Salvific Doloris: Part 1

Salvifici Doloris is an Apostolic Letter from Pope John Paul II which was written after the assassination attempt in 1981. It is about suffering and joy or as the title says in Latin saving passion. During Lent we will be working through this Apostolic Letter and hopefully some more.  Today is the first day of Lent for the Western Church (Roman rite) some eastern rite catholic church began the season on Monday and in the Orthodox Church Great Lent begin on Clean Monday (19 February). John Paul II writes this letter to the Bishops, Priest, Religious Families and the faithful of the Catholic Church on the Christian meaning of Human Suffering. This was issued during the Holy Year of Redemption 1983-84 so it continually refers back to this.

John Paul II starts with quoting from Saint Paul’s letter to the Colossians (1:24) where the idea get put forth “I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” Suffering has been here for all of human history, just look at Paul before he became that nice guy we all like was one of the fiercest persecutors of the faith causing all kind of suffering. Now he is rejoicing in the suffering because of Jesus. Suffering is universal it is with us all at every point on earth: in a certain sense it co-exists with us in the world, and demands to be constantly reconsidered. yet we must remember that it is through the cross of Christ comes our redemption. This is all tied together for we are all of one body. His Holiness then quotes his encyclical Redemptor Hominis saying that “in Christ we all become that way for the Church” and add on “when suffering enters his life.”  Suffering is inseparable from our lives. Yet from this suffering come great things it evokes compassion, respect, and in its own way it intimidates. For in suffering is contained the greatness of a specific mystery.

In the second section the focus turns to the World of Human Suffering. There are two types of suffering physical suffering (the body hurts) and moral suffering (pain in the soul), While the Physical suffering (mental physical, emotional pain) can be eased with medication moral suffering can not. Turning to the Bible the Pope notes that it is a book filled with Suffering, looking in the Old Testament they link the moral suffering onto parts of the body, it isn’t until the Greek when suffering show up and is linked to evil. This now takes a turn in the For God made all things Good why is there evil? The Church looks at it as we suffer on account of evil which is a limitation or distortion of good. or “we suffer because of a good in which we don’t share, from which in a certain sense we are cut off, or of which we have deprived ourselves. We particularly suffers when we ought—in the normal order of things—to have a share in this good and does not have it.” We all suffer alone together (collective consciousness) in the same old anxiety ridden world that we live in and our suffering is compounded by the sins of our times, with mad men running the world.

The third section looks at the quest for an answer to the question of the meaning of suffering. The whys why do we suffer? why is there evil? Looking at the Book of Job we see this idea taken up (a couple of years ago I went through it during Lent) Job was a good just man and then lots of suffering happens to him one of his friends indicates that the suffering come from some sin. Yet, Job has done nothing wrong but God recognizes this but doesn’t do anything about it, since it was a competition between the Devil and God. Sure the Book of Job does a good job at asking the question it doesn’t answer it but points out that suffering affects all people those as punishment for sin and also the innocent. It can be seen as a test of righteousness. The Book of Job isn’t the last word on the subject of suffering but it acts as a foreshadowing of Passion of Christ. To find an answer we need to look to Divine Love.

In section four we turn to Jesus Christ: Suffering conquered by love. Jesus himself is salvific love John Paul II point to John 3:16. Now this is where it gets good breaking down the Bible. For God so loved the world that He gives, not directs or sends, but gives the world, His only Son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. This is remarkable as it points that the opposite of eternal life is suffering for eternity we literally perish being away from God forever.  We are reminded here that we (humankind) are but dust and to dust we will return from way back in the Garden of Eden we are body and soul our Body will fade but our spirit will live forever but through Christ’s salvific mission to “blot out from human history the dominion of sin, which took root under the influence of the evil Spirit, beginning with Original Sin, and then he gives man the possibility of living in Sanctifying Grace.” Perhaps that isn’t how it will end now. Turning to Jesus in the Gospel we see how he is deep in suffering he went deep into the weeds and starts pulling. He healed the sick, consoled the afflicted, fed the hungry, brought hearing to the deaf sight to the blind, free those from leprosy, from the devil and from various physical disabilities, three times he restored the dead to life. He was sensitive to every human suffering, whether of the body or of the soul. And at the same time he taught, and at the heart of his teaching there are the Beatitudes, which are addressed to people tried by various sufferings in their temporal life.”  But it is his Suffering and death on a cross that will conquer suffering.

