Welcome back to the Sunday Mass notes for 2-8-2015. This week we open with the first reading from the Old Testament Book of Job where we see Job’s cry to God about the futility and brevity of life. Although his ancient message is somber it provides us with tremendous wisdom in our day. Then we move to the second reading from First Corinthians and close with the Gospel lesson from Saint Mark that continues from last week.
The first reading is from the Book of Job that recorded events which happened during the Patriarchal Period (the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). This Book records a story about a man named Job who was a victim of an invisible spiritual battle with Satan. Job was a godly man that God has blessed with a large family as well as many material possessions (Job 1:1-3). At some point Satan approached God and told Him that if He removed these blessings from him that Job would curse Him. God allowed Satan’s challenge, yet after his family and possessions were taken from him he still praised God (Job 1:20-11). Next, Satan approached God and told him that if his good health were taken away from him that this would cause him to curse God. God then allowed Satan to bring about “sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (Job 2:7). Even though Job’s wife urged him to “curse God and die” (Job 2:7), Job persisted in his reverence of God and went about scraping his wounds with a potsherd (2:8). The next scenes alternate between Job’s lament to God (Job 3), the false wisdom of his friends (Job 4 – 5), his response to his friends (Job 6), and then the section of today’s reading in which he again cries out to God. Job’s friend Eliphaz was the first to speak and incorrectly made the case that people who are innocent do not suffer. Job’s response was to tell Eliphaz and the others gathered with him, “For the despairing man there should be kindness from his friend; So that he does not forsake the fear of the Almighty” (Job 6:17). Second, he said, “My brothers have acted deceitfully like a wadi, Like the torrents of wadis which vanish” (6:17) and he continued in this same vain in the subsequent verses. Even during this time of terrible affliction Job affirmed the just nature of God, saying “But as for me, I would seek God, And I would place my cause before God; Who does great and unsearchable things, Wonders without number” (Job 5:8-9). We pick up in Chapter 7 with today’s reading, noting the previously mentioned condition of Job’s skin that appears in verse 5.
1 “Is not man forced to labor on earth, And are not his days like the days of a hired man? 2 As a slave who pants for the shade, And as a hired man who eagerly waits for his wages, 3 So am I allotted months of vanity, And nights of trouble are appointed me. 4 When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ But the night continues, And I am continually tossing until dawn. 5 My flesh is clothed with worms and a crust of dirt, My skin hardens and runs. 6 My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, And come to an end without hope. 7 Remember that my life is but breath; My eye will not again see good. ” (Job 7:1-7)
Job lamented to God that his days were in vain, and no better than those of a bond servant (vv. 1 – 2). Even when he attempted to rest at night even this solstice was taken from him (v. 5), probably in part because of his painful sores (v. 5). The reading culminates with wisdom in verse 7 where Job observed that his “life is but breath” and because he had lost hope (v. 6) he felt that his “eye will not again see good” (v 7b). It is because of verses like this that this Book of the Bible is categorized as a Book of wisdom. Job is wise to understand that in the large scope of the world, his life is short and that when a person loses hope they have nothing good to look forward to. In reality Job should have hoped that God would resupply his wealth. If you read ahead you know how the story ends with God restoring to Job two times that of what he had before (Job 42:10), along with seven new sons and three daughters. The double portion of children were evidently granted to him because if you think about it the first portion of his family was already awaiting for Job to join them in heaven.
What does the reading mean to us today? First, we must recognize as did Job that our lives are but a vapor (James 4:14). We must make the most of our service to God regardless of our circumstances during the brief time that He has granted to us. Whether we receive physical blessings from God and regardless of our health, we are still called to glorify the Lord Jesus in our hearts. Second, there is a true, unseen spiritual battle that rages on around us. Saint Peter said, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Saint Paul urged Christians to “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Even though Job never knew the cause of his tumultuous trials, we can learn from this Book that when we experience trials they may arise from a spiritual source.
A third point is that we are to be on alert for the false doctrine presented by Eliphaz that the innocent do not suffer. The innocent most certainly do suffer, and this is to serve God’s purposes. Job, himself an example of an innocent man suffering, had a very humble spirit who even after he was afflicted he still maintained his integrity before God. In contrast, Job’s friend Eliphaz sat with him and attempted to show his superiority over Job by proclaiming Job’s guilt because he knew that somehow innocent people couldn’t suffer. If the innocent cannot suffer, he mused, then Job must not be innocent! The best example of the innocent suffering is the Lord Jesus Himself. In general, all of humanity is far from innocent, because “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God “Romans 3:23). However, regardless of our perception of our own level of innocence, suffering is allowed by God as a supreme mystery in order to bring about His perfect will in our lives.
A forth point is that spiritual warfare can result in both physical illness as well as the manifestation of psychological illness and suffering. Although Job was not aware of either the cause of his physical loss or bodily affliction, both were from a spiritual cause – Satan himself. Finally, we are called to live humbly as servants and see ourselves as no better than common day laborers or bondservants in the ancient world. Again we see the example of the Lord Jesus who came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45).
The second reading is from Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. The context is Paul’s teaching on the calling for believers to follow his pattern of self-denial and service to the Lord. Paul is providing a defense of his ministry during which he mostly provided for his own means even though as a ministry worker he was due wages in this position (1 Corinthians 9:9). Paul paid his own way through his tent making business (Acts 18:3). “Tentmaking” is a term that has arisen since then which refers to a minister that makes a living off a different occupation while at the same time working as a minister without a salary from that position. Note: We have included all of the intervening verses between verses 16 and 23 in order to provide the full meaning and context.
16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. 17 For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. 18 What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. 19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. 23 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. (1 Corinthians 9:16-23)
Paul said that the reward for his ministry wasn’t money but the privilege of preaching the Gospel without financial support (v. 18). Paul said that he willfully set aside his right to be paid as a minister and therefore became “enslaved” to this form of “tentmaking” ministry in order to remove any possible offence that anyone might have in him being paid (v. 19). Second, Paul forced himself to confirm to the Jewish customs within biblical limits, without being bound to the Law (vv. 19 – 21). He became as a Jew to win the Jews, and continued this principle by becoming as a weak person to win the weak person (v. 22).
If we look back and compare these passages with what we learned from the first reading, Paul had a godly attitude towards winning others to the Lord Jesus Christ, much in the same way that Job had a humble way of responding to his friends as well as to God during his affliction. Had Job’s friends acted to become weak in order to win the weak, they would have been commended by God instead of cursed (Job 42:7).