Saturday, October 04, 2008


Friday in the 26th Week of Ordinary Time
Children Who Listen


Readings: Job 38:1, 12-21; 40:3-5; Psalm 139:1-3, 7-8, 9-10, 13-14ab; Luke 10:13-16
Picture: CC Leonid Mamchenkov

Among the many heartrending experiences in human experience is the sight of a parent desperately trying to reach out to a wayward child. It’s painful for any parent, but the struggle is perhaps all the more marked in the case of one who enjoys some kind of authority outside the family. Isn’t it pitiful to witness how, for example, a successful businessperson, or respected politician, or revered professor– for all his/her expertise and skill – may still fail miserably to keep his/her child on the straight and narrow?

We experience something of the same pathos as we listen to Jesus’ speech to the wayward inhabitants of Chorazin and Bethsaida and Capernaum. This is the Christ, the Anointed One, who has moved hearts with his message and mended bodies with his miracles. This is the Eternal Word that comes from the mouth of the Father, the One through whom all things were made. And we know the power of the Word in the Bible. God’s Word makes things happen. When God speaks, creation comes into being. When God speaks, the rain falls, or ceases. When God speaks, the Israelites are freed from slavery in Egypt… And yet, all the same, when God speaks to God’s children, often enough, nothing happens, no change is made. Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!

Even so, that’s not always the case. There are children who do listen – children who actually come to experience the power of God’s Word to change minds, to move hearts, and to mold lives. We find an example of one such child in Job. We cannot fail to notice the radical change that takes place in him. In the first reading we witness something of his transformation. Quite marvelously, he who was angry and grieving is finally able to come to terms with his situation. He who had previously encountered only the painful silence of the dark night comes to experience the healing power of God’s voice. How did this come about? What is Job’s secret? What can we learn from his experience?

At least two points come to mind. The first is has to do with the location from which God speaks. We’re told that God addresses Job from out of the storm. God encounters Job in the very midst of the tumultuous waters of his painful situation. God speaks to Job from out of the storm of his grief. This is something at once consoling and challenging – consoling because it tells us that pain can be productive, but also challenging because it implies the need to resist our spontaneous desire to anesthetize ourselves whenever we suffer discomfort. It implies a willingness to imitate Job, who continued to cry out to God in the midst of his difficulty, waiting for God to answer him. It implies a readiness to meet and to accompany the One who Rose only because he was first Crucified.

The second point has to do with the content of God’s address to Job. To be honest, from the perspective of an onlooker, God’s words don’t sound very convincing. For a long time Job has been asking God to tell him why he who had been faithful, he who had done nothing wrong, had to suffer so terribly. And God responds not so much with an answer, as with more questions, not so much with an explanation as a challenge. Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth? Tell me, if you know all… Even so, the amazing thing is that not only is Job convinced, he is also comforted. 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. Could it be because while an outsider might be looking for an explanation, more so does Job desire a relation? Could it be because while we may focus only on solutions to our problems, Job is open to the incomprehensible mystery of God’s providence? There really is only one way to find out…

How might the Word of God be addressing us today?

2 comments:

  1. Fr Chris, thanks to your explanation here, Jesus' words in Luke 10 don't sound so harsh anymore. Instead, they are words uttered by a heartbroken parent!

    It's only now that it has sunken in for me that Jesus regards us as children (His children) although I've read of him calling his disciples "children" (e.g. John 21:5, Mark 10:24). He was only 33 years old when he died! But now I finally connect that He's very very very OLD, even Ancient (Daniel 7) -- He had been there with God in the beginning (John 1)!

    For a long time, I've marveled over this and I'm struck by this ever more: The Word of God can be read and understood on so many different levels at different times... even by the same person!

    How might the Word of God be addressing me today?

    Nowadays, this question keeps popping into my mind, "Is my faith in God strong enough?" If something goes wrong for me, do I trust that He loves me and all will be well? If I'm challenged to face someone or do something really difficult, do I trust that He's with me and will give me the necessary graces? If someone seems to be doing wrong, do I trust that He can bring good out of this? In fact, why don't (or didn't) I rise up to the challenge of the moment and be his messenger (of humility, compassion, understanding, faith, etc.) for that someone? And show by my actions (not mere words) that the values of God's kingdom are far more important than the values of the world?

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  2. What's the Word of God telling us today? This world as we know it is fragile and transient. See how the stocks and property markets crash worldwide? See how our physical world also collapse sometimes? See how our bodies age, die, and rot so easily? Wake up to the reality that only God's kingdom lasts forever!

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