Homily offered by Father Matthew C. Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity, 2019.
“I know my Redeemer lives,” Job proclaims to his interlocutors. Indeed, he is pleading to them. Immediately preceding this passage, Job says, “Have pity of me, have pity on me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has touched me! Why do you, like God, pursue me?” Job has become repulsive to his wine, loathsome to his relatives. All his intimate friends abhor him, and those who once loved him have turned against him. Physically he is a shell of himself, for his bones cleave to his skin and to his flesh. He feels alienated from the world, he feels a profound estrangement. He feels lost—and perhaps some of us have experienced something of this deep alienation, estrangement, and lostness.
There are some commentators on the Book of Job—which if you have never read or have not read recently, would make for excellent reading and prayer during Advent—who detect throughout the book a semi-obscured sense of creeping Pride on the part of Job, such that because of his Pride, if indeed he displays it in the story, would be occasion for God’s wrath upon him. But there is far from consensus among interpreters on this point. By my lights, Job is how he was described by God himself: a servant of God, none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil. And so what befalls him is simply a test from God. God allows these difficulties to occur, even invites Satan in the opening sequences of the book to have at it, try to turn Job from me. I do not think you will succeed, but do not believe me, God is saying, see for yourself.
Why does God allow Satan to make life difficult for Job? It is because God trusts Job to be able to handle the burdens and remain faithful to God. And so why does God allow difficulties to come upon us in our life? It is for the same reason: He trusts us that we can handle the burdens, and no matter how onerous and challenging our circumstances, that we are capable of remaining faithful. God, our loving God Almighty, made us in His image and likeness. Because of our tendency toward selfishness portrayed in the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden, our active likeness to God—that is our virtuous life of faith, hope, and charity—is disfigured and distorted and without God’s grace is lost to us. But we have never lost God’s image in us. Despite our sinfulness, we are God’s image. The Greek word for image is “icon.” So we are the icon of God.
And because of that, God trusts that we can endure. God trusts that when we fall, we will turn to Him and by His grace stand up again. God believes that, when we find ourselves in such a bad place that we wonder will I ever get out of this? Is this as good as it gets?—that His love for us will overcome our darkness; that His love for us will be a light leading us from the dead end; that His love for us will give us the sense of direction that leads us back to Him.
And why? Because our God is not God of the dead, but of the living, as our Lord Jesus taught the Sadducees. All live to Him, He taught. The impulse to live to God is part of the image He gave us that we can never lose. The spark to hunger and thirst for righteousness—that is, hunger and thirst for right relationship with God—is part of the image He gave us that we can never lose. God, our God, our wonderful God, knows that His love wins, because His love must win—His love is heavenly. His love is mercy. His love is true healing. His love is true nourishment. His love is true peace and unity of the heavenly city where the triune God lives and reigns.
God knows that if we want to live, we will find Him, either in this life or the next life to come. Being His image—being His icon—by His grace we will seek to be reformed back into His likeness: that, we He shall appear again with power and great glory, we may be made like unto Him in His eternal and glorious kingdom.