There was once a faithful servant of God whose name was Job, a rich and a happy man... so begins the prologue to the Book of Job. The book from which is taken today's first reading. The upbeat attitude of the prologue is, however, short-lived as the narrator soon tells us how Job's world collapses. One disaster after another leaves him without family, health or possessions. His friends, far from consoling him, insist on the traditional belief that he must be suffering for his sins. Each time he desperately protests his innocence; they but shake their heads and conclude that though he might think himself to be innocent, it is obvious that God sees him in a different light.
Job has a real problem with which most of us can identify. How to cope with a just God who permits a good person to suffer. It is a crisis of trust that challenges his belief system. A pitiful but not an unusual situation. The only hand that can heal him is, apparently, the one that has hurt him.
Deep within his tortured self, Job knows that somehow faith must survive. No matter how tired, discouraged and sore. He must go on from one sleepless night to the next, wanting the night to end and yet dreading the dawning of another day.
There is a scene in "Jesus Christ superstar" that captures the feel of this common human experience and it is, interestingly enough, based upon today's Gospel. The sick, the possessed, the insane press tightly about Jesus... they jostle him, crowd him, push him, curse him, implore him... until finally, Jesus can take no more. He screams at them and runs away. The scene shocks many, but it does capture the reason for His escaping to a lonely place to pray, as well as the resignation behind His comment to those who later find Him, "Let us go on to the next town, because that is what it is all about."
How readily Job would have understood! For the Divine power that supported Jesus also enlightened Job, who, in his steadfastness came to understand that it is not for us to judge what God permits or does not permit. It is for us to trust and to remain faithful. "My ways are not your ways," says The Lord... over and over again.
Dear God, in spite of the pain that I feel and see, in spite of the lack of evidence that you continue to care, I believe. For no immediately discernible reason... I believe!
I hope that my faith, our faith, is strong enough to be able to pray in this way. Prayer in life's anguished moments is a truly significant expression of faith. It is the echo of Jesus' cry of anguish from the cross and that is what makes it so very special... because it unites the person who utters it to Jesus and does so in a way that truly responds to His invitation to literally pick up the cross and follow Him. In this way, the most painful of adversities are turned into the greatest of blessings as pain and suffering inevitably give way to peace and understanding.