Our readings open with the story of Job. At the very beginning the narrator cleverly draws us into this ancient epic tale. Opening with the Lord calling the angels together, the story-teller then presents Satan not as the demon of later writers, but as a sort of black sheep of the family, who manages to get to the gathering and present himself to the Lord. What ensues is like a conversation on a boardwalk bench in Brooklyn’s Coney Island.
With his elbow the Lord nudges Satan, "Have you noticed my boy Job? How good he is, how exceptional he is? No one like him, eh? Have you noticed?"
"Is it for nothing that he’s so good?" scoffs Satan. "Haven’t you lavished him with every blessing, and protected him and his from the slightest breeze? In these conditions he’s to be congratulated? Let me have him for a week – then we’ll see how good your boy is. Exceptional? Just a week, we’ll see."
The Lord agrees – the contest is on. That first day Satan delivers four swift blows to Job, one right after the other. The Sabeans steal his cattle and kill his herdsman; a lightening storm kills all his sheep and shepherds; the Chaldeans carry off his camels and put the tenders to the sword; and finally a tornado kills all his sons and daughters. Job is forced to his knees; prostrate, he says, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!" "In all this, Job did not sin," the narrator tells us. (The Book of Job is read all this week. Tune in tomorrow for the next chapter.)
In the second reading we move into a very human factual story about the disciples and Jesus. The disciples are arguing among themselves about which of them is the greatest. We can try to imagine how Jesus must have felt: how tired, how disappointed, how frustrated with their failure to grasp what his mission was all about. Teacher that he was, he didn’t reprove them, didn’t rebuke them. He simply placed a child by his side, and looking at them, told them that whoever receives this child, receives him, and further, that whoever receives him, receives the One who sent him. The message is both clear and profound – something for them to ponder quietly, alone, in prayer . . . and something for them to discuss among themselves after they have pondered it. "For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest."
An undercurrent of how much God truly loves us runs through both these readings. Today is the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, who died at 24 of tuberculosis in a small Carmelite convent. Through her "Little Way" she lived her short life with the loving simplicity of a child who knew in faith, often without consolation, that God loved her. May she now obtain for us the grace of becoming more and more like that small child.
Br. Peter A. Fitzpatrick, CFX, a Xaverian Brother, is a Passionist Associate at Ryken House, across the creek from the Passionist Monastery, in Louisville, Kentucky.