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SUFFERING IS PART OF GOD’S PLAN

Father Francis's picture
Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Job 1:6-22 & Lk. 9:46-50

Suffering is one of the most perplexing of human experiences. If only evil people suffered as a punishment for their wickedness and if good people were rewarded ln this life for their goodness, there would be no problem. Justice would be served. But the fact is that often it seems that the good suffer while the bad do not.

The book of Job addresses the apparent injustice. Job represents all good people. His story is not factual. Rather it is like the parables of Jesus which are intended to have a universal application. The details of Job's trials are not important. The author intended that we should identify ourselves with Job and adjust lessons of the narrative to our own circumstances.

Generally it ruins a plot to know the ending, but by knowing the outcome it helps us to appreciate the readings throughout this week. After suffering almost every form of devastating adversity, Job does not arrive at a clear understanding of or a neat solution to the mystery of human suffering. Under God's promptings he comes to a blind act of faith. He concludes that he, a mere mortal, does not have the right to call into question the wisdom or the justice of a God who is all wise and good.

His conclusion is all the more striking when we realise that this book is composed at a time when the revelations of a perfect life after death was not part of Israel's religion. We are called to less of a blind trust in God than was Job. Even though we must accept God's wisdom and justice, we have come to believe that through Jesus Christ we have the promise of everlasting life where every wrong will be righted and every tear will be wiped away. Suffering is part of God's plan, a plan we cannot fully understand, but we do know that for us, as it did for Jesus, suffering leads to unending happiness.

In today's Gospel Jesus made it clear that children have a special place in the Kingdom of God. "Anyone who welcomes this little child in My name welcomes Me; and anyone who welcome Me welcomes the One who sent Me.” Children have a special claim on our Christian sensibilities. They deserve to be protected from harm because they cannot protect themselves. They deserve to be loved without limits because they cannot earn that love themselves. They deserve to be nurtured in goodness because they cannot train themselves.

Yet our modern society is experiencing an epidemic of child abuse. How tragic that the very people who should be loved the most are the victims of the most violent hate. We need to do everything we can to save the children from the violence and abuse that surrounds them.

Heavenly Father, help us to be pure and to nurture the innocence of children, and let us take heed of the warning of Your Son that those who abuse children should have a millstone hung around their neck and be thrown to the bottom of the sea.

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