This Lent as we enter into our churches let us raise our eyes toward the large cross with Jesus and recognize that this is a gift of love. As John 3:16 says For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whosoever believes in him may have eternal life.  Let us keep this in mind during this upcoming season and remember the joy in suffering.

Continue reading in Part 2

Lenten Reflections: Book of Amos

Last year during the season of Lent I read through and sort of summarized/reflected on the Book of Job, I enjoyed it and it got me to actually read through the book of Job which I’ve said that I was going to read for a while. I will still do the Rosary fruit of the mystery until I end the Sorrowful Mysteries, but this is going to be the thing this Lent.

Amos is one of the Lesser Prophets, the 12 minor prophets whose books are shorter than the Major Prophets. Scholars believe that Amos was one of the first prophetic books of the Bible to be written. Amos was from the Southern Kingdom, Judah and came up to the Northern Kingdom Israel to preach. From what I’ve read about the Book of Amos it seem a little like today as it focuses on Social Justice and concern for the disadvantaged in society.

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

We begin this week in the book of Job, we pick up the story as the Lord asks Job basically remember me, the Lord goes on to say I set the limit of the sea and all that other stuff as well This is a rather short reading and there really isn’t to get much out of it. This will be used in the Gospel as well, so keep an eye out for it. In the Psalm are reminded to “give thanks to the Lord for his kindness and his wondrous deeds to the children of men.” As we turn to the epistle we skip for verses from where we ended last weeks reading and hear some more from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. The love of Christ impels us since for in Christ we have all died so that we might live for him, Turning to the Gospel of Mark we have Jesus commanding the sea to calm down as he and the disciples were caught in a violent squall. This leads the disciples to wonder “Who is this who even the wind and seas obey?” The disciples were afraid at the weather going on as they were powerless against it. We are just like the disciples today when we hear of a bad storm the first thing we do is run out and either stock up on things if we are staying or board up the place and head for higher ground. This is even more true in the winter at the mere mention of snow, milk, bread and toilet paper shelves are cleared. The disciples were on a boat which makes it even scarier since there was a chance of capsizing the boat. They wake Jesus up and says “Quiet! Be Still!” now this was not only directed toward the wind and sea but also the disciples. Quiet and Be Still! These are words that echo through the ages to us today. We are all to preoccupied with other things in our lives that we hardly have time to sit in silence and listen, let alone be still. When I was little and in Atrium the song “Be Still and Know” was used often to settle down all of us children, I still use it today as sort of a centering prayer/meditation. I hope that we all can take some time to sit in the quiet and be still. Also I’d like to wish everyone who is a father a wonderful Father’s Day weekend.

Book of Job: part five (more speeches and the end)

Over the past couple weeks we have heard Job’s friends, Eliphaz, Bilidad and Zophar, telling Job about how he must have done something wrong which upset the Lord so that’s why bad things are happening to him. Yet, Job stayed consistent saying that he did nothing wrong and want to explain it to the Lord. This week we has a pair of speeches from some new characters, Elihu and The Lord both of them give some speeches.

We begin with Job rehashing his whole situation and tries to understand why he is being punished. Job comes to the point that he’d done everything that God has asked of him and wants an God to explain why these bad thing happened. Then Elihu speaks up, now Elihu might have been there from the start with Eliphaz, Bilidad and Zophar but he doesn’t speak since he is the youngest. Elihu is angry with everyone Job for justifying himself rather than God and the others for having declared Job to be wrong but had no real answers. Elihu then goes on and on for a couple of chapters (32-37) where he puts everyone in their place. Elihu’s speech is pretty great, at times he had me smirking with the youngest of the group speaking the most wisdom of everyone in the book so far and he continually urges Job to listen to him and Elihu lays down some truth. Elihu says that Job isn’t necessarily a sinner just because he is being punished and Job is being a fool for trying to get God to explain why it happened to him. Elihu continues to explain that God does many things that we can not comprehend like the weather.

