As we live in times of significant uncertainty and unrest, the Prophet Job’s question becomes more than ever our own:
“Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?”
Indeed it is. And Job’s fabled patience is needed in heavy dose. The rampant dilution of moral conscience in society and the forces that are set on dividing us, one against the other, create an environment that pulls on the heart strings of those that would wish to raise a child today. Ask any parent—here, or almost anywhere in the world.
The Book of Job does give us hope. In the end, Job’s story, as you read it in its present form, has Job completely redeemed and restored. Job rides off into the sunset—a made-for-1950’s-Hollywood-happy-ending.
BUT WAIT FOR IT— What if I told you, that’s not the original ending of the Book of Job! Well, sorry to tell you, but according to an expert on Job, the late Gerhard Von Rad, the happy ending was added on much later. It originally ended with job being sick and completely destitute. That said, the real message to Job was: “You are in relationship to God the Almighty—and that is all you need.” The message is NOT “Hang in there and everything will turn out alright.”
Why is getting Job’s real message so important?
The reason it is extremely important is because there are so many who really do lose everything and they do not get anything restored. They do not have an earthly happy ending! So then, what of God?
In human and in earthly terms—obviously—look to the cross—neither did Jesus get a happy ending! And in human terms, neither did he get his life restored as it was in good times. The answer for Jesus was for him, and for us: all that really matters is being in relationship—in communion—with the Heavenly Father. All true restoration, by the power of the Holy Spirit happens in God’s heaven. This is why during the Mass and especially at Holy Communion, we should most experience “a little heaven on earth. It should remind us that the greatest gift to humankind is the gift of being in relationship to God—as no other part of creation is! No matter what the human tragedy might be—heaven can still be ours! This life lived—only in heaven will be truly and finally “delivered from all evil.”
In the context of today’s Gospel passage, in which Jesus desires to cure, we could ask, “So why doesn’t he cure the mess this world is in?” Harkening back to Job, we understand that would be an earthly cure—not a lasting cure. As Jesus himself explains—he cured “that people might believe.” Believe what? –That he also has the power to raise us up beyond the grave! The ultimate prize for a Christian is not restored goods, or even restored health; the ultimate prize must always be God—God’s self. This is our faith. Let us rejoice in it!