp­tive and intercessory purposes. We can even “redeem” our sufferings this way, showing that they don’t have to rule us. Like Job, we can resolve to weather the storms of life by holding on to our hope and faith in the Lord. And if all else fails, we can remember our ultimate des­tiny:

“For I know that my Vindicator lives, … and from my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25, 26).

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