Response to our Unanswered Questions

1 October 2010 Memorial of St. Therese of the Child Jesus
Job 38: 1,12-21; 40:3-5; Psalm 139; Luke 10, 13-16

Let me take the homily today from the first reading because Job is my favorite character. The first reading is what we call the first part of three Yahweh speeches: it is a response of God to Job’s “accusation” that the world has no plan, direction or providence in the world. Why was this Job’s “accusation” of God? Let’s back track.

In the Prologue (Job 1:1 – 2:13), we hear about a story in heaven. Satan challenges God’s claim that Job will remain faithful to Him. Satan replies that he will definitely be loyal to Him because He gave Job everything he needs: a beautiful family and a secured life with property. Definitely, he will remain loyal to the hand that feeds him. But God stands His ground and challenges Satan to take all that Job has. So the wager in heaven begins, and the just Job is despoiled of everything.

In the succeeding parts, Job bitterly laments his lot. And three friends arrive to console and at the same time defend God. The underlying question is universal to all of us: Why do innocent and good people suffer tremendous pain and tragedy? Job struggles to understand God’s justice in the midst of his broken experience.

In the midst of this broken experience, Job’s view of the world is obscured by his own personal experience of injustice and tragedy. Just as his inner self is in chaos, so he interprets the world as without order, plan or direction.

So God responds for the first time to Job’s query. The first step is to bring Job outside of his “little world” and see the bigger picture. So Yahweh speaks out of the storm. In the Old Testament, God appears in strong storm terminology (Exodus 19, 17-20; Psalm 18:7-17). So Job is led by God to experience the mystery of the cosmos from its beginning. Job sees the primordial chaos which was brought to order by God, like a parent who is able to discipline a difficult child. And then Job sees that even the chaos within creation like the snow, hail, wind, and rain are all being “controlled by God” and managed by Him. Thus God’s concern is larger than Job’s humanity-centered preoccupation.

And thus Yahweh disproves Job’s claim. In fact, God now has shown Who is in charge of the natural cosmos, order, structure and regular operation; He will not revert creation to chaos. Centuries later, Albert Einstein discovers this architecture from the formulas that already govern nature since the beginning.

And thus, Job’s response was awe and wonder. All he can do was a deferential gesture. He has been caught up into the mystery of God and the universe. It is a stance acknowledging one’s “smallness” to God’s immensity.

Chaos is also experienced within our selves. It is experienced as disorder, confusion and personal turmoils, whether identified or not. Sickness and any form of death is an experience of disintegration. What has been whole, as health, is now being threatened. In the larger context, we experience lawlessness, anarchy and war. And in the midst of this, we are like Job who cry out in despair; accusing God that there is no plan or direction to the world.

But when we experience God in some awesome way, we are brought to a reverential silence and respect. Despite questions, as the suffering of the innocent, find no concrete answer, we begin to trust the Lord who is larger than our lives. We trust that the Lord has a resolution to our dissonance.

However, we discover in the process of asking and proceeding with our lives in spite of our unanswered questions is a response of God outside of our expectation. Instead of a reply to the “whys” of our lives, He responds, “Me too. I suffered. I was crucified. I too died from the hands of the people I love. I too asked that question.”

In other words, what satisfies us in the midst of turmoil and death is not an argument or an explanation. But someone who empathizes with us: when someone’s heart speaks to our heart; when our heart finds the heart of God; but more appropriately, when God’s heart find ours.

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