Wednesday, October 2, 2013

On Job, St. Thérèse, and the Psalms

I am once again reading through the Book Job, an endeavor I began last weekend. Yesterday, after writing of St. Thérèse's torment during the terrible terminal phase of the tuberculosis that killed her, I read the sixth and seventh chapters of the Book of Job, which together constitute Job's first reply to the first (of many) interventions of one of his three friends (four if you count Elihu, the only truly wise on among the group). The first of Job's friends to weigh in on his sufferings and afflictions is Eliphaz the Temanite, who, predictably, wonders what Job might've done to incur God's terrible wrath.

In light of Thérèse's temptation to commit suicide, I was struck by a passage, verses 13-16 of chapter 7. Speaking to God, Job complains:
When I say, “My bed shall comfort me,
my couch shall ease my complaint,”

Then you frighten me with dreams
and terrify me with visions,

So that I should prefer strangulation
and death rather than my existence.

I waste away: I will not live forever;
let me alone, for my days are but a breath.

What are human beings, that you make much of them,
or pay them any heed?

In turn, the last sentence of this passage puts me in mind of Psalm 8:5: "What is man that you are mindful of him, and a son of man that you care for him?" And, even more to the point, to Psalm 144:3-4:
LORD, what is man that you take notice of him;
the son of man, that you think of him?

Man is but a breath,
his days are like a passing shadow
It's important to point out that, from both a human and Christian perspective, the story of Job is incomplete and very unsatisfying. The answer to Job's question, the same question posed by Psalmist, "What are human beings to you, O great, infinite, eternal, all-powerful God?" is answered by Jesus Christ. Christ shows that, inexplicably and surprisingly, we are everything to God. This is also what St. Thérèse shows us so clearly.

After being healed of her hyper-sensitivity about what people thought about her, how things impacted her emotionally, the Lord let the Little Flower know that He loved her just as she was. Once she grasped this, she came to see that she shouldn't despise herself because of her weaknesses and faults. She came to see her weaknesses as that which made her dependent on the Lord. It is God's unwavering, affirming love and our recognition that we depend on Him completely that enables us to trust, borrowing St. Paul's words, written to the Philippians, "that the one who began a good work in [us] will continue to complete it" until He comes to bring us home to the house of the Father.

Being reminded of God's unfailing for us, is it not fitting that today is the liturgical Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels? And so we pray,

Angel of God,
My guardian dear,
To whom God's love commits me here,
Ever this day, be at my side,
To light and guard, rule and guide. Amen.

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