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Lessons from Job – 28 September 2016

It has been rather hot and sunny: yesterday was over 35 degrees and today is not much better with tropical cyclone warning issued early in the day. I have come down with flu and have forced myself to stay indoors and mostly in bed, drinking plenty of water and going to the bathroom rather often.

I have learnt not to take medicine in such conditions. I would sleep or stay in bed as often as I find it necessary. One doesn’t always fall asleep while in bed: sometimes I pray, sometimes I practice body scanning which is a form of meditation, and sometimes the mind simply wanders. For example, I kept remembering what a friend said to me, citing a sort of sage, “Go to many funerals and live a long life.” My first line response at the time was that one needs to live very long to go to many funerals, but I could have taken the sage’s advice out of context. In any case, I have found that I am going to more funerals these days anyway.  Even as I am typing away, I learnt that a world icon Israeli ex-president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shimon Peres just died, at 93.

I also recalled scripture readings in my quiet moments. The first scripture readings for Mass this week, Monday to Saturday, are taken from the Book of Job, which could easily be one of the more colourful, poetic and didactic writings in the Old Testament. It is generally believed that it was written around the seventh to fifth century B.C., and there are no clues as to the authorship. There are 42 chapters about the life of the principal character Job who was a very rich, but blameless and upright man, who feared God and always praised God. The Catholic Church may not be doing the Book sufficient justice to take simply six sections for reading in every two years, but there are so many competing passages and messages from the Bible. Chapter One sets the scene with God agreeing to let Satan do whatever he would with Job. Satan had argued that Job feared and praised God because God had given Job so many good things in life; children, animals and crops, land and riches; such that he was afraid to lose them. Well, Satan took away everything Job had and left him with nothing except some extremely bad diseases. Satan was confident that Job would turn against God, except that he did not. He continued to praise God, but prayed that he would die or that he would be allowed to see God to ask why. God’s reply did not tell him why, but reaffirmed His omniscience and omnipotence; and Job was content with the reply.  It is a lesson that Man would not understand everything he sees, but must have trust and humility before God. If only our politicians can learn some of this, the world would be a much better place. Instead our politicians are ever busy bickering and scoring points, catching sound bites wherever they can, truly believing and wanting others to believe that they are God. Back to Job, in the end, God gave him back everything and more. A central theme in the Book appears to be that even good people can and would suffer for reasons unknown. Their sufferings could well be a test of their fidelity and humility. They would be rewarded in the end if they continue to trust God.

Yes, people always want answers to everything and immediately, with no regard for privacy except their own. Even worse, they want and demand answers to what they think is happening, what they interpret as having taken place or about to take place, without making the slightest attempt to ascertain what has actually happened or whether it has happened. Those going for public offices everywhere are quick to hone their skills and play to the gallery. All these make good drama and better family viewing, and will increase TV ratings.

Talking of TV ratings, as someone whose life was once terribly intertwined with such matters, I hardly watch channel TV or primetime TV these days. I continue to read my favourite newspaper and I update myself on world news when I am doing my daily – well almost – treadmills in the gym. Sadly, Hong Kong has become a one-issue city, following most big cities, such that all other issues, most of them having much more important and with very far reaching implications, never get a chance to be discussed properly in the public domain. Is this a problem? Yes and No. It is certainly a phenomenon, something everyone needs to be aware of and needs to learn to live with, whether one likes it or not. Perhaps we all can start by reading the Book of Job.

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