homily – February 8

Job 7:1-7

You’ve probably heard the story of the man in church who kept crying out “why me?’ The people around him sympathized with him; he’d had a lot of heart ache and hard times. But they wearied of hearing him calling out “why me?” Suddenly there was a roll of thunder and a flash of lightening and fist came through the roof of the church and a finger pointed to the man and voice bellowed, “because you really bug me.” There are other versions of this story but this is the safest to use.

We could call this Sunday the “Why Me Sunday”.

We might consider Job as the original “why me person”. Job was good man. He was blessed with a huge family, extensive lands, great flocks of sheep and goats. Job’s prosperity was a sign to all his neighbours that Job was a friend of God. As Job said of himself, “I rescued the poor who cried out for help, the orphans and the unassisted, the heart of the widow I made joyful, I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame, I was father to the needy and the rights of the stranger I studied.” Now, why me?

In the gospel Jesus is on what someone called, “a holy roll.” He had just started His ministry and His reputation was spreading from town to town. In His home town of Capernaum the whole city gathered at Peter’s door bringing all those who were sick with various diseases and those tormented by demons. He cured many of them. Of course the citizens wanted Jesus to stay with them and take care of their needs but Jesus was determined to go to all the cities of Galilee to preach and to heal, because that is what He had come to do.

Just as Job’s prosperity was taken from him, so too Jesus’ popularity was short lived. We see this happen in the week we call holy. Within seven days the welcoming crowds of Palm Sunday turned into the cruel mob yelling, “crucify him, away with him”. Like Job, Jesus would ask “why”. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

How often have we, for whatever reason, asked why? Why me, why this, why now? Can’t we often relate to Job’s own depressing thoughts, do we not have hard service upon the earth, and are not our days like the days of a laborer. As good people we go out to jobs we really don’t like and do work that are not appreciated and is neither fulfilling nor energizing. We see our lives swiftly passing by and wonder, what have I accomplished and who will remember. Life will be over too quickly. Don’t we sometimes long for a shade of relief and endure sleepless nights? Don’t we sometimes wonder “will my eyes ever see good again”?

We know this short quote from the Book of Job is not the end of the story. Because of his faithfulness in his time of trial things did turn around for Job. But Job can be an example for us. When things are not going well, when everything seems to work against us, when we wonder if God even cares, then like Job we talk to God from our hurts and disappointments, we let God know what’s on our minds and how upset we are. When St. Teresa of Avila was having a hard time in her life, she is supposed to have said to God, “If this is the way you treat your friends, is it any wonder you have so few of them.” Teresa’s remark speaks of a healthy relationship with God. It’s ok to let God know we are not happy with the way things are going in our lives, it’s ok to let God know we need patience, courage and hope, we need help.

We know from the story of Job and the story of Jesus that they both experienced the worst loss of all; their assurance that God remained with them through it all. But both remained faithful even with that lost assurance and both were vindicated, Job with the restoration of his goods, Jesus by His resurrection.

There is a moral we can learn from the story of Job and the story of Jesus. Sickness, disappointments, the loss of a job, the loss of a relationship, the loss of love, the loss of a career, even the loss of life can not take away the special relationship each of us has with the God of mercy and love. St. Paul tells us, “nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” When these losses come our way, and they certainly will, we have to remember we are not being punished but we are being tested. And our most important question is not why but what, what am I going to do with this, how will I handle this? Will I let this loss crush me, embitter me, sour me on life or will I see this adversity for what it is, a challenge to my faith and trust in myself?

As we continue to celebrate this Eucharist we pray for ourselves and for each other that when we face our own troubles we be able to ask not why but what and never lose trust in that special relationship that is ours with our God of mercy and love. Our God Who did not spare His Own Son but gave Him up for us all.