bible blog 257

This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church

Reading 1

Job 38:1, 12-21; 40:3-5

The LORD addressed Job out of the storm and said:

God answering Job (Blake)

Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning

and shown the dawn its place

For taking hold of the ends of the earth,

till the wicked are shaken from its surface?

The earth is changed as is clay by the seal,

and dyed as though it were a garment;

But from the wicked the light is withheld,

and the arm of pride is shattered.

Have you entered into the sources of the sea,

or walked about in the depths of the abyss?

Have the gates of death been shown to you,

or have you seen the gates of darkness?

Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth?

Tell me, if you know all:

Which is the way to the dwelling place of light,

The foundations of the earth

and where is the abode of darkness,

That you may take them to their boundaries

and set them on their homeward paths?

You know, because you were born before them,

and the number of your years is great!

Then Job answered the LORD and said:

Behold, I am of little account; what can I answer you?

I put my hand over my mouth.

Though I have spoken once, I will not do so again;

though twice, I will do so no more.

This is an excerpt from the terrible questions The Lord asks Job, who has accused him of mismanagement and injustice. Job has assumed that God can be held to account for the injustice he, Job, has suffered, but he is made to realise that we can only talk about justice and injustice when we have knowledge of a whole context, like civil society. But as regards the management of the universe, what do we know? If we do not even know the way to the dwelling place of the light, how can we presume to judge the One who does? The questions skewer the littleness of humanity. But this is not simply a cosmic put-down; it’s also an act of grace. Job has maintained his own honour and the honour of the Lord: Job is not a secret wrongdoer and God has questions to answer. The Lord acknowledges his angry faith even if his answers are questions. He makes himself present to his persistent human questioner, upholding his anger above the pious platitudes of his critics. Job’s hand over his mouth is an act of trust rather than mere submission. This is one of the greatest books of the bible: everyone should read it, perhaps with a brief introduction or commentary.

Luke 10:13-16

Gospel

Jesus said to them,

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!

For if the mighty deeds done in your midst

had been done in Tyre and Sidon,

they would long ago have repented,

sitting in sackcloth and ashes.

But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon

at the judgment than for you.

And as for you, Capernaum, ‘Will you be exalted to heaven?

You will go down to the netherworld.’

Whoever listens to you listens to me.

Whoever rejects you rejects me.

And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.

For Jesus, his own healings are the mighty acts of God. Of course, they’ve taken place in a tiny backwater of the world, on behalf of people thought insignificant by the powerful, but Jesus knows them to be demonstrations of God’s love through his own humanity. That means they are not unequivocal: to the eye of faith they are mighty works that call the viewer to repentance; to the eye blinded by worldliness they are scarcely noticeable. Just as those who receive the disciples receive God, so those who reject them, and their message, reject God, who is to be found in the littleness of his presence, in the Galilean carpenter, in fishermen full of faith, in the healing of a leper. If we do not see the irony of Jesus’ mighty works, imagining they are mighty in worldly ways, we may miss the mighty things he’s doing now.

3 comments

  1. That the mighty works of Jesus can also be an irony is a brilliant thought; it has been alluded to before, I think, but you have captured it well here. I am going to enjoy thinking about that all day.

    Meanwhile, I have a question about something else you write. You say that “we can only talk about justice and injustice when we have knowledge of a whole context, like civil society.” This seems to severely limit any critique we might be able to give in a given situation because the dynamics of even a civil society are likely far beyond our understanding. How would you qualify or explain this statement?

    1. It’s good to be called to account, Jeff. Now let’s say that you’re questioning the justice of my assertion. You’re able to do so because you have some idea of the whole context of my statement, which includes say, the nature of blogging, the vocabulary of biblical theology, the natureof western democratic societies, and our knowledge of them. Out of your grasp of that context, you question the justice of my words. You don’t need a perfect knowledge of all aspects of the context to do this competently. But if I were able to show that there are many crucial aspects of this context that you don’t know at all, (Like, I’m actually a Martian) your competence might be more questionable. We don’t have perfect knowldege of civil societies, but if we are reasonably well-informed we understand them as a context for our actions and the actions of others. We even factor into our understanding the possible importance of things we don’t understand too well, like, say economics, in our estimation of justice. If we’re open-mnded people, we try to increase our knowledge of the areas of society we know least.

      My point is that we don’t have this knowledge of context when it comes to passing judgement on our Creator.

      1. Okay, this makes sense now, since I know to what you were referring. I thought at first you were saying that we should not question our own systems (not God’s) until we know them inside out. Thank you.

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