Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
A sense of isolation, and a sense of hope — it’s one of the big spiritual battles of our day. In God’s providence, the readings this week — which walk through the entire book of Job — speak right into that battle.
Remember the story: Job was physically afflicted, psychologically isolated and spiritually puzzled. Finally, overwhelmed by desolation, he called God to account: “Why is this happening to me?”
Part of the beauty of the book of Job is that he wasn’t only speaking for himself. He also captured a moment in Israel’s history where events didn’t make sense to them either.
We can find — in Job and in Israel — a poignant echo of our experience of these past 6 months. Many people share the sense of affliction, isolation, and puzzlement: What’s going on? How are we supposed to handle it?
It’s interesting to note that the answer Job receives from God isn’t really much of an explanation: “Because I’m God, and you’re not.” But it’s important that we understand this in the broader context of salvation history: the real answer — God’s truest, deepest answer to Job’s question — wasn’t available yet.
But, my brothers and sisters, that answer is available to us: Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.
On the cross, Jesus doesn’t offer an explanation for why suffering happens. Nor does He promise to make it all go away. What He does promise is the assurance of His presence — that He can and will be with us in our every affliction.
What He offers is like what a parent offers in the midst of a storm: they don’t make the storm go away, but their presence calms us in the midst of it.
St. Therese, the Little Flower, whose feast we celebrate Oct. 1 and whose life was far from easy, compares the afflictions in our lives to the boat that was being swamped by waves while Jesus slept. For her, it was enough to know that Jesus was in the boat. She didn’t feel the need to wake Him. That calm assurance is part of what makes her a great saint!
Perhaps we’re not such great saints. Maybe we feel the need to go and wake the master, as the apostles did. But at least we can learn this lesson from them: let’s turn to Him in faith, rather than in fear.
So, just a word of encouragement this week. It’s natural for us to feel a sense of affliction, isolation, and puzzlement. The great question is what we do with them. If we look to our own strength, we will inevitably experience a rising sense of anxiety mounting toward panic. But we can turn to Jesus in faith. We can turn to Him in prayer, in reading Scripture, in receiving the sacraments. We can turn to Him by serving those in need. When we turn to Jesus in the midst of affliction, isolation and puzzlement, we will experience a rising and abiding sense of hope — a hope that nothing in the world can take away.