Lent with the Book of Job (Ch 3)
February 24, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.

Chapter 3 (Friday after Ash Wednesday)

After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. Job said: 
‘Let the day perish on which I was born,
   and the night that said,
   “A man-child is conceived.” 
Let that day be darkness!
   May God above not seek it,
   or light shine on it. 
Let gloom and deep darkness claim it.
   Let clouds settle upon it;
   let the blackness of the day terrify it. 
That night—let thick darkness seize it!
   let it not rejoice among the days of the year;
   let it not come into the number of the months. 
Yes, let that night be barren;
   let no joyful cry be heard in it. 
Let those curse it who curse the Sea,
   those who are skilled to rouse up Leviathan. 
Let the stars of its dawn be dark;
   let it hope for light, but have none;
   may it not see the eyelids of the morning— 
because it did not shut the doors of my mother’s womb,
   and hide trouble from my eyes. 

‘Why did I not die at birth,
   come forth from the womb and expire? 
Why were there knees to receive me,
   or breasts for me to suck? 
Now I would be lying down and quiet;
   I would be asleep; then I would be at rest 
with kings and counsellors of the earth
   who rebuild ruins for themselves, 
or with princes who have gold,
   who fill their houses with silver. 
Or why was I not buried like a stillborn child,
   like an infant that never sees the light? 
There the wicked cease from troubling,
   and there the weary are at rest. 
There the prisoners are at ease together;
   they do not hear the voice of the taskmaster. 
The small and the great are there,
   and the slaves are free from their masters. 

‘Why is light given to one in misery,
   and life to the bitter in soul, 
who long for death, but it does not come,
   and dig for it more than for hidden treasures; 
who rejoice exceedingly,
   and are glad when they find the grave? 
Why is light given to one who cannot see the way,
   whom God has fenced in? 
For my sighing comes like my bread,
   and my groanings are poured out like water. 
Truly the thing that I fear comes upon me,
   and what I dread befalls me. 
I am not at ease, nor am I quiet;
   I have no rest; but trouble comes.’ 

Do not be amazed when I tell you that Job did not say, Why did I not die at birth? These are words I lend him, words that seem contrary to his profound goodness. We know Job suffered righteously what he was suffering, and so he must have reasonably and wisely said that It would have been better if I had not been born; but this is exactly what Christ said about Judas: It would have been better for that man if he had not been born. And yet Job says much the same thing of himself: Why was I born? It would have been better if I had not been born.
It seems to me that Job is attempting to humble his friends and to persuade them not to attach a great importance to human affairs. Job has not introduced the dead kings into this passage without purpose when he speaks of those who gloried in their swords. Notice how even amidst his afflictions Job possesses words full of wisdom. Their wealth, in fact, has granted the kings no protection; their power has been of no use; death has come at the end for everyone. After this Job goes on to say of himself, why was I not as a stillborn child that never sees the light? Notice how, in order that he may not appear to be arrogant, he even compares himself with a stillborn child, so absolutely wretched and pitiful is he. 
Why is light given, Job asks, to those whose soul dwells in bitterness, and life to those souls who are in pain? Again this is not the language – God forbid – of someone who makes rebukes, but of someone who searches and suffers. From this we learn that not only life but also death is useful, when it is more desired than evil. In this way Job speaks of those who long for death, but, he says, it does not come. That is why the Preacher in Ecclesiastes says, For everything there is a season and, in another passage, O death, how your memory is sweet

When you hear Job’s wife suggesting to him, Curse God, and die, you should not suppose that he did not answer her because of his love of life but rather because of his piety. Indeed he who considered death to be very desirable and saw it as a real goodness when he was allowed to obtain it did not dare speak against God. Job declares, Death is rest for man. Now if death brings rest, why don’t the majority of people rush to it? Because God has made life desirable in order to prevent us from running to death. Job goes on to say of death, It’s way is hidden, and he adds, they dig for it more than for hidden treasures. By this Job is saying that our future is unknown. We ourselves do not uncover it, neither should we attempt to do so. Please do not speak to me about those who attempt to take their life in their own hands and who hang themselves; Job is here speaking about what conforms to nature and the commandments of God, not about an unnatural sin. He says of death, God has surrounded it with a wall, and the Gospel likewise states that the day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night. Thus to respond to the question, Why do you not choose death? Job answers, The Lord has surrounded it with a wall: Its doors are closed. (St. John Chrysostom)

Musical Selection (Cristobal de Morales)

Antequam comedam suspiro,
et tanquam inundantes aquæ
sic rugitus meus:
quia timor,
quem timebam,
evenit mihi
et quod verebar
accidit mihi.

Nonne dissimulavi?
nonne silui?
nonne quievi?
Et venit super me
indignatio tua, Domine.

Ecce, non est auxilium mihi in me,
et necessarii quoque mei
recesserunt a me. 

For my sighing cometh before I eat, and my roarings are poured out like the waters. For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.  I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came. (KJV)

Stay with us, kind and gracious Lord,
on the penitential journey which we have begun,
that the outward discipline we practice
may be matched by sincerity of heart.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever. Amen.