Carlos Caso-Rosendi

There is something in Catholic doctrine called “temerary talk” a sin many fall into when grieving heavy losses. Years ago when I lost everything and I contemplated some false friends and acquaintances taking advantage of my newly acquired penury, I wandered dangerously close to that particular sin. A good friend, and a priest helped me out through those sad days when I would see all dark. I thought often of Chesterton’s “nightmare” The man who was Thursday a dream-like work where the author appears to present God and the Anti-God as the same person, Sunday a dark Chief Anarchist who is also the Chief of Police.

Job understands that God cannot be unjust. Unlike me, he knows that from the beginning. One of the root principles of the Universe is the principle of non-contradiction. It makes no sense to accuse God of being unjust because that would be automatically invoking a higher source of justice, then God would be not God but that mysterious higher source. What separates us from falling into that error is the evidence of God’s creation with its beauty, complexity, and mysteriousness. Many an atheist scientist has been converted as their road to Damascus winds through the deep mechanisms of natural creation. Job is wiser than them. Job concludes there is a higher way of understanding his   situation, he humbly recognizes his limitations but when he is about to fall, when the pain is about to break his fragile human nature … God appears in the whirlwind and shows Job creation, and Job understands that He must wait. Job is a circumstantial being trapped in time. God is above all circumstances, He exists both before, during, and after Job’s suffering.

Saul of Tarsus received a different treatment, perhaps because from the start he was not as humble as Job. He hurries off from Jerusalem to Damascus carrying “letters and chains” with authority to persecute Christians. Saul is not an ordinary man, he is educated under Gamaliel the great Jewish teacher of that age; Saul is also formed in the refined Greek culture of the day, well read in philosophy and the arts of his time. And he is probably proud of his intellectual prowess. Then Christ appears to him on the road as Saul travels away from Jerusalem. In his own account of the experience he tells king Agrippa:

“I was traveling to Damascus with the authorization and commission of the chief priests. At midday, along the way, O king, I saw a light from the sky, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my traveling companions. We all fell to the ground and I heard a voice saying to me in Hebrew, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goad.[1] And I said, ‘Who are you, sir?’ And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting … ’”

God also comes to Saul “in a whirlwind,” in power, to leave no doubt that He is the Lord. And then He stings the core of the man’s intellectual core with that phrase: “It is hard for you to kick against the goad!” The phrase is in Hebrew but it is exquisitely translated from Euripides’ Bacantes (§794) thus putting together the two cultural realms where the soul of the future apostle was formed. By invoking that scene of Euripides’ work, Jesus seems to compare Saul to a senseless ass. A big fall from being on the “authorization and commission of the chief priests.” In time Saul will become Paul and he will write (in chains) letters not to persecute the Christian Church but to edify her. Chains and letters remain but his pilgrimage has made an about-face and now he travels towards the heavenly Jerusalem, leaving the wisdom of Damascus behind.


Both men, Saul and Job, had to learn the divine ways by entering into a conversation with God that expands beyond their own view of existence. Experience is a brutal teacher but she is also the best teacher there is. Job learned to look forward to the blessings apart from his temporary circumstances by humbly acknowledging God’s wisdom. Saul learned to seek a New Jerusalem and gladly accepted to bear chains, and dedicate his powerful intellect to the service of the cause he used to persecute.

God cannot contradict Himself, He can be almost unbearable to our human weakness but He is not unjust. All the pain we endure, justly or unjustly, will eventually work for our own good. The ways of the Lord are mysterious indeed.

[1] “It is hard for you to kick against the goad.” This expression is often found in Greek literature and in this context signifies the uselessness and foolishness of opposing the Divine Will.