February 10, 2015

A Tale of Two Commentaries


Interesting (to me at least) to compare and contrast the opinions of a theologian (Balthasar) and a Bible scholar (Henry Wansbrough) on this past Sunday's reading from Job (chapter 7): 
“Military service” is what the patient Job calls mans life on earth in the first reading. Man is no lord, but a “slave who longs for the shade”, no employer (the employer is God) but a “hired hand”. This is a general characterization of human, mortal, life. Christ and his Apostles do not contradict this description of human life. The “restlessness” that Job speaks of simply becomes the unrestrainable zeal to work for God and his Kingdom, whether through external activity or involvement in prayer.  -- Hans Urs von Balthasar
Contrast it with Henry Wansbrough's approach:
In the whole three-year cycle there are only two Sunday readings from the lovely and tragic Book of Job. The Book puts at its most acute the problem of sickness and suffering: why should I suffer? Job has lost everything, wealth, family, health. He sits on a rubbish heap, scratching his sores with a broken pot. In this passage, he gives a painful picture of the sick person’s frustration, the slow and pointless passage of time, the crazy, distorted imaginings. He feels that God is oppressing him, but yet clings to God as his one hope of release.
Undeserved sickness and death is worrying for anyone who believes in a loving God. On the natural plane, sickness is a reminder that things are out of order and could get worse. To the believer, it is a reminder that this brilliant, complicated, sophisticated creation cannot continue developing for ever, but must return to God in God’s own good time. As Jeremiah explains, the pot cannot complain to the potter: ‘Why did you make me like this?’ But couldn’t a loving God have made something so that it never went wrong? Or is it the consequence of our revolts against God that confidence in God has given way to fear and mistrust?

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