Jb 9:1-12,14-16; Ps 88:10-15; Lk 9:57-62
Many saints struggled with the LORD like Job saying in their hearts, “Should he come near me, I see him not; should he pass by, I am not aware of him…” These interior struggles purify the human heart and enable deeper prayer. Indeed, many saints prayed with the words of today’s psalm. Daily did they call upon the LORD; to God they stretched out their hands. Even at a young age they asked the questions of Job: “Will you work wonders for the dead? Will the shades arise to give you thanks? Do they declare your mercy in the grave, your faithfulness among those who have perished? Are your wonders made known in the darkness, or your justice in the land of oblivion?” Such painful inquiry is a part of anyone who faces the mystery of death, especially at a young age. In this darkness of the soul, we learn to wait upon the LORD. This desire to be one with Christ grows stronger even when we feel rejection. This desire is made pure when the Lord Jesus hides his face. Indeed, because we are able to trust completely in the one who had first loved us, we become like little children. In this love, we encounter the daily service of the Lord Jesus that begins and finds its fulfillment in our daily Eucharist.
This selection of the dialogue among Job and his friends seems like a monologue. Indeed the entire book of Job sounds like a series of monologues. Here in a response to a question by his friends Job speaks of the painful prayer that enters the heart of one who suffers. At this point in his relationship with the LORD, Job is overwhelmed by the wisdom and might of God. How could anyone address such majesty and remain unscathed? How could anyone question the ways of God? Indeed, the LORD removes mountains before they know it. He stretches out the heavens like a tent and marches on the mighty waves of the sea. The LORD determines day and night, when they begin and if they begin. All his ways are so great; they are beyond all human measure and control. Indeed, the LORD is closest when we are least aware; when he comes close he is hidden from our sight. What if the LORD grasps us by the heart, how could we resist him? What can be said to the LORD that he has not already heard? How could anyone argue his case before the divine tribunal? Such is the fear and dread that enters into every human heart. Even when we feel unjustly treated by the LORD, what can we say? All our arguments become a mumble. All our words are stuck in our throats. Eventually all we can do is plead for mercy. Even if we cry out in the darkness of our pain and the LORD answers us, could we believe it? Would we even recognize that he has harkened to our words? Indeed, Job’s monologue expresses our own struggle better than we ever could. The prayer of Job is our prayer in every age. These words still speak the truth of our painful night of purification.
Saint Luke brings us back to the journey of Jesus and his disciples. It is a journey of faith that is leading them to the mystery of the cross. In the midst of their resolute movement toward Jerusalem, that place where the Lord Jesus will be rejected and raised up, he encounters the early enthusiasm of would be disciples. All too easily do we pray, “I will follow you wherever you go.” The Lord Jesus knows well the human heart. No one has to teach him about how torturous we are at the very core. Like the early dew upon the grass we quickly fade away in the heat of daylight. The Divine Teacher warns us that if we follow him, we will have no place to rest. Indeed, our only resting place will be upon him as Saint John the beloved disciple found out at the Last Supper. Like the would-be-disciple we, too, plead to attend to our urgent responsibilities. The Divine Teacher makes it clear that the only urgency worth our daily attention is the life and death urgency to proclaim the Kingdom of God. Finally, we remind the Lord we would follow that we have important relationships that must be attended to. The Divine Teacher instructs us that our only important relationship is with the King and with his concerns. Indeed, in loving God above all and in all, we love all others with the greatest love possible. What more could we want for anyone we love than that they taste and see that the Lord is good, good beyond measure. This King of Love on Calvary purifies and transforms our early enthusiasm into a life-giving love that lasts unto the ages of ages. All we have to do is put our hand to the plow and never look back.