Despair, Anger, and Christ’s Triumph

In our readings at Holy Mass today—the first reading from Job and the gospel reading from Luke 9—we encounter two intense human emotions.  Neither of them are feelings that we generally want to experience.  But we do have these feelings sometimes.

resurrectionJob cursed the day he was born.  He prayed for death.  We might call that:  Despair.  Hopelessness.  Now, Job had pretty much every right to feel this way.  He had lost everything and suffered miserably.

In the gospel we read about how the Lord’s disciples reacted when the Samaritans treated them rudely and contemptuously.  “Shall we call down fire from heaven on the Samaritans?”

The disciples had suffered mistreatment, so they were angry.  They wanted revenge.  Again:  we would probably feel the same way; probably have felt the same way, under similar circumstances.

Life can be rough.  Anger, despair—sometimes we come by these feelings honestly.  The question is:  Can we find any medicine for them?

We heard in our gospel reading that the Lord Jesus “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.”  Now, why did He resolutely determine to journey to Jerusalem?  Was he headed to see a playoff game at Mount Zion Stadium?  Between the Jerusalem Templeminders and the Capernaum Tilapia Tuggers?

No.  He resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem because “the days for Him to be taken up” had arrived.  His Hour had come.  He went to Jerusalem to die on the cross.  And to rise again from the dead.  And to ascend to the right of the Father in heaven, whence He shall come to judge us all.

Human life involves suffering.  Some suffer more than others.  But no one skates through totally unscathed.  Sometimes we get angry.  Sometimes we despair.

But Jesus is alive.  That is the medicine.  He suffered for us, with us–in us, and us in Him.  But that’s not all.  He suffered so that we sufferers could share in His victory and His glory.  He suffered, and He triumphed.  Triumphed over suffering, over death, over all evil.

That’s the truth.  To hold fast to that truth; to hold fast to Christ Himself—the living, breathing Jesus, Who dwells in heaven, Who knows all, Who understands all—to hold fast to Him, and to build our lives on Him, on faith in His immortal life:  that is the medicine for anger and despair that we really need.

Living by Faith


“Is not a man’s life on earth a drudgery?” So asked holy Job, in the deepest throes of his agony and despair. “Is not a man’s life on earth a drudgery?”

Exactly three years ago, when we read the same readings at Sunday Mass, we reflected a bit about what the word “life” means.

Is ‘life’ something that amoebas, cornstalks, jelly fish, chickens, and we human beings all have in common? Is life simply a certain arbitrary confluence of atoms, set in motion randomly by the Big Bang? These particular atoms could have wound up constituting my flabby body, like they do—or they could have wound up somewhere in the Andromeda Galaxy. It’s all just a matter of chance.

That’s one interpretation of the word ‘life.’ Which could make it feel like a drudgery, to be sure.

Then there’s the interpretation of the word ‘life’ which our Lord Jesus came to the earth to give us. As we read from the first chapter of St. Mark’s gospel, Christ lovingly healed the bodies of many sick and suffering people. But His first priority was to preach the truth that heals the soul.

Continue reading “Living by Faith”

The Earth: Flat, Like a Sheet

God answers Job, by William Blake
God answers Job, by William Blake

“Job, have you ever shown the dawn its place for taking hold of the ends of the earth, until the wicked are shaken from its surface?” Job 38:12-13

Is a bed-sheet flat? Ideally, yes—on a made bed. But, then again, while you sleep, you don’t want your sheet to lay any flatter than you yourself are. And, if you’re like me, sometimes, when it’s time to do laundry, you include the bed sheet, stripping it off the bed, and then using it as a bundle to carry all the dirty clothes in the hamper to the washing machine. At such moments, you want your bed-sheet to be roundish or ellipsoid.

From our point-of-view, we can safely say that the earth is certainly round, a globe, a sphere.

But, in His speech to Job, God is telling us: “To Me, my child, the earth is like a bed-sheet is to you. When I want to shake it out—when I want to send the wicked flying into the outer darkness like stink-bugs I have just flicked—when I want to do that, I will.”

Job wisely replies: “Behold, my Lord, I am of little account!”

Lord, Almighty One! We marvel at Your power. In Your mercy, count us among those You have chosen!

St. Paul’s New Evangelization

St. Paul preaching in the town square

“I alone have escaped to tell you.” The most heartbreaking sentence in the Bible.

Anyone know the context?

The sentence is uttered by messengers arriving to tell Job that all his property has been destroyed and all his family has been killed.

St. Paul speaking in the Areopagus offers us the mirror image of the tragic moments at the beginning of the book of Job.

To whom is St. Paul speaking? To the Athenians? To all the pagan peoples of the ancient Mediterranean? No: He speaks to mankind, to suffering mankind. We could say that he speaks to Job, insofar as Job is every human being who dwells in the shadow of death. And St. Paul’s message to Job teaches us how to advance the New Evangelization.

St. Paul acknowledges: Athenians, pagans, mankind—I see that you are religious. Facts confront you, namely: There is something, rather than nothing. Some force and power beyond our conception set the universe in motion and guides its course. We, intelligent animals—we have a special affinity for this great Almighty Power. We can seek to have a relationship with Him, to praise Him, and even to question Him in an effort to try and understand His mind.

ENGLISH VERSION OF YEAR OF FAITH LOGOOf course, to seek to know and understand the Almighty One can lead to pain, frustration, exhaustion, even despair. Because He is so altogether unknown. The flick of His wrist makes the earth quake and the mountains fall. He stands outside the course of human events, remote, unreachable, full of unknowable counsels and willing altogether mysterious ends.

