Tuesday, 30 September 2014 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard how Job, the rich man who encountered great calamities because of the works of Satan to tempt him and test his faith in God, lamented about the sufferings which he had endured, and cursed that life which he had been brought to difficulties in, even to the point of cursing and regretting his own birth, a great lamentation and sorrow indeed.

But to all those who are familiar and know the Book of Job well, even though Job complained and complained about many things, and questioned about many things, but in no way that he was being directly disrespectful or insulting against God. Job also in the end realised the love which God had for him and all mankind, and was truly very sorry and repentant for all the abuses and curses which he had uttered.

And in the Gospel according to St. Luke, we heard how Jesus was proceeding to Jerusalem to embrace His mission as the Saviour of mankind, and then when He was passing by a Samaritan village, He asked for a lodging and dwelling, and was rejected because the people heard and knew that He was going to Jerusalem, the capital city of Judea and where the Jews have their centre of power.

We all should know that the Jews and the Samaritans at that time, as it had been for centuries before the coming of Christ, had been at odds and relationship between them had been stormy at best. The Samaritans feared the Jews because the Jews often mistreated them and have strong prejudice against them, and at times they had also suffered under the rule of the Jews, while the Jews themselves, puritan in nature, particularly the Pharisees, strongly condemned and looked down at the Samaritans as pagans and barbarians.

Therefore, it was likely that the Samaritans in the village refused to accept Jesus, not because of any hostile intent or malice, as what was shown by the Pharisees and the people of Israel themselves towards Jesus, but rather because of fear, uncertainty and doubt about what would happen to them, if they were to accept Jesus into their midst. Surely they were also aware that the Jews were particularly not at friendly terms with Jesus and His disciples at the time. It was after all, moments just before Jesus would carry on with His Passion and suffer death at their hands.

And notably, we should see that, Jesus did not punish them, and He even rebuked the Apostles for suggesting that the Lord should punish them for their apparent rejection of Him. This is in fact the same as what happened to Job, when his friends, fellow faithful ones of the Lord, counselled him and in a sense, persuaded him to be admonished, because they thought that Job was a sinner, and it was because of sin that he was punished. The truth was that Job was special, and he suffered not because of his sins, but rather, because he was truly faithful.

Today, we also celebrate the feast of St. Jerome, one of the great early Church fathers, and one of those who initiated the translation of the Bible from the original Greek version, the Septuagint, into a Latin version, which was more comprehensible to the Latin speaking world of the western portion of the Roman Empire, and eventually how we all know the Scriptures we have today, which are further translations from the Latin Bible written by St. Jerome, the Vulgate Bible.

St. Jerome himself once lived a pleasurable and debauched life early in his life, but soon his experiences, especially as he studied the occurrences of death in catacombs awakened him to the realities of hell to come. Thus, he atoned for his sins, and turned his energy into intellectual pursuits, working hard to study the teachings of the Lord and the teachings of His Church.

St. Jerome was indeed quite a scholar and writer, and his contributions to the Church was indeed immense. He wrote extensively, and his writings, together with his contemporary, St. Augustine of Hippo, another Doctor of the Church and important pillar of the Western Christendom, they formed the strong foundation and basis for the development of the faith and the Church in the subsequent years, including up to today.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the fact highlighted here very clearly, after we heard the Scripture and Gospel readings, as well as the life of St. Jerome, we should all realise how our Lord is great, loving and merciful. God does not desire our destruction and suffering, but rather our prosperity and happiness. That is why He will never punish us without good reason, and more often than not, the suffering we encounter in life, was because of the works of Satan and his agents, as well as from ourselves.

It is indeed our wickedness and our lack of faith which caused us to suffer, because these separate us from the love and harmony of God, and we end up to dwell in the darkness of sin and evil, and it is this darkness that cause us suffering, and if we are not careful, we risk losing ourselves completely and fall into eternal damnation together with Satan and his angels.

Clearly this is not what we want. Therefore, let us all today vow to renew our faith to the Lord, and show it through concrete action, so that through our words and deeds, we may bring glory to God and show all those who see us, how great and loving is our God, and how merciful He is to forgive us from all our sins. May all of us be freed from the suffering of evil and this world, and be led into a new life in perfect happiness and joy of the Lord. Amen.

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