Commentary on the Gospel of
“I have dealt with great things that I do not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know. I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you.” – Job 42
“Lord, let your face shine on me.” – Psalm 119
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” Luke 10
I find myself battling envy as I reflect on today’s readings. Job has received a theophany – God has revealed God’s self to him! Not to mention the bountiful rewards he receives in the aftermath of this vision. 14,000 sheep! 6,000 camels! 10 kids! 140 more years! Are you kidding me? This is like the prosperity gospel on steroids, 3rd-century BC style.
Likewise, I find myself envying the disciples. Walking with Jesus, casting out demons, treading upon serpents and scorpions, knowing their names are “written in heaven.” The words of the old American Protestant hymn echo in my mind – “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine, O what a foretaste of glory divine!”
And yet how does one square these readings with the reality of the world in which we live, a world of innocent suffering, sickness, and sin? A world in which, as happens here in Uganda, children walk miles to obtain water that is not even clean? A world in which, as we have seen in America, bishops and priests betray their flocks in perpetrating and covering up sexual abuse? If these readings have inspired envy, the reality of Christian life in a sinful world often sparks in me sorrow, anger, and even cynicism.
Perspective can help here. As anyone knows who has read the whole Book of Job, this man has suffered mightily in his life, stripped of nearly everything he held dear. Likewise, while the disciples have performed mighty deeds, their lives will be marked more by the Cross than conquest. The Psalmist prays for understanding, wisdom, knowledge, and discernment, and yet also confesses that he has learned God’s teachings through affliction. Today’s readings offer us signs of hope, reflecting our age-old human desire for the transcendent – to “see God” and receive divine blessing. But as Job reminds us, there is no formula here but rather graced mystery. I pray that I will be able to perceive the mystery of God’s revelation to me this day, even within the sinful and fallen reality in which I live.