So, dear inherently religious humans—St. Paul declares—I see into your souls. I see your insatiable yet frustrated religiousness. And I declare to you that something altogether wonderful has occurred. Events have occurred, and I have survived—I have lived—to tell you!

This very same Almighty Power, with whom you so desperately desire to live in harmony, yet don’t know how—Dear People, this God no longer stands outside our world. He does not hold Himself aloof from the course of our struggling lives. To the contrary! In Judea, He Himself became one of us and was born like you and I have been born!

I have lived to see it, and I am here to tell the tale! I have known the friendship of the God-man. I have seen in His face the countenance of the Almighty Father. This Messiah has suffered, He has died, He has risen again, and has ascended on high. He, Jesus of Nazareth, is the final judge of all things, the final arbiter—this meek and mild teacher of peace!

You, dear mankind—you have longings that end only in frustration without these facts. But the facts are real; I’m telling you the truth! The Unknown God has made Himself known, on earth, in Israel—Jesus.

From the Whirlwind

Strange, strange winter. Who can make sense of it?

The Hoyas whup Duke and Villanova. Meanwhile, they manage to lose to South Florida and Rutgers. (?!?)

But before we start second-guessing Providence (Almighty God, that is–not Providence College), let’s remember the Lord’s words to Job:

Brace yourself like a fighter.
Now it is my turn to ask questions and yours to inform me.

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?
Who decided the dimensions of it, do you know?
What supports its pillars at their bases?
Who laid its cornerstone
when all the stars of the morning were singing with joy,
and the sons of God in chorus were chanting praise?

Who pent up the sea behind closed doors
when it leapt tumultuous out of the womb,
when I wrapped it in a robe of mist
and made black clouds is swaddling bands?

Have you ever in your life given orders to the morning
or sent the dawn to its post,
telling it to grasp the earth by its edges
and shake the wicked out of it?

Have you ever been shown the gates of death
or met the janitors of Shadowland?

Which is the way to the home of the light,
and where does the darkness live?
You could show them the way to their proper places,
or put them on the path to where they live!

Has the rain a father?
Who begets the dewdrops?
What womb brings forth the ice,
and gives birth to the frost of heaven,
when the waters grow hard as stone
and the surface of the deep congeals?

Have you grasped the celestial laws?
Could you make their writ run on the earth?
Can your voice carry as far as the clouds
and make the pent-up waters do your bidding?
Will lightning flashes come at your command
and answer, ‘Here we are’?

Does the hawk take flight at your advice
when he spreads his wings to travel south?
Does the eagle soar at your command
to make her eyrie in the heights?

Is the Lord’s opponent willing to give in?
Has God’s critic thought up an answer? (Job 38-39)

…Please say a prayer for the repose of Monsignor Michael Farina–a kind, gracious gentleman of a priest, who lavished a lot of love on your humble servant when I was a seminarian.

God in the Dock?

The Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said: “Who shut within doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb; when I made the clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling bands? When I set limits for it and fastened the bar of its door, and said: Thus far shall you come but no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stilled!” –Job 38:8-11

soupSomeday, dear brothers and sisters, you and I will have to face God in judgment. It could be today.

The all-important question at that moment will be: Am I okay with God? Or am I not okay? Am I just, or am I unjust?

There will be no tricking the judge at that moment. There will be no subterfuges available to us, no fudging things. All the truth will be out in the open.

When everything is said and done, we will either go to God justified, and then we can look forward to getting to heaven after purification. Or we will go to God unjust, and then…Not good.

The most important thing, then, is to be just before God. Being able to stand before Him–upright, full of divine love—being able to say to Him truthfully, ‘Lord, behold your friend.’—This is the most important thing.

The problem is: How can we hope to be just in God’s sight? We are weak and ignorant sinners, whom God has made out of nothing.

Continue reading “God in the Dock?”

Is God Faithful?

He must be, right? How else could BOTH Memphis AND Duke get knocked out of the tournament on the same night! But seriously…

The wicked said among themselves: “Let us beset the just one. Let us find out what will happen to him. For if the just one be the son of God, He will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put him to the test, that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.” Wisdom 2:1-22

This reading from the Old Testament poses this profound question: Will God vindicate the man who hopes in Him?

When the just man who loves God is put to the ultimate test–when he must renounce everything for the sake of being faithful to God–will the invisible, silent, mysterious God be there? Or are the scoffers and cynics right?

For a long period of time, this was an open question. It could not be answered because there was no perfectly just man.

Job had a claim to being the test case. But in the end even Job admitted that he could not accuse God of infidelity. After all he suffered, Job repented in dust and ashes. (Job 42:6)

resurrectionSo the question went unanwered, until the just man came. In the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the fidelity of God was put to the ultimate test. The plans laid out by the scoffers in the Old Testament were fulfilled when the innocent Lamb of God was led to the slaughter.

The Lord Jesus testified that the One Who sent Him is “true.” (John 7:28)

The answer was given: God vindicated the Innocent One. He rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven. He reigns supreme, the King of the Universe.

God has answered the question. His answer is Christ.

He is faithful.

The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away

jobJob 1:21

First: All the members of Preacher’s family would like to thank you for praying and supporting us with divine love. Please keep praying and supporting. God provides. He is good. Blessed be the name of the Lord! Everyone is still alive, thanks be to God.

We all have to take the good with the bad, however.

You would think that the Big Daddy of Big Daddies would give some relief to His unworthy servant and blogger. After all, your scribe has been launched into A.D. 2009 in a rough and tumble manner. (A sick relative and the victim of petty larceny, among other troubles.)

Everything looked so promising on Monday, December 29…

Continue reading “The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away”