Lent with the Book of Job (Ch 15)
March 08, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.

Chapter 15 (Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent)

Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered: 
‘Should the wise answer with windy knowledge,
   and fill themselves with the east wind? 
Should they argue in unprofitable talk,
   or in words with which they can do no good? 
But you are doing away with the fear of God,
   and hindering meditation before God. 
For your iniquity teaches your mouth,
   and you choose the tongue of the crafty. 
Your own mouth condemns you, and not I;
   your own lips testify against you. 

‘Are you the firstborn of the human race?
   Were you brought forth before the hills? 
Have you listened in the council of God?
   And do you limit wisdom to yourself? 
What do you know that we do not know?
   What do you understand that is not clear to us? 
The grey-haired and the aged are on our side,
   those older than your father. 
Are the consolations of God too small for you,
   or the word that deals gently with you? 
Why does your heart carry you away,
   and why do your eyes flash, 
so that you turn your spirit against God,
   and let such words go out of your mouth? 
What are mortals, that they can be clean?
   Or those born of woman, that they can be righteous? 
God puts no trust even in his holy ones,
   and the heavens are not clean in his sight; 
how much less one who is abominable and corrupt,
   one who drinks iniquity like water! 

‘I will show you; listen to me;
   what I have seen I will declare— 
what sages have told,
   and their ancestors have not hidden, 
to whom alone the land was given,
   and no stranger passed among them. 
The wicked writhe in pain all their days,
   through all the years that are laid up for the ruthless. 
Terrifying sounds are in their ears;
   in prosperity the destroyer will come upon them. 
They despair of returning from darkness,
   and they are destined for the sword. 
They wander abroad for bread, saying, “Where is it?”
   They know that a day of darkness is ready at hand; 
distress and anguish terrify them;
   they prevail against them, like a king prepared for battle. 
Because they stretched out their hands against God,
   and bid defiance to the Almighty, 
running stubbornly against him
   with a thick-bossed shield; 
because they have covered their faces with their fat,
   and gathered fat upon their loins, 
they will live in desolate cities,
   in houses that no one should inhabit,
   houses destined to become heaps of ruins; 
they will not be rich, and their wealth will not endure,
   nor will they strike root in the earth; 
they will not escape from darkness;
   the flame will dry up their shoots,
   and their blossom will be swept away by the wind. 
Let them not trust in emptiness, deceiving themselves;
   for emptiness will be their recompense. 
It will be paid in full before their time,
   and their branch will not be green. 
They will shake off their unripe grape, like the vine,
   and cast off their blossoms, like the olive tree. 
For the company of the godless is barren,
   and fire consumes the tents of bribery. 
They conceive mischief and bring forth evil
   and their heart prepares deceit.’ 


The story of this just man, who without any fault of his own is tried by innumerable sufferings, is well known. He loses his possessions, his sons and daughters, and finally he himself is afficted by a grave sickness. In this horrible situation three old acquaintances come to his house, and each one in his own way tries to convince him that since he has been struck down by such varied and terrible sufferings, he must have done something seriously wrong. For suffering—they say—always strikes a man as punishment for a crime; it is sent by the absolutely just God and finds its reason in the order of justice. It can be said that Job’s old friends wish not only to convince him of the moral justice of the evil, but in a certain sense they attempt to justify to themselves the moral meaning of suffering. In their eyes suffering can have a meaning only as a punishment for sin, therefore only on the level of God’s justice, who repays good with good and evil with evil.

The point of reference in this case is the doctrine expressed in other Old Testament writings which show us suffering as punishment inflicted by God for human sins. The God of Revelation is the Lawgiver and Judge to a degree that no temporal authority can see. For the God of Revelation is first of all the Creator, from whom comes, together with existence, the essential good of creation. Therefore, the conscious and free violation of this good by man is not only a transgression of the law but at the same time an offence against the Creator, who is the first Lawgiver. Such a transgression has the character of sin, according to the exact meaning of this word, namely the biblical and theological one. Corresponding to the moral evil of sin is punishment, which guarantees the moral order in the same transcendent sense in which this order is laid down by the will of the Creator and Supreme Lawgiver. From this there also derives one of the fundamental truths of religious faith, equally based upon Revelation, namely that God is a just judge, who rewards good and punishes evil: “For thou art just in all that thou hast done to us, and all thy works are true and thy ways right, and all thy judgments are truth. Thou hast executed true judgments in all that thou hast brought upon us… for in truth and justice thou hast brought all this upon us because of our sins.”

The opinion expressed by Job’s friends manifests a conviction also found in the moral conscience of humanity: the objective moral order demands punishment for transgression, sin and crime. From this point of view, suffering appears as a “justified evil”. The conviction of those who explain suffering as a punishment for sin finds support in the order of justice, and this corresponds to the conviction expressed by one of Job’s friends: “As I have seen, those who plough iniquity and sow trouble reap the same” (Pope St. John Paul II; Salvifici doloris).

Musical Selection (Marty Haugen)

Cf. Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; 

I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.

Answer me, O LORD, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
Hide not your face from your servant, for I am in distress; make haste to answer me.  —Psalm 69:1–3, 13–17


Sustain your family, O Lord,
whom you have formed in the ways of loving service.
Strengthen us with your help in this present life
and in your mercy lead us to life eternal.
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.