Christ took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.
I caught up to an older man before I caught up to my friends who were a hundred meters in front of me. He nodded his head towards me. “Buen Camino”, he said (the Camino greeting meaning Good Way). “Buen Camino”, I respond as I went to overtake him.
“OK?”, he added. I must have looked tired or something. So I turned and said “por supuesto” … of course. And I smiled … and flashed him the peace sign. “Oh good,” he said … “You’re happy. It’s good to be happy” and he smiled back. And we stopped for a moment and chatted. He was from Oregon or Washington … I can’t remember … but I do remember that this was his sixth Camino. Six times! We had started walking again, kind of together. He walked casually, effortlessly. He had a gentle way of talking. We agreed that the best part of the Camino was meeting people and hearing their stories. “And seeing them smile,” he added. I had to pick up the pace to catch up to my friends. He kept up for a little bit and then, as he was falling back, he told me that too many people walk the Camino wrong. “Too fast to talk.” I looked over my shoulder and smiled in agreement. The last thing I remember him saying is “Walk slowly. … you may never be back again.”
I looked for my friend that evening walking around town, and while walking the next day. And every now and then as I made my way to Santiago. I only see him in my mind.
So, I took the challenge and didn’t look at the readings before I signed up for preaching today. Boy was I disappointed!
Job! “Is not a person’s life on earth a drudgery?” and “I shall not see happiness again.” It’s always a drudgery to read Job, and to be honest, I have never made it to the end. How could I ever reflect on that! That is not the God I understand. Yikes!
Okay … “Do the Gospel,” I thought, just reflect on the Gospel..
Oh no! Peter’s mother-in-law!!! God, are you laughing at me? This is the gospel one frequently hears jokes about… Jesus cures her just so he and his boys can be served a good meal… just that thought in my mind was off-putting. A selfish action is not the Jesus, not the Son of God, that I understand.
Honestly, I was feeling sorry for myself. I actually thought …. Maybe I should beg off. I’ve got a lot going on that week with our Confirmation program… maybe someone wants to switch weeks me?
What does Paul have to say, I wondered? I had to laugh out loud … Paul HAS TO preach… he says “an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach.” So much for me trying to pawn this off… and so I realized that I had to think about these readings. I needed to open my mind to the Spirit and ask what was Jesus thinking and what is this parable about Job really about.
And so I wonder about Jesus and his friend’s mother-in-law. He enters the home and learns that she is not well. I see Jesus kneeling next to her cot and she’s weeping, with her face to the wall. And then, for some reason, the image of my ten-minute friend from the Camino splashes into my mind… the person of Jesus, quietly kneeling by her side looks like that older man. His head is bent down praying and she turns her head over her shoulder and Jesus sees her smile. “Okay?” he asks. “Just tired” she responds, rolling over to put her feet on the floor. He offers his hand and they both stand up. She smiles and embraces her friend, the fever gone and forgotten. She is really happy to see him and she says… “Let’s fix something to eat, you look tired.” It’s good to be happy.
And it occurs to me that her illness may have been like Job’s depression. Perhaps her husband has died and her son’s wife told her to leave. Life hasn’t been what she expected and so, stressed out, she is prone to aches and pains and fevers.
So what about Job? … why is he so unhappy? The Book is a beautiful piece of literature, about the problem of suffering of the innocent. It’s the story of a good person severely tested by Satan. Tested with the consent of God… just to see if he’d fail.
God allows Satan to take away all that Job has, his rich lands and numerous animals, his family, and his friends all to test Job’s loyalty, his faith in an unseen and unknown God. It is no wonder he believes a person’s life is but drudgery and happiness but an illusion.
His friends say he is obviously guilty of some grave sin and should repent. Job knows he is innocent and calls out for justice. He is frustrated and angry with God and demands an explanation of why all this has happened to him… why has God abandoned him?
The Lord finally answers not by explaining Divine Justice, but by presenting the wonders of creation and the infinite might of God. Job is apparently okay, even repents of his anger and as the parable ends, God has restored Job’s fortune two-fold (a type of Justice) and he has 10 children including three most beautiful girls.
Job dies content in his old age. It’s good to be happy.
The Book of Job does not tell us why bad things happen to good people. It does not define Divine Justice. It challenges us to come to our own understanding… it leaves me to ponder and to wonder.
Justice has to be present for love to happen. It’s an oxymoron to Love unjustly. I need to wonder about Divine Justice to fully ponder God’s love. To pray and to wonder.
At the end of the Gospel, we see Jesus in a deserted place… perhaps a garden. He is praying when his friends find him. And as I wondered about this scene I realize that it is he who shows us Divine Justice. I see him walking slowly, so he can talk… even future-Paul is with him… so he can preach and drive out demons throughout the whole of Galilee and everywhere. And they walk slowly… slowly so they can talk… on towards Calvary.
Lent is coming. Let us walk with them.…