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Homily Notes Fifth Sunday of Ordinary time 2018

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          5th Sunday of Ordinary Time/ “God is Always with Us”

“Is not all man’s life on earth a drudgery.”  A lot of us might be feeling that way today.  The 1st of February has come.  The holidays are over.  Flu season is in full swing.  Any of us could utter the words I just quoted.  But they came from the mouth of Job.

            Perhaps these words surprise us.  We always speak of the “patience of Job.”  One interpretation of this idea has always been that Job was courageous.  He was put to a surprise test by Satan.  Life was going along swimmingly for Job when we meet him in scripture.  He has a big loving family.  He has all the wealth that anyone could want.  Job is very popular with his neighbors. He enjoys wonderful health.  He is in his prime. He has everything.

            God is proud that Job is a righteous man.  But then along comes Satan who challenges God. Satan says, “If you show Job misfortune his faith will disappear.  God allows Satan to have his way.  Job’s life is turned upside down.  Everything is taken away from him; health, wealth, family, all gone. Job is tempted to become angry with God. 

            The simple theological lesson that may have been passed on to us about Job is that despite the disasters that befall him he refuses to get mad at God.   Through all his misfortune, he holds firm in his belief. Because of this, we do talk of the “patience of Job.”  When we see someone, who is suffering, who refuses to show despair, we say that they are like Job.  Perhaps when we have misfortune we open our Bible.  We turn to the Book of Job thinking we can strengthen ourselves.  When we do read Job, we might be surprised at what we find.

            For we find line after line of Job complaining against God.  He has good reason for doing this.  The Jewish belief, at the time of Job, was that those who were virtuous were assured of rich satisfying lives.  But, if you sinned, then you would be punished. 

            Three of Job’s friends come to him.  And they challenge him to repent.  “If you repent of your sin, they say, you will find relief.”  “What have you done wrong?” they ask over and over.  Job maintains his innocence, but he also believes God is the one who is allowing his suffering to happen.  Job’s complains, and he complains.  All in all, it seems like a depressing story until God finally appears to Job.  God reminds Job of the big picture.  Job’s story is just a small slice of the epic tale of God’s relationship with humanity. Job’s spirituality and insight are deepened by what he goes through.  He doesn’t remain in bitter, his insights about life mature. Satan flees.

            What are we to derive from the story of Job?  We learn that there are no easy answers to why we have suffering in our lives.  Maybe we also learn that we don’t understand struggle until we ourselves are wounded.  When we are humbled because of misfortune in our life, then we can grasp great truths, truths that lead us to be wiser people.

            Religion often gets a bad name, because people think religion is about answers to life’s problems, answers that will take pain away.  We all realize how dangerous it is to use pat answers.  We have all gone through receiving lines at the funeral home. For example, we wonder what it is that we are to say to try to bring comfort to the grieving family.  Maybe we hear some mourners say, “Well we know that this is all part of God’s plan.” Now this sounds like what a faith filled person would say, but it can make a grieving person very angry at God. We, who are people who claim to be religious, think we need to appear strong in the face of heartbreak. But do we?

            The most we can really say in the face of tragedy is that we believe God is with us.  How do we know this? We know this, hopefully, because we sense Jesus has carried us through great trauma. We know this because God entered the world in the person of Jesus.  God did not avoid suffering, no, God entered the reality of suffering.  God lived that mystery which makes all the difference.  No one who has lived has had a pain free life of from beginning to end.  Not even Jesus.

            The story of Job teaches us that it is all right to express our frustrations to God when misfortune comes.  The story of Job reminds us that struggle is a part of every life.  Our task is not to escape difficulty.  As people of faith our challenge is to invite the Lord into our moments of despair, as we pray and as we share with our church family.  Jesus’ name means “God with us.”  God is with us in our blessings.  God is with us desolation. Job found out that truth.  And that truth set him free.