One may shudder and cringe when they hear someone mention the book of Job. Such a reaction is to be expected, as this book is on the theme of suffering. In just one day Job learns that his livestock, servants and children have all died. Job not only suffers in his circumstances and by feeling abandoned by God, but he is also rebuked by his friends. Eliphaz accuses Job of being “impatient” while Bildad and Zophar tell Job to accept what God has put before him because it is a consequence of his sinfulness. They plead with Job to turn to God in repentance. Yet Job is convinced that he is not suffering solely due to his sin. He seeks understanding for why he is being tried. In Job 32:17-19 Job is admonished again, this time by Elihu who disagrees with Job’s approach to his suffering. Elihu says to him, “I am full of words…my belly is like unopened wine, like wineskins ready to burst.” What Elihu tells Job is that he speaks the truth about why God is punishing him and that Job must admit to his sin. The disapproval that Job experiences is relentless.
As the reader, we have compassion for Job. We know that his suffering is not a direct result of his sin. It is, in fact, a sincere expression of God’s deep love and respect for him. God does not hesitate in testing him because he has a great confidence that Job will be faithful. Job’s perseverance in the midst of his trials exemplifies his radical trust in God and therefore his righteousness.
In the season of Lent, we too strive to be perseverant in prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Very soon we will recall the moment when Jesus announced the fulfillment of our righteousness. At the Easter Vigil we will have the opportunity to again renew our baptismal promises. We will be reminded of the Lord’s intimate love for us, expressed in the Sacrament of Baptism. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church baptism is described as, “God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift…we call it a gift…and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own” (1216). Just as Elihu is “full of words…like wineskins ready to burst,” so too is the Catechism. However, the Catechism points us in a different direction. It exclaims the righteousness that we have in Christ.
When one is baptized, she brings nothing of her own. As an infant is brought to the holy water font, she must be carried there by her parents. It is like winning the lottery without even knowing it! Again, the Catechism teaches us that in the Sacrament of Baptism “the sign of the cross, on the threshold of the celebration, marks with the imprint of Christ the one who is going to belong to him and signifies the grace of the redemption Christ won for us by his cross (1235).” This Easter, let us rejoice that God does not punish us, like Jobs friends thought God was punishing Job. Instead let us recognize that we have been redeemed in Christ and are God’s “most precious gift.”
Susanna Bolle is the Administrative Assistant in the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis with the Archdiocese of Saint Paul & Minneapolis as well as a full-time graduate student pursuing her degree in Pastoral Ministry. When she’s not reading and writing you can find her brewing French press coffee in her kitchen, daydreaming of sunny mornings on her porch, and reading wine labels in an effort to discover the perfect Pinot Noir.