The end of the story of Job sends a clear message about repentance, humility, and God’s mercy. We are continually tempted to see the bad things that happen to us or to others as some kind of punishment – deserved or undeserved. Job, a truly wise man, finally humbles his mind before the workings and designs of God. “I have dealt with great things that I do not understand[…]”1 As we sit and meditate upon life’s difficulties, we can become trapped in our own understanding of events. No matter how hard we try, because we are sinners and our minds are weak, our own perception of the “why’s” of evil becomes a burden for our soul. Job’s solution, inspired and helped by the grace of God, is to simply lift his eyes – the eyes of his heart – to look upon the mystery of God. This act of faith is vitally important if we are to let go of the burden of evil, which we carry around in the form of unspoken or unacknowledged judgments and bitterness about the evil we have known. Job looks to God, not for an answer, but for the strength to let go of his limited way of seeing which is not only inaccurate but burdensome.
This is the childlike attitude Jesus commends in today’s Gospel. The wisdom that is given to us to see God’s providence is a fruit not to be sought on its own. It is a fruit that comes from contemplating the mystery of the Trinity directly. We must be willing to let go of our longing and expectation to understand our lives and the world around us in order to gaze purely upon the Father as His beloved children. The stings and the bites of serpents and scorpions are those temptations of greed, lust, and pride that pull us away from the mystery of God into a purely human understanding of the world and our difficulties. Christ has given us His Cross as a remedy to apply directly to the fire of temptation in our hearts. This Cross progressively transforms these places of sin and weakness so that we may be saved and at peace: beloved sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father.
GREGORY THE GREAT:
To hear is, with us, to adapt our ear, which is in one place, to a sound that comes from another. But with God, on the other hand, to whom nothing is external, hearing is properly for him to perceive our longings that are rising up beneath him. For us then to speak to God, who is acquainted with the hearts even of those that hold their peace, is not for us to utter what we think with the words of our throat but to long for him with eager desires. A person asks a question in order to be able to learn that of which he is ignorant; for a person to question God is to acknowledge that he is ignorant in his sight. But for God, to reply is for him to instruct with his secret inspirations the one who humbly acknowledges his ignorance.2
It is when Job has condemned himself that God justifies him. And what does he say? He has said to his friends that they must expiate their guilt and constantly calls Job his servant.3
MAXIMUS OF TURIN:
Since we possess the Lord Jesus who has freed us by his suffering, let us always look on him and hope for medicine for our wounds from his sign. That is to say, if perhaps the poison of greed spreads in us, we should look to him, and he will heal us. If the malicious desire of the scorpion stings us, we should beg him, and he will cure us. If bites of worldly thoughts tear us, we should ask him, and we will live. These are the spiritual serpents of our souls. The Lord was crucified in order to crush them. He says concerning them, “You will tread upon serpents and scorpions, and they will do no harm to you.”4
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA:
To rejoice only in the fact that they were able to work miracles and crush the herds of demons was possibly likely to produce in them the desire of arrogance. The neighbor and relative of this passion constantly is pride. Most usefully the Savior of all rebukes the first boasting and quickly cuts away the root that sprang up in them—the shameful love of glory. He was imitating good farmers who, when they see a thorn springing up in their parks or gardens, immediately tear it up with the blade of the pickax before it strikes its root deep.5
- Jb. 42:3
- MORALS ON THE BOOK OF JOB 35.4. Simonetti, M., & Conti, M. (Eds.). (2006). Job (p. 218). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON JOB 42.6. Simonetti, M., & Conti, M. (Eds.). (2006). Job (p. 218). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- SERMON 37.5. Just, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Luke (p. 175). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON LUKE, HOMILY 64. Just, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Luke (p. 176). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.