We thought Job was the poster child of patience
The story of Job is, among other themes, a popular story of patience.
For example, how often have we compared how one or another of us deals with some disagreeable life event to having “the patience of Job” when the event seems to not resolve itself in a timely fashion?
What did Job suffer? Loss of wealth. Loss of family. Loss of health. At one point he even loses his trust in God.
We all know how the story ends: the discourses between Job and his friends finally end when the Lord Himself intervenes:
Then the Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said: Who is this that obscures divine plans with words of ignorance? (Job 38:1–2)
In Chapter 38 God reminds them in beautiful rhetorical questioning, of how He created the heavens and the earth, and how all things work seamlessly according to His plan.
Job and his friends realize their errors, follow the Lord’s direction in making restitution, and Job is restored not only to his former wealth, health, and family but is rewarded twofold.
It turns out that Job’s patient acceptance of his afflictions is nothing in comparison to God’s patience.
Not that God suffers afflictions, mind you. The Eternal Spirit does not suffer as we know it. If, however, you consider suffering in the archaic sense as tolerating, then that is a different thing entirely.
So, too, the God of the Old Testament suffers — He tolerates. Adam and Eve sin and are punished. Somewhere between then (~4000 BC) and the coming of Abraham (~2000 BC), He has His fill of our iniquity and destroys the earth in the Great Flood.
Then again, the full measure of iniquity reached its portion in Sodom and Gomorra so that the Lord destroyed the cities. (Gen 19:1–29)
God, loving, patient, merciful God gives Abraham a glimpse of what He plans for Abraham’s descendants: The Promised Land, of course, but not until they undergo sufferings on their own:
The Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your posterity will be strangers in a land not their own; they shall be subjected to slavery and shall be oppressed four hundred years.
…In the fourth generation they shall return here; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete. (Gen 15:13–16)
Iniquity? What Iniquity?
A little run down the rabbit hole regarding iniquity brings us to the point. What was the iniquity that finally caused God to destroy the earth? What was the iniquity of the Amorites that was not complete at the time He revealed His plan to Abram? What was the iniquity of Sodom and Gomorra? What is it that God allows only to a point before He loses patience?
It is explained in Leviticus Chapter 20. In a few words, the iniquities that fill God with disgust are offerings to Moloch, divination, dishonoring your parents, and sexual immorality.
Full Measure, Yet Again
The Israelites finally make it to the Promised Land because they followed God’s game plan. All they had to do was follow it and He would make their enemies fall by the wayside. Amorites included.
Some 2000 years after Abraham and about 1400 years after settling in the Promised Land, the measure of iniquity is once again filled. God comes to us this time in the Incarnate Word.
Christ fulfills all the prophecies of the Old Testament regarding our redemption. By His life, death, and resurrection, Christ purchases for us the “rewards of eternal life”.
By this time it should be obvious to us that God dislikes sin. It is also pretty obvious that we as a species can’t help but sin.
In Christ and through Christ, God establishes a new covenant with us and through His Church, we have a framework to follow.
Orphans No Longer
The Catholic faith is a beautiful thing. If you think about it, it is far less authoritarian than the faith of the Old Testament. If you don’t believe me, read the last chapters in the book of Exodus and the entire book of Leviticus.
In there, God was very explicit in how He wanted things done and how He was to be worshipped; not to mention the penalties when there were infractions.
When Christ came to reestablish our relationship with God, He gave us so much. I for one am grateful that we no longer need to offer bloody sacrifices, guilt offerings, peace offerings, and sin offerings. Far too messy and in the end, they were not complete.
Christ left us with what was complete: the Sacrifice of the Mass, the Unbloody Sacrifice of Calvary, as the ultimate of all prayers and pretty much the summation of all the Old Testament rituals.
He instituted seven sacraments rich with graces. He sent the Holy Spirit to remain with us. With all this, a person would think we had it made; that our salvation is a slam-dunk.
We Still Have Not Learned
Here we are again, some 2000 years later, and are we in any better place than those men and women in Old Testament times? Apparently not.
One wonders just how much more there is left before the measure of iniquity reaches its fullness and our long-suffering God finally has it with us and enacts His punishment.
Abortion. Euthanasia. Human trafficking. Money. Power. Sins of the flesh.
Think about people, Catholic politicians in particular, who promote (or at the very least turn a blind eye to) these iniquities. We don’t seem to want to hold them accountable for the abominations God sees us choosing. Or ourselves.
For many walk of whom I have told you often and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is ruin, their god is the belly, their glory is in their shame, they mind the things of earth. (Philippians 3:18–19)
As pertinent as it was when St. Paul wrote this, it is even more pertinent today.
It was not the intention that my piece becomes a “Debbie Downer” especially as we continue to celebrate this glorious Paschal season. Rather, the awareness of the redemption Christ secured for us should bring peace and joy to our hearts.
At the same time, however, we cannot overlook the sorry state of our world today. Where are we to go, then, to find comfort amid the chaos?
The Church has always had a remedy for every malady that befalls our weak human nature. As we move into the month of May, a month that the Church traditionally sets aside to celebrate the great Mother of God, why not go to her?
She has certainly come to us throughout the centuries when the measure of iniquity was about to be filled. Her apparitions at Lourdes, LaSalette, Guadalupe, and especially at Fatima, whose festival is celebrated on May 13, have been both warnings and hope.
Warnings about the chastisements that will certainly be a reality should we not heed her pleas and turn away from the sins that are crying to heaven for vengeance, and those same iniquities from Biblical times which fill God with such disgust.
The hope, however, is in her Immaculate Heart. “In the end,” she tells the seers at Fatima, “my Immaculate Heart will triumph”.
God will not save us without us. It is a good thing that He gives us the weapons we need. At St. Paul says:
Therefore take up the armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day and stand in all things perfect (Ephesians 6:13)
What is the armor of God? It is truth, justice, the gospel of peace, and faith.
Where can we find such an arsenal? For me, it is found in the Catholic Church. Where else are we assured of the graces necessary not only for our salvation but for the salvation of others? How?
In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the sacraments, especially penance and Holy Communion, we find what we need to wrestle “not against flesh and blood, but against the Principalities and Powers, against the world-rulers of darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness on high”. (Ephesians 6:12)
We have Our Lord and Savior’s Mother. She, who brought forth Christ, was there throughout His years of ministry, and finally was witness to His Passion and death on the cross, became our mother as well on Good Friday.
We should do what Our Lady asks. Keep true to our daily duties of state. Pray for sinners and priests. Do acts of penance and sacrifice. I would only add that we should also adhere to the precepts of Holy Mother the Church, which have come down to us through Apostolic tradition.
Above all, “seek first the kingdom of God and his justice,” Our Lord says, “and all these things will be given you besides”. (Matt 6:33)
We should do all we can to keep that measure of iniquity from filling up. If we don’t, I can only think that the real poster child of patience (Our Lord), will finally have it with us and the repercussions will be, well, Biblical.