Then God shows up in a whirlwind and asks Job some questions. We are then given two full chapters of questions (38-39) and they are all to show Job how small he is to the universe. These are all great questions ranging from “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” to “Has the rain a father, or who has begotten the drops of dew?” and “…are [the wings of the ostrich] the pinions and plumage of love?” No human can reasonably answer these questions as God is showing Job that God has more concerns than just Job and they are rather big things. God wants a reply from Job and the only thing Job can muster is I am of small account what can he really say. God then answers Job by saying that Job is powerless. God then changes the subject and talks about Behemoth and Leviathan my Bible notes these as the hippo and the crocodile respectively but Behemoth is something bigger and Leviathan is more of a dragon type creature since it breath fire. We then return to the actual story Job answers and humbles himself before the Lord even going to repent in dust and ashes. God then turns toward the Job’s three friends Eliphaz, Bilidad and Zophar and saying that “my wrath is kindled against you for you have not spoken of me what is right, as Job has.” so each of them has to take seven rams and seven bulls and offer them up to Job for a holocaust, Job will pray for them and God will accept Job’s prayers . Then God restored the fortunes of Job and gave Job back twice as much as he had. And he had seven sons and three daughters Jemimah, Keziah and Keren-happuch  and they were treated like Job’s sons. The book goes on to say that Job lived a 140 years and saw four generations.

Book of Job: part four (third cycle of speeches)

If you remember over the past couple of weeks, we have been looking as Job and his firend has a discussion we hear Job’s three friends (Eliphaz, Biildad and Zophar) try to comfort him to little effect. They all have basically said that the misfortune that has fallen on you is because of something you did to make God angry with you and therefore you should repent. Job however continues insisting that he did nothing wrong and want to talk to God about this.  In Chapters 22-28 we have the end of the speeches from Job and his three friends.

Once again we hear from our favorite person Eliphaz who tells Job that Job has done something wrong and deserves this punishment, and that once job repents for his transgressions God and Job will be friends once again. Job replies that if only he could talk to God and figure this whole thing out things would be so much better, and he hopes God will heed his argument. Unfortunately for Job it seems that wherever he seeks the Lord he can not find the Lord.Next there is a section on violence in the world, this is chapter 24 and seems out of place.

We then here from Bildad in the shortest chapter of this book saying  to Job,”But we are all born with sin how can we be righteous in comparison to God, the moon isn’t even bright in God sight. We are but worms in the presence of God.” Job replies to this with a sure God is big and everything but Job would like some answers for once. Job then rededicates himself to the promise he made at the beginning of the book “my lips will speak no falsehood and my tongue will not utter deceit.”

The next bunch of verses it is unclear who speaks these, one of my Bibles suggests this might have been Zophar’s third speech, it is a speech on divine punishment and how the wicked will be punished. This could also be Job speaking and it would turn out to be ironic as he has been going on and on about how he is an innocent man, but has the same opinions as his friends for the wicked. The final chapter in today’s segment (28) is a beautiful reflection on Wisdom. This is another portion which has no assigned speaker, but it asks a big question where can we find Wisdom. Simply put wisdom lives with God it is the most precious thing in the world to know wisdom is to fear the Lord, or we could put it as to know the Lord is to fear wisdom.

Book of Job: Part three (second cycle of speeches)

If you remember last week we started this section of Job which is a dialogue between job and his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. Last week in chapters 3-14 they all were telling Job that it’s something Job did and he needs to make it right with the Lord.

So we turn to the second cycle of speeches in chapters 15-21.

We begin with Eliphaz once again who it seems picks up where he left off.  Eliphaz starts by saying “Your own mouth condemns you not I you own lips testify against you” (15:6) then he ask Job if he thinks that he is smarter than the Lord because Job demands an answer. Eliphaz says that this is undermining the Lord. Job replies  once again stating his innocence and goes on to say that his friends are scorning him.

