Lent with the Book of Job (Ch 1)
February 22, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.



Lent with the Book of Job
To spend the season of Lent with the Book of Job is to invite reflection on the problem of evil from a biblical perspective and to consider the suffering of the innocent Christ as prefigured by Job.  The daily posts, from Ash Wednesday through Wednesday of Holy Week (excluding Passion Sunday) comprise the 42 chapters of Job and will take us to the threshold of the Paschal Triduum when we celebrate the passage from death to life of the Lamb of God.  As is customary, each day will offer an entire chapter from Job with accompanying commentary (“lectio divina”), a work of art taken especially from the illustrations of William Blake (“visio divina”) and a musical selection (“audio divina”) concluding with a Collect from the 1998 translation of the Roman Missal by the International Committee on English in the Liturgy. 

Chapter 1 (Ash Wednesday)

There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and very many servants; so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold feasts in one another’s houses in turn; and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the feast days had run their course, Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt-offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, ‘It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.’ This is what Job always did. 

One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the Lord, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’ The Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.’ Then Satan answered the Lord, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.’ The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!’ So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. 

One day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the eldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, ‘The oxen were ploughing and the donkeys were feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell on them and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.’ While he was still speaking, another came and said, ‘The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; I alone have escaped to tell you.’ While he was still speaking, another came and said, ‘The Chaldeans formed three columns, made a raid on the camels and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.’ While he was still speaking, another came and said, ‘Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house, and suddenly a great wind came across the desert, struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; I alone have escaped to tell you.’ 

Then Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshipped. He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ 

In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing. 

When Job lost everything, at Almighty’s God decree, to preserve his peace of mind he remembered the time when he did not yet possess the things he had now lost; in that way, by realising more and more clearly that once he had not had them, he would the more easily moderate his grief over their loss. For indeed whenever we lose something it can be a great consolation to call to mind the days when we did not have it.
So, then, the blessed Job, wishing to cultivate patience as he bewails his losses, carefully considers to what state he is now reduced. To enhance his peace of mind he ponders yet more closely his origins, saying as he does so: Naked I came from my mother's womb, naked I shall return whence I came. In other words, the earth produced me naked, and naked will receive me back when I leave it. Since therefore the things I have lost were only what I had received and must leave behind, what have I lost that really belonged to me? But then, because consolation derives not only from thinking about one’s condition but also about the Creator’s uprightness, he is right to add: The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away; as it has pleased the Lord, so has he wrought.
He well says, as it has pleased the Lord. For since in this world we have to put up with things we do not like, it is necessary that we should accommodate our best endeavours to him who cannot will anything that is unjust. If therefore we know that what is just and equitable pleases the Lord, and that we can suffer nothing but what is pleasing to him, then all our sufferings must for that reason be justly and fairly imposed: and it would therefore be very unjust of us to grumble at them.
We should note that, having got all that right, Job ends by praising God. This was so that his adversary might realise, overcome by shame at seeing Job’s plight, that his own attitude in his prosperity is one of contempt for God, the same God to whom even this man, now fallen on evil times, can nevertheless sing a hymn of praise. We should realise that the enemy of our race can smite us with as many of his darts as there are temptations for him to afflict us with. For we do battle daily; and daily his onslaught of temptations rains down on us. But we in turn can fire our darts against him if, while buried in our tribulations, we will but react in humility. Thus Job, although suffering in material things, is still a blessed and happy man.
We should not think that our champion merely receives wounds without inflicting any in return. Indeed, every prayer of patience offered by the sufferer in God’s praise is a dart turned against the enemy’s breast: and a much sharper blow is thereby struck than the one sustained. For the man in his afflictions loses only earthly goods, whereas in bearing humbly with his afflictions he has increased many times over his stock in heaven. (St. Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job).
Musical Selection
Vir erat in terra Hus nomine Job simplex et rectus ac timens Deum:
quem Satan petiit ut tentaret,
et data est ei potestas a Domino in facultates, et in carnem ejus:
perdiditque omnem substantiam ipsius et filios:
carnem quoque ejus gravi ulcere vulneravit. 
There was a man in the land of Hus, simple and upright, and fearing God:
whom Satan petitioned that he might test,
and the Lord gave him power over both [Job’s] capabilities and his flesh:
and [Satan] destroyed all his substance and his children:
and inflicted his flesh with a grievous ulcer. 
Gracious and merciful God,
you look with love upon a sinful people
and desire only their return to you.
We beg of you the grace to live this holy season,
to persevere in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
By the discipline of Lent
purify our hearts of all pretension,
bring us back to you,
and make the whole Church ready
to celebrate the mysteries of Easter.
Grant this through Christ, our liberator from sin,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
holy and mighty God for ever and ever. Amen.