“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”.
So reads today’s Offertory verse. The great enigma of history: the just man who is pleasing to God is put to the test, he loses all his goods, his family, and even his flesh is so disfigured that he is hardly recognisable.
Beyond the profound lesson this history holds for each of us in our moments of trial, and which affords us great consolation as we mount the steep steps of our own Calvary, Job, we must never forget, is a type, a prefiguration of Christ Himself. Our Lord is indeed the just man par excellence, the beloved of the Father, the holiest and most perfectly loveable of all the just. And yet it is that beloved Son whom the Father hands over to the Passion: condemnation, public outrage, flogging, capital punishment of the worst kind, death on an infamous gibbet, the place of nameless horror. Like Job, Our Lord loses all that He has in this life, He is separated from His loved ones, most of whom abandon Him in the hour of trial, He is so disfigured by His passion that the Prophet Isaiah tells us His countenance was one from which men turn away, so horrible is it to behold. God had forbade Satan from taking Job’s life, but He gives Satan power over the life of His Son. Jesus dies and disappears to the eyes of the world.
The Church is the Body of Christ. As such, she must of necessity be the object of Satanic attacks, from her birth on Calvary to the Second Coming of the Saviour. Satan seeks by every means to destroy her, to wipe her off the face of the earth, to delete from the minds of men every remembrance of her. The Church is no greater than Christ, for the servant is no greater than the Master. Christ died, and so must the Church. She must die before she can rise again. In the eyes of all, it will seem that she is gone. Her fiercest enemies will shout triumph, they will celebrate their victory, drinking up the blood of martyrs. The beast will, to all appearances, have conquered Christ.
We must keep these truths in mind when we behold the spectacle of the present crisis in the Church. We will be given the choice between martyrdom and apostasy. Already, there is a dry form of martyrdom for many sons of the Church, who are considered out of step with the times. They refuse to bend the knee before Belial, and they must pay the price. But these are just the beginning of the trials.
“Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh. … The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God’s triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgement after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 675-677)
In other words, we must brace ourselves for greater trials to come, and for that today’s Epistle is there to remind us of our weapons, which are 1) the belt of truth, 2) the breastplate of justice, 3) the shoes of the Gospel of peace, 4) the shield of faith, 5) the sword of God’s word. If we are armed with God’s eternal truth, if we keep the flame of the true faith alive, if we live according to the example Our Lord has given us in the Gospel and are truly among the just, then we have nothing to fear from the fiery traits, that is the temptations and persecutions of the devil. He will bark and hound, but he cannot bite the true servants of Christ.
And how do we know we are among those? Today’s Gospel gives us a major criteria of judgment: if we are conscious of the infinite debt we have been forgiven by God, and know how to forgive others, then we are among the true servants of Christ. We can then hope in salvation: “My soul is in Thy salvation, and in Thy word have I hoped: when wilt Thou execute judgment on them that persecute me? the wicked have persecuted me: help me, O Lord my God” (Communion verse, ps. 118).
With utter confidence we can cry out as did Mardocheus in today’s introit: “All things are in Thy will, O Lord; and there is none that can resist Thy will, if Thou decree to save us”.
Let us renew then our prayer to the Lady of the Rosary, who at Fatima promised that Her Immaculate Heart would triumph, and let us gird ourselves with spiritual weapons to wage spiritual warfare. Immortal souls are at stake, our own and those of countless others who depend upon us.