Understanding the Sufferings of Job
by Theologian Father William G. Most
Suffering is not always a
Punishment for Sin
The Book of Job is concerned with the Problem of Suffering. Only Part
of God's Truth had been 'Revealed' at that time. Before, People had tended to think
Suffering was a Punishment for
Sin. It sometimes is that, but not always. Yet that Belief persisted even into the
Time of Christ. Cf. the Question: Who has sinned? This Man or his
Parents? (John 9:2-3).
Understanding Job will make a Degree of Progress in this area, namely, it comes out clearly that
Suffering is not always a Punishment for
Sin. Yet the Positive Value of
Suffering remained to be made clear by Jesus.
There is, however, a Problem; we know we are Adopted Children of
God. Children, precisely because they are Children, have a Claim to be in their Father's
House, which is Heaven.
The Council of Trent (DS 1532 and 1582) taught Three (3) Things:
First receive Justification with no
Merit at all. Justification (via Baptism)
means the First Reception of Sanctifying Grace,
which in turn means that the Indwelling of the Holy Trinity in our
Souls, makes us sharers in the Divine Nature (2Peter
1:4) and Adopted Children of God.
So we have a Claim to go to our
Father's House. A Claim can be called a Merit. Yet it is a different kind of
Merit. Although it is, as-it-were, a Ticket to
Heaven; it is a Ticket we get for Free, without at all earning it.
Once we have this Status of
Children, sharing in the very Nature of the Father, any
Good we do has a Special added Dignity, which makes it suitable
that He increase our Ability to know Him
face-to-face. Since that Vision is Infinite
(∞), but we are Finite Receptacles, our Capability to Receive
could grow Indefinitely, for it will never reach the Infinite
(∞). That Growth is what we call Growth in
Sanctifying Grace. And even though the First
Grace (the Basic Ticket itself) is not at all Earned, there is a sense in which Additions to the
Ability to see face-to-face can be Earned. Yet we do not Earn these as Individuals. It is only inasmuch as we are
Members of Christ and like
Him, that we get-in-on the Claim which HE
In this sense we could say what one student once said in a class about Salvation:
You can't Earn it, but you can 'Blow' it.
That is, Children do not have to Earn the Love and
Care of their Parents. Yet they could Lose it.
So now we have Focused our Problem. We can rightly say:
"All we have to do it to keep from Erring to Lose this Ticket".
How then does this fit in with this such Texts as:
Romans 8:17: "We are Heirs of God, fellow Heirs with Christ, PROVIDED THAT we Suffer
with Him, so we may also be Glorified with Him". Similarly Jesus Himself
said that He is the Vine, and we the Branches
(John 15:1-6). The Father will Prune
a Fruitful Branch, to make it bear still more
Fruit. Again, the Epistle to the Hebrews (12:5-13) quotes the Old Testament
(Proverbs 3:11-12) saying that the Father
Disciplines us as Children. That is a Sign He
Cares for us, Loves us.
The Solution is really easy. If we remained always Perfectly Innocent Children,
there would be no need at all for Purification. But the
Problem is that we all do Sin (1John 1:8).
Dirty Children need a Cleanup
Therefore, the Holiness of Our Father
demands His Children be Clean enough to enter
His House. Some Children Sin so
Gravely as to even Lose
Divine Sonship. Others do not Lose it, but become
Dirty Children, who need a Cleanup.
We could explain it this way:
The Scales-of-the-Objective-Order need to be Rebalanced if we, His Children, have put it
even somewhat out-of-order by our Personal Sins. The
Sinner takes from One (1) Pan of a Two (2)
Pan Scale something he has no-right to have. It might be so Grave
as to cause him to Lose Divine
Sonship -- Mortal Sin. But it can be something lesser, which while it does not cause
us to Lose that Sonship, yet it does mean we are Bad,
we might say, Dirty Children. We need to be Cleaned Up.
The essential, the Infinite (∞) Work of Rebalancing
the Scales is done by Jesus, our Brother, with
Whom we are Heirs as Romans 8:17 says. Yet the same line,
Romans 8:17 also says we are Heirs "provided that we Suffer with Him".