Next we hear from Bildad who once again tells Job that the Lord is going to punish the evil doer and Bildad adds that the first-born of death is going to be tagging along as well. Job asks “How long will you torment me, and break me in pieces with words?” (19:2) Job then adds that if it is true and he did err that the error remains with him and his friends shouldn’t be continually attacking him about it. Job simply want to be able to plead his case before God.

Zophar is the next to offer his two cents, and guess what he says. Zophar gives a whole list of ways that the wicked man is punished by God. saying that this is the wicked man’s portion from God.  Job replies stating his innocence and saying that the wicked go unpunished all the time but we all end up in the same place, in the ground.

This book is frustrating as none of Job’s friends are actually listening to him and they continually harp on the fact that God will punish the wicked, that is all that they are saying. Next week we will pick up with the final cycle of speeches from this group, and I expect it to be exactly the same thing.

Book of Job: Part two (first cycle of speeches)

In Job 3-14 we have the first time around with Job and his friends “talking”. In a rough sketch

We begin with Job cursing his birth asking Why is light given to those in misery? or why is there Hope?

Eliphaz is the first to speak and he tells Job that sure you have helped others but you’ve never understood their pain and perhaps this is a reason for no one rushing to Job to help him out.  Eliphaz goes on to say that Job most likely sinned and that’s what bad things have happened to Job. He goes on to argue that we are but dust and can easily be crushed. Eliphaz tells Job that he should turn to the Lord for answers. Job replies by saying that he has the right to be angry and compares it to putting salt on food. Job will not quiet down he will be complaining to the bitterness of his soul.

Bildad speaks up and asks how long are you going to be complaining since it wasn’t your fault. He goes on to say that Job’s children died because they had sinned but the other stuff in on Job make yourself right with the Lord. Bildad goes on to say that just as plants need water to grow so do we need hope in our lives. Job replies to this by saying sure I know this but The Lord has done some incredible things Job then continues to claim his innocence saying that he hasn’t sinned so his ill fortune can’t be blamed upon him.

Zophar is the last to speak up and is a huge jerk about it. Zophar goes to say that sure Job is pure and everything for God to speak to him, but God is bigger than Job. The devastation wrought by the Lord to Job is less than what he deserves. Then it gets even worse as Zophar goes on at length about Job’s immorality. Job responds that there is no doubt that all his friends are smart and they have all the wisdom that the world need but Job has some opinions of his own as well. Sure he’s the laughing stock of the town but he wants some answers and wants them from the Lord is need be.

None of these “friends” give Job any real help they all says that  it’s something Job did and he needs to make it right with the Lord. None of these theories are right Job is being put to a test and it isn’t anything he’s done.

Next week we will look at the second series of speeches.


The Book of Job: Part 1

First a quick overview of the Book of Job. It is a dramatic dialogue between Job and his three friends about the relation of suffering to human behavior. Job’s impassioned assault on the Lord has made this book a classic of World Literature. The book consists of five main sections a prologue, a dialogue between four people (although it is more of a monologue and response), a pair of monologues, and an epilogue

We begin the Book with a prologue which sets up to book, where Job is tested and proves faithful each time. This leads into the dialogue portion, where we hear speeches from three of Job’s friends This portion ends with Job demanding that the Lord come and defend himself. We next meet with Elihu, another one of Job’s friends who shows up and talks about divine providence Then the Lord shows up and speaks from a whirlwind giving a monologue about how great the Lord is and Job submits twice. We then reach the conclusion of the book Job’s friends are told to offer a sacrifice for speaking against the Lord and everything that Job lost is restored and he has more.  So scholars think that the prologue and conclusion were from like the oral tradition and the dialogues in the middle were added later on. This can sort of explain why Elihu appears and then just disappears.

Now onto the text.

