Wednesday, 30 September 2020 : 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, on this day we heard of the words of Job, the suffering servant of God, as he described the vastness of God’s majesty and power, His infinite greatness and the absoluteness of His will. And we heard how Job lamented and stated just how small and insignificant he was amidst all those things. In the grander scheme of things, whatever Job had experienced, was nothing but a tiny drop in the vast ocean.

To understand all these, we must see it in the context of Job’s great suffering. Job had lost everything that was dear to him, all his possessions and even his beloved family, all in one fell swoop as Satan struck at him to try to make him abandon his faith. Job however remained faithful even when Satan tried harder and struck at his health, making itchy and painful boils to appear all over his body.

Job remained faithful to God despite all of that, and he remained firm in his conviction that God was not the One Who made him to suffer, and even his personal afflictions could not sway him to think otherwise. Nonetheless, all these, coupled with the fact that some of his companions argued that Job must have committed serious sin to have deserved such punishment, as at the time, afflictions as suffered by Job were often seen as the sign of divine punishment and displeasure.

That was why Job despaired and uttered such words, as he desired to be helped by God and to be freed from his sufferings, but he thought that it was by his own fault that he has deserved all of those, and thus, with lamentation, he accepted his fate humbly, to suffer and remain obedient to God. Contextually we also need to realise that this was from a time when the fullness of truth of God’s providence has not been revealed yet.

Most importantly, we see how Job, although he was suffering and beset by many troubles, friends who abandoned him and even accused him of wrongdoing, he remained committed to God and to righteousness. And he blamed neither God nor the others for his misfortunes. And this is what each and every one of us need to take note of as we respond to God’s call highlighted to us in the Gospel today.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to those who followed Him and desired to follow Him what it means for all of them to follow Him and being His disciples. While it might seem that the Lord was very harsh when He said that those who have chosen to follow Him and looked back were not fit for the kingdom of God, and how He said that those who died ought to be left on their own to be buried, the Lord in fact wanted to emphasise and highlight that to be His follower is something that requires commitment from us, and that we may even have to make sacrifices at times.

Like Job, we must have faith and trust in God even when we have nothing left with us. If we still put our trust and depend on worldly attachments, then it will be difficult for us to endure in the path as Christians. It does not mean that we must literally abandon everything and leave all behind as those who followed the Lord had done. Rather, it is the attachment, excessive and unhealthy desires and temptations for worldliness that we must rid ourselves from.

Today, we should also look upon the inspiration and example showed by St. Jerome, one of the great Church fathers and one of the original Doctors of the Church. This year is also significant as this feast day today celebrating St. Jerome marked the sixteen centuries that had passed from his passing, and his contributions to the Church and the Christian faithful cannot be underestimated.

St. Jerome was particularly remembered for his compilation of the Latin translation of the Greek Septuagint Bible, which at that time had been the canon of the Scriptures of the Church. This Latin translation is known as the Latin Vulgate Bible, written in the contemporary or Vulgar Latin, and became the basis for many future versions of the Sacred Scriptures.

However, what was not often known was how St. Jerome was quite promiscuous and hedonistic in his youth, experiencing all sorts of worldly pleasures when he was still a pagan student of philosophy. But after years of discovery and journey, his conscience eventually led him to convert to the Christian faith and renounce all of us his past sinful ways of life. And St. Jerome devoted himself deeply into the study of the Scriptures, from which eventually would stem his works in the Latin Vulgate among many other writings.

St. Jerome also became an ascetic, spending his life in secluded cave where the Lord and Saviour Himself was born, in Bethlehem, for the rest of his life in the intellectual pursuit of faith, writing many treatises and writings on the matter of the faith that still influenced many even to this day. The life and works of St. Jerome is an inspiration for us, that as Christians we should leave behind our past life of attachments to worldly pleasures and instead seek to follow God with a new heart filled with faith.

Let us all discern our lives’ path going forward as we remember the story of Job, his sufferings and despite of all those, continuing to be faithful to God. And let us all be inspired by the story of the life and faith, the conversion and the dedication of St. Jerome, and strive to be holy and dedicated to God as he had done. May the Lord bless us always, and be with us, now and always. Amen.

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