February 6, 2015

Homily for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 8, 2015, Year B

Fr. Butler is away preaching on special assignment. I submit to you Fr. Charles Irvin's homily on Jesus, Job and the value of our suffering: 

Peter and his mother-in-law
Fr. Charles Irvin

Henry David Thoreau once wrote: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” One such person comes to us this morning in today’s first reading. He name is Job. I’m sure most of you are familiar with his story that comes to us from the Old Testament.

We enter his story today finding Job as a successful businessman, enjoying good health, some considerable wealth, at the peak of happiness, surrounded by a loving family, and married to a good wife.

But good fortune is like the wind. Suddenly everything changes. Savage bandits slaughter his servants and steal his flocks. A dreadful desert storm takes the lives of all his children. Under terrible pressure and stress his health fails and his entire body is covered with painful sores, the physical consequences, no doubt, of unendurable inner pain. In the end, his beloved wife tells him to “curse God and die.” And the reaction of his friends? “Well,” they tell him, “God is punishing you for some horrible secret sins in your life.”  We hear similar judgments in our own day when misfortune befalls people.

But while most of us have not suffered to the extent Job suffered (although I’ve known some who have), most of us have experienced what was sent forth in today’s first reading -- never-ending sleepless nights filled with fear, anxiety, guilt, and self-punishment. Some have felt tempted to literally curse God and die. Many have cursed the Church and died.

And then there are the days that follow those nights… long, long days filled with drudgery, pain, and hopelessness, days that arrive one after another without end. Some of you here this morning see nothing but those days and nights stretching out endlessly ahead of you.

There’s something special about a man or woman who has been born into great wealth, suffered the loss of it all, and then rebuilt his or her life back up again from nothing. I knew such a person – he was my father. He was a man acquainted with the task of facing life without hope of ever returning to his original comfortable state in life.

Then there’s the loss through sudden death of people whom we love and care for, or loss through lingering illness followed finally by a merciful death. I’m not sure which is more painful, sudden loss of life or loss through long, lingering, and slow diminishments ending in a final death by exhaustion. Those of you acquainted with Alzheimer’s disease know what I am talking about.

Many who have greatly suffered have likewise faced the temptation to curse heaven, blame God, and then resolve to die in nothingness. Living life over the long haul while carrying a load of hidden pain and loss that few realize is a daunting challenge to faith. The temptation to blame God and then stoically endure death is a very real temptation for many people you and I have known.

Finally there was Job’s wife, the woman he lived with and loved through- out his entire ordeal. In the end he suffered a pain worse than being impoverished, suffering terrible losses, and then finally turning into a physical wreck covered with sores. The one he trusted, loved, and depended upon, the one he cherished, walked out on him while advising him to “curse God and die.” That’s polite biblical language covering over what she was really saying: “Go to hell, Job!”

To read this homily in full go here. 

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