St Therese of the Child Jesus

Job rose and tore his gown and shaved his head. Then falling to the ground he worshipped and said:

  ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
   naked I shall return.
   The Lord gave, the Lord has taken back.
   Blessed be the name of the Lord!’

In all this misfortune Job committed no sin nor offered any insult to God.
                                         Job, Chapter 1

From you may my judgement come forth.
  Your eyes discern the truth.
You search my heart, you visit me by night.
  You test me and you find in me no wrong.
                                       Psalm 17 [16]

.               .             .

I know what to say about the Psalm: this is a picture of Christ’s righteousness.

Or is it? Job appears (in the first reading) in much the same way. If we begin at the beginning of Job, we find that his righteousness is so significant that it becomes a topic for discussion in heaven. Before he lost everything, he had a great deal: great wealth and a large family. He made regular sacrifices to God, for himself and for his children, to maintain that famous righteousness. He had a great deal; he had a great deal to lose. How would Job behave toward God if he had nothing to lose? Exactly the same way: righteously.

Job stands as a reminder that holiness is not merely the province of the Word made flesh. Although the righteousness of Jesus is the source of our own, we are urged to ‘put on Christ’. And the good works have been prepared for us, not so that we may sit down on the sofa and put our feet up, but so that we may walk in them. Finding ourselves in Christ’s righteousness, so to speak, is what makes it possible for us to get up and walk. Without the knowledge that the voice of the psalm is Christ’s, and we pray it only as we stand in Christ, we would miss the point, to be sure.

The knowledge that our sins are covered over, that our righteousness comes from Christ, and not from us, truly is healing balm for the sin-sick soul. My soul, so restored, does not continue to lie, as it were, by the waters of Bethsaida, however. I rise, and try again to maintain that cleanness of heart that is mine by God’s gift, Christ’s work, and the presence of the Holy Spirit within me.

Saint Therese points the way forward: to take my place in the company of pilgrims, and to love. Knowing that I may stumble should not cause me to take my eyes off the goal; knowing that Christ has already raised me up again gives me the confidence to keep going, to endeavor to make my own righteousness in the image of Christ’s, to say with the psalmist, ‘You test me and you find in me no wrong.’

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