One of my early college courses was The Book of Job as Literature. I don’t remember much about the course but it was the first time that I had read that story about the faith and perseverance of Job who endured much suffering without ever giving up on God. There’s lots to be said about this poetic text of wisdom literature that explores the concept of suffering and asks the question, “Why do the righteous suffer?” In today’s reading (JB 9:1-16) where Job is answering the “friends” who want Job to blame God for his sufferings and losses, the following lines stand out for me.
God is wise in his heart and mighty in strength…He does great things past finding out, marvelous things beyond recording…Who can say to Him, “What are you doing?”
Job’s willingness to trust God utterly paid off in the end. This kind of total trust was also true in the life of Therese of Lisieux, a small town girl from France who entered the convent at age 15 and died at age 24 of tuberculosis. Ill most of her life (1873-1897) and not well-treated by her companions, she remained steadfast in her love and service to God and all she met. Never complaining and never traveling away from the town where she was born, she was proclaimed a saint in 1925 and co-patron of the missions (1927) because of her prayers for the world and the miracles attributed to her intercession. Her remarkable example of faith has touched the hearts of people the world over and made her one of the most beloved saints of Christianity. The Church celebrates her today.
My “take-away” from reflection on each of these two figures of faith is the same. While the question of human suffering remains one of the great mysteries of life, the centrality of love and the quest for union with God can become the way to peace in whatever circumstances we find ourselves each day.