The Scriptures assigned for this week’s daily Masses have been excerpts from the Old Testament Book of Job. The Book of Job is taken from the section of the Bible called “wisdom literature”. The texts of “wisdom literature” correlate the truths of God’s revelation with the great questions provoked by human experience- what does God ask of us and why? What does it mean for God to be God and for us to be creatures? How is one to live in a manner that is pleasing to God? What does it mean to be a creature who suffers and dies? The Book of Job is unique in terms of the wisdom literature of the Bible because it explores these kinds of questions by taking a folk tale about a man who suffers terrible misfortunes and using that story as a means to present an elegantly crafted, poetic treatise about both the mystery of God and the mystery of human suffering. It is very difficult to understand what the Book of Job is all about by simply reading through the fragments of the text that are given to us in Church’s lectionary, but what we can learn is that the Bible does not evade the hard questions about the raw facts of life. The Bible is not a book of fantasy literature that enables us to escape from reality, rather, the Bible is an immersion in the fullness of what it means to be human, casting the light of God’s revelation into the shadows of everything that cannot be easily explained. In today’s excerpt from the Book of Job, poor Job, who has lost everything, confronts God with his terrible miseries- why does he suffer so? Why do we suffer so? The answer given is terrible to behold as the divine presence reveals itself in a horrifying whirlwind and Job, staring into that maelstrom, realizes how he is just one small, part of a divine plan and that God’s will and purposes will be realized whether he suffers or whether he prospers. In other words, it is not the answer we want to hear, but it is an answer that is offered within the limits of the Old Testament revelation, a revelation that only anticipates, but does not yet know the revelation of God in Christ. In Christ, Job’s protests are answered, not with a voice from a whirlwind, but from the cry of God in Christ from the cross. God’s ultimate answer to the reality of our suffering is to enter into it himself, and in doing so, demonstrate, not only his love for us, but that his power can take all the suffering that the world can produce and transform it into a way that leads to him. God in Christ delivers and redeems us not from the reality of suffering, but through it. Thus, the image of the crucified Savior is esteemed in our worship and in our churches, not as some kind of totem, or as a symbol of a martyr dying for a cause, but as God’s own mysterious answer to the questions provoked by our sufferings and our deaths. Whether one accepts God’s answer is a matter of faith, but whether we accept it or not, it is the truth- it is God’s revelation. This is why the refusal of the cross by so many Christians who should know better is so profoundly problematic, an unwillingness to display the cross, or even mention the cross, because in their misunderstanding, they find the cross “depressing”. This aversion to the cross is evident in so many funerals, which replace the truth of the cross of Christ with “celebrations of the life of the deceased.” So sad. So very sad. The refusal of the cross, to look upon it, leaves us without God in Christ’s answer to our suffering- it leaves us without the revelation of God’s love in the midst of the hard facts of life and staring alone into the incomprehensible maelstrom that left Job in the dust of his misery.