The first reading on this 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time is a short section from the book of Job. Job is an extraordinary book and you probably already know the story well. Job is an affluent fellow who experiences devastating losses in wealth, health and family. Job is rightly puzzled by his predicament and today we hear a short section whereby Job converses with one of his friends.
In the seminary, I was fortunate enough to have an initiative and gifted scholar from America who helped our class navigate the wide expanse that is the book of Job. Our professor cleverly paired Job, an ancient text from the Hebrew scriptures, with the modern-day movie by the Coen brothers, A Serious Man (2009).
The protagonist in the movie, A Serious Man is a fellow named Larry. Larry is by all accounts a modern-day Job. At the start of both texts, the protagonists have all the trappings of the material world. The parallel continues as both Larry and Job fall triumphantly from grace. In the midst of their respective experiences, both suffer tremendously. Thus, both texts enviably ask the big question; what is the role of suffering in the world? And, where is God in suffering? Larry, like Job, learns that suffering has a purgatory and humbling effect that can provide a new perspective on life and one's relationship with God. In the ending of A Serious Man, a mysterious whirlwind ironically gives the character of Larry hope because in his ‘Jobian' world he yearns to be answered, as Job was, "the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind" (Job 38:1).
The wisdom revealed to both Job and Larry is true for us as well. That is, you are never alone in your suffering. Suffering is not proof of the absence of God as; "nothing can separate us from the love of God" (Rom 8:39). Jesus is Emmanuel, which means, God is with us.