06 October 2006

If they listen, what do they hear?

26th Week OT(F): Job 38.1, 12-21, 40.3-5 and Luke 10.13-16
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Serra Club Mass and Church of the Incarnation, Irving, TX

(NB. The preacher preaches to himself first…)

Job stands before the whirlwind and requires answers of Being Himself. He whines to the Voice who speaks the Word that snaps everything there is out of the void. He demands that I AM THAT I AM justify his suffering. And though Job suffers most immediately in his body, the true insult is to his ego, his sense of self-righteous Self. No prideful creature wants to hear the story of its proper place in the universe. What self-important Self actually wants to know where it fits in the scheme of things? Oh sure, there’s a place, but this place is a Place of My Choosing, My Plan, My Way. And the Plan unfolds according to My Timetable at the pace and intensity of My Will. I am the Master of My Circumstance! I rule My World! As I see all of creation from My Viewpoint, I am the Center of All There Is.

And God addressed Job: have you ever in your life lifted the sun over the horizon? Have you ever brought the dawn to the sky? Have you ever shaken the world to shock the wicked? Have you touched the mouth of the seas? Strolled along the abyss? Seen the gates of death, the dwelling place of darkness itself? “Where were you, Job, when I laid the foundations of the earth?” You were born before there was light and darkness, right? You were born before the boundaries of all things were made, right? You have so many years of wisdom! “Answer me, if you have understanding.” Job answers: “I will put my hand over my mouth. Though I have spoken once. I will not do so again.”

Jesus tells the Seventy that whoever will listen to them, listens to him. And whoever rejects them, rejects him. And whoever rejects him, rejects the Father, the One Who sent him. Question: those who listen to you, watch you, live with you, work with you—what do they hear you saying, see you doing? I don’t mean to make you paranoid. But you are listened to. You are watched. Daily you swirl around with others, mingle and flow and you leave an impression, an image to remember and consider. You say this and that, do this and that. And you do not say and you do not do. We all do and do not. Those who listen to you, watch you, what do they hear? What do they see?

Do they see a well-loved creature well-seasoned in humility? A man, a woman upright in the Lord, directed to His will, driven by His passion for justice, intent on righteousness in Him? Or do they see and hear insufferable whining? Self-important grief? Do they hear the great sucking sound of the universe being re-centered on your needs, your pleasures, your prerogatives? Do they see service? Good will? Mercy in militant practice? Can they obey—listen with intent—to your truly holy deeds. Not those pious, theatrical deeds—the street corner hijinks that draw cameras and kudos from religious tourists, but truly, deeply charitable works done in His name.

God’s address to Job and to us is not about making Job and us feel like dirt. Feel like puppies who have piddled on the new rug. God is not in the business of humiliating us. He is in the business, however, of telling us the truth about Who He is and who we are in relationship with Him. The truth is this: we were not there at the foundation of the world. We did not name the stars or swirl the cosmic gases or swat the comets into their paths. We did not raise ourselves from dust and breath the living word into our own bodies. We are wholly, totally, completely, down to the last atom, the most basic element, without reservation, entirely His. And if we will speak His Word and Do His Deeds, then we must, must! say with Job as he stands before the creating whirlwind: “Though I have spoken once, I will not do so again…unless it is to praise you, Lord, and to speak your holy name to all who will listen.”


  1. Fr. P.,

    Ouch. This just hit home in ways you might never have imagined.

    All glory and honor and praise be to Our Lord.



  2. Joe,

    Me too. That's why I added "The preacher preaches to himself first"!

    God bless, Fr. Philip