Job, Mass, and the Divine Genius

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

Our first reading at Holy Mass Sunday, from Job, poses the question: “Who shut within doors the sea?” Later on in the same chapter, the question gets put another way: Does not the rain have a father?

Gospel reading provides the answer. Who shut within doors the sea? Who is the father of the rain? The Eternal Word of God, Christ, Who fell asleep in a boat once.

Allow me heartily, strenuously to recommend to you reading chapters 38-41 of Job. We human beings have words like ‘wisdom,’ ‘design,’ ‘genius.’ Our words, of course, fail to reach the reality of what Almighty God has, by way of a mind. Even to say that God ‘has a mind’ does not touch the Mind that God is.

But: The unfathomable mystery before which holy Job bowed his head: This impenetrable mystery has touched us in the Person of Christ. We can, therefore, have our share in God’s wisdom. The unbridgeable gap between infinite and finite, between God and us—the gap we could never bridge: God has bridged it, and the bridge is Jesus.

The New Testament and all the early Christian writings sparkle with this particular breathless joy: Now we can share in God’s knowledge! “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I call you friends, because I have revealed to you the Father’s Mind,” saith the Lord Jesus. In days of old, Job had to acknowledge that he knew nothing. But now we know God’s plan. And the plan is: For us to share eternally in Love, with a capital L.

illuminated-bibleWe return, therefore, to our theme for spring and summer 2015: Why it is so daggone important to go to Mass every week.

God shares His mind with us in His own mysterious ways. We can never fully fathom all the ways. But the basic way that God has chosen to share His mind with the human race is perfectly obvious. We can share in the joy of the Apostles and early Christians, who stepped lively on the paths of the ancient empires, because God had revealed His plan to them; we share this unique and unsurpassable joy of sharing God’s knowledge by keeping ourselves in constant contact with God’s Word.

And when we say ‘God’s Word,’ we cannot and must not get bogged-down in some pedestrian way of understanding the phrase. Keeping ourselves in constant contact with God’s Word means…

1. The Bible, taken as a beautiful, coherent whole—the Bible explains to me the living reality that enfolds me within itself. We Catholics are not ‘fundamentalists’ in the way that most people understand that term. We actually believe in the absolute truth of the Bible much more deeply than ‘fundamentalists’ do. We train ourselves, by constant reading, to perceive all of reality according to the Bible.

If that sounds somewhat abstract, just think of it like this. The Our Father. We could say that the Bible has one single, solitary purpose, namely: to make our lives an extended Our Father. Breakfast, lunch, dinner; work, play, sleep and wake; inside, outside, home, away from home: Our Father, Our Father, Our Father. A life that is an Our Father.

2. The Word of God does not only touch us in the readings at Mass, though of course we always need to pay careful attention to the readings. The truth is, the entire Mass, from beginning to end—actually, from even before it starts, from when we prepare ourselves spiritually for Mass, all the way through, past the end, when we execute the commandment that concludes the Mass, and go in peace—all of this is one extended contact with the Word of God, the incarnate Word, Christ.

By this extended contact, we unite our minds with the Mind of God.

All-Star Week

This week is just about the best week of saints’ days in the whole year.

Today we keep the Feast of the Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, the Archangels. Tomorrow we keep the Memorial of St. Jerome. St. Jerome was a learned scholar and orator in Rome, but he went to the Holy Land to give his life to the task of translating the entire Bible. If St. Jerome had not done the work that he did 1600 years ago, we would not have the reliable Bible translations that we have now. When I was in Bethlehem in February, I was able to visit the cave where St. Jerome did his work; it is just a few steps from the place where the Lord Jesus was born.

This Sunday, Bishops from all over the world will meet in Rome for a Synod. For three weeks, they will discuss the Word of God. Our Archbishop Wuerl is one of four bishops from the United States who will attend. Let us pray to St. Jerome that the Synod will be fruitful.

On Wednesday, we will keep the Memorial of St. Therese of the Child Jesus (a.k.a. St. Therese of Liseux, the Little Flower), Doctor of the Church. St. Therese’s Story of a Soul is one of the best spiritual reading books you can get. Her “Little Way” is the “elevator” to heaven. On Thursday, we keep the Memorial of the Guardian Angels. Of course each of us should thank our Guardian Angel ever day for all his help. But if we have let a few days slip, we can try to make it up by special expressions of gratitude on Thursday. Your Guardian Angel is the best friend you have. When we get to heaven–please God–we will finally see our Guardian Angels. We will of course effusively thank them for helping us to get there. They will say, “Don’t mention it. Just doing my job.”

Then on Saturday, we keep the Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi, the second-most popular saint of all time (after the Blessed Mother). In addition to being friendly to animals, St. Francis was also intensely ascetic. He renounced every worldly pleasure for the love of God. He was unswervingly faithful to the Pope and the Church. And he was given the gift of sharing in the Lord’s own wounds, the stigmata.

More people have given up everything to follow the example of St. Francis than any other saint. It is safe to say that no one has ever been closer to Christ, more like Christ.

Assisi is one of the most beautiful and prayerful places on earth. Those of us who will go on pilgrimage together from St. Mary of the Assumption, Upper Marlboro, Maryland, U.S.A., to Italy in November will visit Assisi, walking the streets where St. Francis walked. We will pray at his tomb, and we will remember the rest of you there, for sure.

There you have it: Ecclesiastical All-Star Week. If ever there were a week to try to go to Mass everyday, this is it. Many graces will flow from heaven this week. Thank you, holy angels and saints!