If the Bible were written in our time, the Book of Job would read something like this:
Once there was a man named Job, who loved God and who was free from guilt or shame. One day the Devil spoke to God and said, “Does Job not have good reason to love God? For he enjoys great riches and excellent health. Do you think he will continue to love you and carry good thoughts in his heart if he has to suffer?” And God said to the Devil, “Very well. We shall put Job to the test.”
The next day Job woke up in intense pain and began to suffer all manner of illness. Shortly thereafter the man whom Job loved also began to suffer intense pain and all manner of illness. And the man whom Job loved soon died. And Job was overcome with grief.
The friends of Job provided him with rare and precious medicines, and even though Job continued to suffer pain and sickness, he did not die. But the medicines were costly, and Job’s wealth steadily diminished.
And the friends of Job said to him, “It is because you have sinned before God that God has punished you so severely. For you have lain with man and incurred God’s wrath.”
So Job found comfort with a woman. She was dark and comely. She lacked access to wealth or knowledge, but her heart was filled with love. And this woman too began to suffer intense pain and all manner of illness. And the woman whom Job loved soon died. And once again Job was overcome with grief.
So the friends of Job said to him. “It is because you have sinned before God that God has punished you so severely. For you have lain with woman and incurred God’s wrath.” And Job was very confused.
And Job sought further companionship, and his lovers lay with men and they lay with women. And those who had wealth and knowledge were able to control the disease in themselves and to prevent it in others. But those who lacked wealth and knowledge spread the disease to those they loved and died themselves shortly thereafter.
And the friends of Job said that those who suffered were sinners who incurred God’s wrath for their evil ways. So people were beset with guilt and shame and did not seek for diagnosis or treatment. And the disease spread around the world, fueled by stigma against those who were different or powerless. So God wept bitter tears of grief and remorse for the folly of his creatures.
And children were born with the disease and the friends of Job said that the children were sinners being punished for their evil ways. So once again God wept.
And Job strove to educate people about the disease. But the friends of Job said that he was a sinner and those who suffered deserved to suffer. And again, God wept.
Finally Job called out to God, “How can you allow your creatures to suffer so? Why have you allowed this pandemic to spread?”
And God called out to Job from the whirlwind: “Who are you to question my ways? Where were you when your friends and other false prophets preached their poisonous message of hatred? Why have you allowed them to stigmatize those who most need a helping hand and a loving heart? Do you too believe that I want to punish my creatures for loving their fellow man and their fellow woman? What have you done to rescue the downtrodden from guilt and shame? Why have you not taught them how much they deserve love from their Maker, from their fellow human beings, and especially from themselves? Why have you not educated them about this disease? And what will you do in the days to come to unite all who praise my name to eradicate the plague, to heal the afflicted, to comfort the grieving, and to safeguard the vulnerable?”
And Job said unto God, “No longer do I doubt your goodness. For now I understand that those who walk your ways open their hearts to those who are afflicted, while only fools and those with hearts of stone would blame the victims for their suffering.”
And God restored Job’s wealth a hundredfold. And Job used his wealth to establish programs for education, prevention, and treatment of HIV/AIDS. And the friends of Job repented their evil ways and offered comfort and support to all who suffered.
Then peoples of all faiths joined together with you and with me and with all assembled here today in a prayer of comfort and healing for those who are afflicted:
May Divine goodness manifest in those who love you and care for you.
May Divine healing energy penetrate every pore of your body, bring you comfort, and restore your health and your spirit.
May Divine wisdom fall upon those who develop new medications, and upon the physicians and healers responsible for your care.
May Divine spirit pervade your soul, enabling you to love yourself, nourish yourself, have faith in yourself, and achieve what you were put on this earth to accomplish.
And may Divine mercy enable you to beat the odds and bless you with comfort, longevity, and peace.
And let us say Amen.