As we indicated, by Mortal Sin we could even Lose
our status as Sons of the Father and Brothers and Sisters of
Jesus. Yet even lesser, Venial Sins, make us not
Clean enough to get in without some Clean Up or
Polishing. So that needs to be done. In other words, each one of us has an Obligation to Rebalance, by
Suffering, for the Imbalance even
Smaller Sins have caused.
Just as a really Good Father trains his Children by
Discipline to make them grow-up and be what they should be, so Our Father
in Heaven, Disciplines us for the same
purpose, as we said above, citing Hebrews and Proverbs.
If we really Love our Father, we will
want to see that He gets the Pleasure of
Giving to all those whom He wants to be His
Children. But some of them have even Forfeited that position, while others are somewhat
Soiled. In either case, in order that He may
be able to give His Favors to them, they need to be 'Open'. But many of them do Little or
Nothing towards Rebalancing the Scales for their own Sins. So that they may be put
in the Condition to Receive, we can, by taking on Difficult Things, make-up for them. This
is Love for them, it is also Love of the
Father, for it gives Him the Opening to give
to them, while at the same time it gives them the Openness they need to Receive. (So we see in passing:
Love of God and Love of
Neighbor are found in One and the Same Action). Hence Saint Paul said, in Colossians 1:24,
"I fill up the things that are lacking to the Sufferings of Christ in my Flesh, for His Body, which is
the Church". Of course, nothing is lacking to the Sufferings of
Christ considered as an Individual.
But the Whole Christ, Head
and Members, can be Deficient.
Paul wants to do what we just said, to make up for the a Lack of Opening in other
Members of Christ through
His Mystical Body and the Communion of Saints.
We gather therefore, there is Triple (3) Reason for
Suffering Cleans Up the Tarnished Image
of the Father and of Christ in us;
Suffering helps us grow to Spiritual Maturity;
Suffering helps give the Father the
Pleasure of being able to give to other,
What was known of this Beautiful Picture at the time of Job? As we said, many, such as Job's
so-called Friends, insisted that all Suffering comes from
Sin. The Book makes it finally clear that not always does Suffering
come from Sin. Clearly, Job did not see the Full Expanses of the
Splendid Picture of Christ's Mystical Body and the Communion
of Saints we have just unfolded.
Could they have reached at least part of this Picture? There were grounds for doing that. First,
they knew God is our Father -- cf.
Isaiah 63:16: "Even if Abraham were not to know us or Israel to acknowledge us, You,
Lord, are our Father". And Hosea 11:1: "Out of Egypt I have called My
Son", that is, the Whole People of Israel. Cf. also Jeremiah 31:9. But they did not
know in how full-a-sense that is true. They knew He had made them. But they did
not know that He gave them a Share in His Own Divine
Nature. Further, they knew that Sin is a
Debt - that Truth stands throughout the Old Testament,
the Intertestamental Literature of the Jews, the New Testament and the Writings of the
Rabbis and the Fathers. They knew further the Atoning Power
of Suffering for Others. This came out specially strongly in the Fourth
Servant Song in Isaiah 53. It was found also elsewhere in the Scriptures, cf.
2Maccabees 7:37; Daniel 3:35 & 40; Job 42:7-8.
Yet, even though the Grounds, we might say Premises, for reaching these conclusions were present and were known, they did not draw
the implications from them. Similarly, Jesus confuted the Sadducees who
Denied the Resurrection by citing for them
the text of Exodus 3:6: I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.
He is not the God of the
Dead, but of the Living. Yet, did
most Jews draw that deduction from those early words? We doubt it very much. Similarly, although they had, as we said,
the Premises to reach much of the Picture we have painted, yet they did not really reach nearly all of it. Instead in the
conclusion to Job, the Solution seems to be merely that God would
give-back more than what He had taken-away, but do it in this Life.
Audio Tapes on Suffering
An 8 minute Homily
by Franciscan Father Leo Clifford
on your Cross and Suffering
A Short 6 minute
Spiritual Reflection on Suffering
by Father Frank Pavone