Friday of the 26th Week of Ordinary Time: Who are we to answer God?

Today’s readings

[Mass for the school children.]

Our first reading today sounds almost like God could be asking us all the same questions. He asked Job these things to help Job understand that God knows things that Job will never come to understand. We’re like that too. How many of us have ever told the sun to rise and had the sun obey? How many of us have walked on the ocean floor? Who of us knows for certain how big the world or the universe is? Could any of us have thought up the system of having the darkness and the light take charge of the various times of day? Well, no, none of us could ever have thought of or done any of those things. Only God could have.

I told the adults who came to morning Mass yesterday that Job had a really hard life. We’ve been hearing a little of his story all this week. Job was a good man. He had a good family, a nice place to live, and many flocks of animals. But one day Satan came to God and said that it’s only because God has been so good to Job, and that God has given Job all these things that Job is such a good man. Satan said that if God really wanted to see if Job was a good man, he should take away everything and see what happens. So God allowed Satan to test Job. In an instant, everything Job had was gone. His children were all killed in a horrible accident. All of his livestock were killed too. The house in which they live was destroyed and Job was left with nothing but sadness.

With that kind of sadness, we could sure understand if Job was angry. I don’t know if he was or not, but he certainly was confused. This is what he says just a bit before the reading we heard today:

Why doesn’t God All-Powerful
listen and answer?
If God has something against me,
let him speak up
or put it in writing!
Then I would wear his charges
on my clothes and forehead.
And with my head held high,
I would tell him everything
I have ever done.
I have never mistreated
the land I farmed
and made it mourn.
Nor have I cheated
my workers
and caused them pain.
If I had, I would pray
for weeds instead of wheat
to grow in my fields.
Job 31:35-40a, CEV

So Job is challenging God to tell him why all this bad stuff was happening. And God replies in the reading we heard today: If Job was not going to be able to understand how the sun came to rise and set, and why the ocean only went so far and didn’t swallow up the whole earth, if Job didn’t understand how the world was made, well then, he certainly wasn’t going to understand why things were happening in his life.

And we’re just like Job sometimes. Bad things happen to us. Maybe we fail a test, or get into an argument with a friend. Maybe our parents get angry with us. Or maybe some really bad things happen like someone we love dies. The one thing that we learn in life is that sometimes bad things happen. We all experience sadness and pain sometimes. And when that happens, we always try to understand it. That’s just the kind of people we are. We try to understand everything in the world. And we have come to learn a lot. We can understand all kinds of scientific things. But how was the world created? None of us were there and there’s no tests we can do, so anything we say about that is just a theory. So if that’s hard for us to understand, we can be sure that the reasons for our sadnesses and pains are going to be hard to understand too. We may never understand them in this lifetime.

The only one who understands is God. The mind of God is bigger than anything we can imagine. God is present to the past, present and future all at once. God sees the “big picture.” When we are going through those sad times, we have to come to trust God just like Job did at the end of our reading today. He said, “who am I to answer you?” God is in control of all our lives, in control of our coming and going. We have to trust in God to make sense of it all, even when we are most confused and very sad. We have to trust in God to change our sadness into joy, just as he did later on in the story for Job. It may take a while, but God will surely heal us and comfort us if we let him.

Today we are celebrating a Mass of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In this Mass, we remember how much God loves us. God loved Job very much, and healed him and gave him great joy after all of his sadness. We can trust that God, through the Sacred Heart of Jesus, loves us just as much as he loved Job, if not more. Whenever we have sadness and pain, we can know that God will eventually give us comfort and joy, even greater than we ever had before.