It is a universal experience. A one person feels it in his aching bones, another feels it in his broken heart. One goes through it in his mature years while the other sustains it in his tender years of life. It is the common lot of all humanity and one that unites people in one destiny – rich and poor, powerful and lowly, educated and unlettered, strong and weak. The readings today point to this earthly phenomenon – pain and suffering in life.

The Book of Job details the blessings of Job’s early life, the travails that followed and the unthinkable sufferings that conspired against his happiness and well-being, and the redemption of his situation by the sheer grace of God. This is the most direct biblical text trying to find a solution to the problem of evil. If God is good, why is there suffering in the world? If suffering has something to do with sin, why is it that good people too, suffer?

Who among us cannot identify with the struggles of Job? We too have our portion of misery, troubles, sickness, injustice or misfortune. In dealing with life’s painful episodes, people have lost their minds, claimed their own lives, fell addict to substances, and renounced their faith. The Book of Job did not end with a definite answer or final solution to the question of evil. It merely succeeded in bringing to the fore the sentiments of suffering humanity.

Suffering may indeed fall into the realm of mystery. But it is not beyond the influence of God. The response of God to suffering is not what we might expect from our idea of an omnipotent and compassionate deity. It is not eradication, not banishment, not dissolution of suffering that God saw as the most appropriate response to pain. Rather it is accompaniment, embrace, and salvation. The gospel today shows Jesus not primarily as healer but friend of those who languish in bodily misery.

I remember a recent conversation with a friend, which is a good way to understand the suffering we may be going through today. He said: the pilgrimage may be long and dark; the destiny may be uncertain. But one thing alone is sure – the Companion. In Christ, we have somebody who shares our anxieties, wipes away our tears, and embraces our pain.

Dear Jesus, friend of all those who suffer, come and walk with us. Come, be our comfort. Amen.

(natatanging pagbati sa mga tagasubaybay na pinoy ofw… kasama kayo sa aming panalangin…)