Since the Church wants us to learn from this Thirty-Eighth Chapter of Job, we might as well take a crack at it, even though we know little about the Book of Job.
We all have a general idea of it. Job was a just man, possessing many flocks, a fine family, and good health. According to the story, God was pleased with Job, but Satan protested, saying Job was a fine person only because evil never touched him. Satan went on to ask permission to afflict Job to test his goodness and his patience.
With God’s permission, Satan tested Job by bringing the loss of his wealth, family, and health on him. Job was reduced to sitting on a dung heap where he occupied himself scraping his sores with a bit of broken pottery. His good wife told him to curse God and then die.
In this very long poem three friends came to comfort Job, but ended up by asking Job to see that it was all his to fault. To their accusations Job replied, “Let God weigh me in the scales of justice, thus will he know my innocence.”
Then, a fourth “comforter” Elihu, came along, and in six chapters of verse he explained how Job and his first three friends were all wrong.
In today’s reading God came along to explain how Job and his four friends were all out of their league when it comes to explaining how some people succeed while others fail.
In a lame-brained attempt at explaining today’s reading I’d say that Job and his friends were ridiculous. Since they knew nothing about the chemistry or the physical forces governing their world, they would have been better off if they had just acknowledged their ignorance. Their presumptuous attempts at taking charge reminds me of two stories,
One story has to do with Mike, the youngest of six brothers in a shanty Irish family on our street. The older five did well in the war, using the GI Bill to get educations and good positions. They always laughingly called young Mike “All Stars.” In pick-up games Mike always tried telling each of us what position to play. He couldn’t make a good life of it, because he didn’t know he needed to get a good start from the bottom.
The other story about an individual not facing up to his smallness concerned a mouse. The elephant was giving him a bad time about being so puny, but the mouse sought for some respect by explaining, “Look here, I’ve been sick.”