Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: Job 38:1, 8-11
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 107:23-26, 28-31
Second Reading: St. Paul’s 2nd Letter to the Corinthians 5:14-17
Gospel: According to St. Mark 4:35-41
In the classic film of the classic book The Princess Bride, the Dread Pirate Roberts taps into his inner Job when he tells Princess Buttercup, “Life is pain, Highness.” The Dread Pirate Roberts had indeed suffered great pain – ironically through the actions of the unknowing Princess Buttercup – and reveals the universal human feeling about the relationship between our existence on this earth and our suffering.
From the very beginning, every religion and philosophy has attempted to deal with this ubiquitous condition, and yet none have been able to rid the world of pain and suffering. And of all the famous women and men who have pondered life’s difficulties and tried to answer the question “Why?” only one is so associated with this quest that his name is instantly associated with adversity, hardship, and misfortune.
When people use the expression “the patience of Job” to describe those who are hard-wired to approach life’s pitfalls in a long-suffering manner, they must never have read through the book named for this poor man made famous for the seemingly unbounded tragedies that struck his life. The entire story unfolds under the mantle of Job’s questioning of God: Why would He have tormented him, a good man, and brought him to the point where he regrets that he was ever born and all he wants to do is die? Job wants answers, and his patience is in short supply.
After all of Job’s lamentations, God responds in a very interesting manner. Rather than plead His own case as to why Job has been so tormented, God goes on the offensive and first tells Job (almost literally) to put on his big boy pants (“Gird up your loins now, like a man”), and then asks him, “Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me.”
The phrase “God is God, and I am not” is well known, but this line from Job 38 may be the source of its origin. The question asked by God is not included in this Sunday’s first reading, but the lines that are included point to life as a violent sea that needs to be held at bay. It is fitting, then, that the Gospel passage from St. Mark tells the story of Jesus, asleep in the boat, being awakened by His disciples in order to calm the storm at sea.
Job looked to heaven and felt that God was asleep at the wheel and that the ship of his life was careening out of control. So too with the Apostles as they beheld a placid Jesus taking a snooze while their boat was being tossed about and filling up with water.
In each case God was totally in control, waiting for the right moment to intercede. Both Job and the Apostles would have enjoyed an earlier intervention, but they were not seeing things like Someone Who was the Creator of all things. In running the universe, as in comedy, timing is everything, and in this case every aspect of the story was a part of the set-up for the ultimate punch line.
When the story of the storm at sea ends, the Apostles look at each other awe-struck by what they had just experienced, and ask the only question that Job’s and every human heart from the beginning to the end of time need to have answered: “Whom then is this Whom even wind and sea obey?”
When God gave Job the answer, the poor man, awe-struck like the Apostles in the boat, could only respond, “I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes.” Without knowing it, Job produced a line on par with the best that S. Morgenstern wrote for his characters in The Princess Bride – a line worthy of being quoted by us on a daily basis.