Saint Vincent de Paul dedicated most of his life to helping the poor and suffering people of Paris. One might think that 356 years after his death there would be no more poverty and suffering in the world, and yet because of human selfishness and greed, poverty and suffering continue in so many forms even today. Saint Vincent followed the example of Christ in his caring for the poor and we should do the same.
The patience of Job is proverbial. Even his name has become synonymous with that virtue. Let’s remind ourselves of what Job said yesterday when tragedy first struck and later overwhelmed him: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
But that was only his first response. It should also be the first response of all those who believe in God; it’s a statement of faith we make when pain is new, when the shock and the numbness shields us from the full measure of pain. But once that numbness subsides, people in pain begin a long journey towards healing, and even a long struggle with God. Sacred Scripture offers us no better model than Job.
For the middle 40 chapters of his story, Job argues with his friends who try to explain God’s Will to him. During that time, Job proves himself not a model of patience, but a very impatient man. But he is a model of persistence in questioning prayer. Today we hear his first complaint: “why was I born only to live and endure so much pain?”
“Why me?” has always been the cry of those who suffer. But it isn’t really a cry for explanation, for reasons just don’t satisfy. There are plenty of reasons for disease and death, for earthquakes and fires and car crashes and broken arms. Pain and suffering is simply part and parcel of being human. And should we forget that suffering is the common fate of human beings, the newspaper headlines and the evening news are never short of reminders. “Why me?” is rather a cry for understanding and for assurance that someone – that God – feels our pain and empathises with us.
We are here today because we believe that God does hear our prayers. And we gather in community: the wounded and the scarred together, to offer one another the support of our prayers and our expressions of care. Something which Saint Vincent de Paul did to great effect and whose example we should follow.