Daily Homily: Behold, I Am of Little Account

Friday of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time, Year Two

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Job 38:1,12-21; 40:3-5
Psalm 139:1-3,7-8,9-10,13-14ab
Luke 10:13-16

The Book of Job deals with the theme of God’s Providence; it shows, according to Saint Thomas Aquinas, that human affairs are ruled by divine providence. One of the difficulties that the book has to address is an argument against divine providence: the fact that just men seem to be afflicted with evil without cause.

Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar all tried to figure out why Job, a just and virtuous man has suffered so many grave afflictions. Eliphaz, for example, holds that Job’s suffering has to be a punishment from God on account of Job’s sins (4:7,17). He asked rhetorically: Has anyone who was innocent perished? Can moral man be righteous before God? Happy, he says, is the man whom God reproves. Therefore Job should not despise the chastening of God the Almighty. God will deliver Job from his troubles. Job answers that he does not understand where he has erred or what wrong he spoke (6:24,30). He maintains his integrity throughout the conversation.

After Job’s three friends finish, a fourth person, a young man named Elihu speaks. He was angry at Job because he justified himself rather than God; he was angry at the three friends because they found no answer to the problem and declared that Job was in the wrong (32:2-3). Elihu argues that God speaks to man in order to turn man aside from evil deeds and to cut off pride from man. He does this to keep man from falling into the Pit and losing his life. When chastened by pain, man turns to God in prayer and enters into God’s presence with joy and recounts to men his salvation (33:26). God is just and Job is wrong to proclaim his self-righteousness.

After Elihu speaks to Job, God himself addresses Job. He answers out of the whirlwind. First, God proclaims his power, manifested in his creation. This power greatly surpasses Job, who was not there when God laid the foundation of the world, who did not set the limits of the sea, who does not have power over day and night, and who has limited knowledge of the animals of the earth.

Job can only respond: «Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?». Job remains in silence and awaits God’s word. This time, God asks Job why he has challenged Him, why he has condemned Him so that he can be justified. Job can only respond to God with humility and repentance. He says: «I have uttered what I did not understand; I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes». The Lord accepts Job’s repentance, rebukes Job’s three friends and restores Job’s fortunes twofold.

The Book of Job, then, does not come to a definitive answer about the problem of why good men and women suffer. However, it does affirm two basic truths: on the one hand, it affirms God’s power, justice and wisdom. All things are in God’s hands, he acts with justice and guides all things. He created them and governs them. On the other hand, man should not be self-righteous or think he understands all things. Contemplating God’s creation and the fact that man himself is one of God’s creatures should lead to humility of heart and filial trust in God.

With the coming of Jesus Christ and his Passion and death, a more complete understanding of the problem of suffering is possible. Because of his sin, man is in need of redemption. Jesus is the innocent one, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world and forges a New Covenant that can never be broken. The New Covenant includes the forgiveness of sins, the food for Eternal Life, and the purifying Blood of Christ.

This is the Good News that Jesus brought and preached. Today, in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus condemns the cities that reject him and the message preached by the seventy disciples. Tyre and Sidon were Phoenician cities which were often the object of judgment by the prophets of old. However, neither city was privileged to witness the mighty works that the towns of Galilee – Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum – saw. Had the Phoenician cities seen the mighty works of Jesus and his disciples, they would have repented. The three cities of Galilee, however, refused to believe. They heard the Word, but did not understand it, and, instead of welcoming the Word, they rejected it.

Today’s Liturgy of the Word is both a warning and an invitation. It warns us about the danger of a prideful heart that justifies itself and a hardened heart that refuses to believe. The invitation, then, is to become like a child, who is simple of heart and to welcome the Word of God in faith and love.

Readers may contact Fr Jason Mitchell at mitchelljason2011@gmail.com.

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Jason Mitchell

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