21st Sunday after Pentecost
There was a man in the land of Hus, whose name was Job, simple and upright, and fearing God: whom Satan besought that he might tempt: and power was given him from the Lord over his possessions and his flesh; and he destroyed all his substance and his children; and wounded his flesh also with a grievous ulcer.
The holy man Job lived through the warfare with the demonic powers of which St Paul spoke in the epistle to the Ephesians. Our struggle is not against men. Even though Satan uses men, even good men with good intentions, to put us to the test, it is ultimately Satan who is our deadly enemy. This is a very important point to keep in mind, especially when we suffer at the hands of others. The approach of our Blessed Lord is always to forgive and move on, loving our enemies.
But Job also used the same arms which St Paul gives to us: the armour of God, the belt of truth, the breast-plate of justice, the boots of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of truth. As much to say that he was armed to the teeth, with spiritual weapons.
One of Satan’s most deadly tricks, and which he uses very frequently, is to make us think that our enemies are other people. We all have them, people who get on our nerves, who criticise us, who hurt us, who condemn us. But even if they persecute us to death, they are not our real enemies. They are our brothers and sisters, destined like us to eternal life. This brother or sister who now causes me so much strife, please God, will be with me in heavenly glory, enjoying with me the beatific vision. If that is the case, then we must also love them, according to the command of the Lord.
It is precisely what the Lord of today’s parable did. He loved and forgave the servant, even though the debt was enormous. He loved, so he forgave. He loved, he did not count the effort involved. He loved his enemy and made him his friend.
But this friend did not understand. He failed to see that, in the end, we are all in the same fix, we are all brothers, we have all sinned and need forgiveness. If we fail to see this, we will be like the unforgiving servant, and the Lord will have to hand us over to the torturers.
In the midst of our trials and humiliations, when we feel ourselves abandoned by the very ones we would have expected to be our support, we need to call to mind today’s introit. This little master piece of Gregorian chant, In voluntate tua, gives musical expression to the prayer of Mardochaeus, at a critical moment in the history of the Jewish people. The odds were against them, their death had been decreed, but Mardochaeus, like Esther, prayed fervently to the Lord: “All things are within Thy will, Lord; and there is none that can resist Thy will: for Thou hast made all things, heaven and earth, and all things that are under the cope of heaven: Thou are Lord of all.”
What could possibly fail one who prays in that way? What could possibly be lacking to one who knows that he is in the Lords’s hand, that all things work together unto good for those who love God, that God’s providence never, ever fails?
Such is the confidence of the saints in the most dramatic circumstances.
If we know how to imitate them, then when the time comes for us to make our exodus out of this life, it will be with the same peace and wonderment that filled the Hebrews coming out of Egypt. In exitu Israel de Egypto…
In the meantime we can snuggle peacefully like little birds under the wings of Our Blessed Saviour, repeating to Him the verses of psalm 118 that we chant in today’s Communion verse:
My soul is in Thy salvation, and Thy word have I hoped.