Job( Iyov) a man from Uz, one of the most righteous and pious man in the world. He has seven sons and three daughters. Job had a large amount of animals and many servants and was considered the book say the Wealthiest man in the east. Job prayed for his children as he thought “My sons might have sinned and blasphemed God in their thoughts” so I better offer a sacrifice for them. So one day Satan bumps into the Lord and they have a little wager about Job. Satan went about erasing Job’s fortune and killing his children Job learn of losing everything  one after the other. So Job tore his garments and shaved his head saying he came into the world naked and he will leave the same way, what the Lord has given, the Lord can take away. Then Job praises the Lord.  A some time later, I guess, Satan and the Lord are back at it. The Lord is praising Job for being the most devout follower and he wouldn’t curse for anything. Satan then goes down and gives Job gross sores from head to toe. Three of Job’s friends show up they have come to offer sympathy and comfort for everything that Job has lost. They then sit with Job in the dirt. This is how the prologue begins.

This doesn’t seem like something that the Lord would do to a person bet on them against Satan that they will be faithful. This still happens today but Satan has gotten ever better and for many of us religion is that thing we do for an hour during the weekend. We need to be more like Job and willing to pray for everyone/thing Job was making sure that his Children would get into heaven with him. the thing that I find shocking about the story is that the Lord does the wager thing with the devil not once but twice for many of us this would be too much and we would be cursing God for all the bad things that are happening to this good person.

Next week we will look at the first set of speeches

Lenten reflection: Book of Job

As I mentioned a couple of Sundays ago this upcoming Lent I will be going through the Book of Job. I’ve decided to put these reflections up on Tuesdays until they are over as I am not sure how long it will take to get through the book.  So instead of doing the sorrowful mysteries and then something else for those other weeks after the mysteries are done. We will be exploring the Book of Job, since he is considered by the Eastern Orthodox to be the Old Testament icon of Christ.

The Book of Job is one of the books of the Ketuvim or  one of the Wisdom book in the Old Testament. It is poetic in nature and some consider it to be an early example of drama. The book asks the big question why do bad things happen to good people. The story of Job has inspired countless other ranging from Ralph Vaughn William’s Masque for Dancing, the musical The Fiddler on the Roof,  The Brothers Karamazov and even the Coen brothers’ film A Serious Man. It has made a huge impact on Western Culture. Even the great Lord Tennyson has said that it is the greatest poem of all times (ancient or modern).

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week we look at pain and suffering as well as healing. We begin in what some consider as early drama in the book of Job, even some modern playwrights have used Job as inspiration for their plays. Job is found in the Ketuvim or the writings of the Hebrew Bible and is considered a Wisdom book in the Christian Bible. The book is about a man, Job, who is the richest man in the world and has like a dozen children. The Devil talking to Lord says Job is only this way because of you, but the Lord replies that it was all done by the work of Job’s hand. So Satan goes down and starts inflicting great sorrow and pain on Job to see if he will break and curse the Lord. It is an interesting read perhaps I’ll do something with Job this Lent. So today the reading is fairly pessimistic, life is drudgery, it’s like being a slave and longing for the shade or a hireling waiting for wages. This is followed by Job reflecting that his days are like the wind, as it is here and then gone. This is something that we still complain about today life is too short and we are working our way to the grave.

Turning to the second reading we continue to hear from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. It is a turn from the serious nature of the first reading as Paul is just talking about his vocation in life. Paul’s vocation is the preach the gospel for free to all people, he later on divulges how he brought the Gospel to so many individuals is that he became a slave to win over as many people as possible and he became weak to win over the weak.

As we reach the Gospel we pick up Mark from where we left last week. After leaving a synagogue Jesus went to Simon and Andrew’s house with James and John. Simon’s mother in law as sick and Jesus offer her his hand and helped her up curing her in the process and she waited on them. In the evening the whole of the town was gathered around Simon and Andrew’s house for they wanted to be cured of whatever demons lurked in them. The next morning Jesus left early and along with the apostles they left the village and went to the next preaching and driving out demons. Jesus did this throughout the land of Galilee. Jesus is offered up as someone to heal the pain and suffering that we face in our lives and we can encounter Jesus and the Lord in the Bible. This was one of the reasons why you can always find a Gideon’s Bible in a hotel. We need to read the Bible and not just listen to the readings on Sundays, the more we feel comfortable with the Bible the better our lives will be. Sure bad thing can happen to good people but we are not to be discouraged by this since Jesus has come and we have all be promised life eternal in the new Kingdom of God.