|Memorial of St. Jerome
Psalm 17:1, 2-3, 6-7
Given our Nation's history in the past year I am more drawn to Job than to the Gospel. Today we begin the story of Job, part of what is called Wisdom Literature in the Old Testament. Remember Genesis and Deuteronomy when God says if you obey all will be OK? Well, Wisdom Literature balances this off with a story of a man who obeys perfectly and suddenly nothing is ok. The story is not meant to explain what or who causes suffering (I’m not of the God is punishing us school when things go wrong) but explains what to do when there is suffering—deepen your faith—or, more properly, allow your faith to be deepened. We are told that in all his suffering Job did not sin or speak against God, instead he prays “blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Easier said than done, at least in my case (I’m Ray, not Job).
I was quite struck by the turn to religion in the wake of the September 11th bombings. We were sitting pretty just like Job and then out of the blue (literally) disaster of before unrealized proportion struck. In Omaha the churches were full and people prayed and wept. A month later the churches commemorated the event and they were hardly full. Pretty soon we were back to the usual folks in church and our usual way of life outside the walls.
I think we naturally turn to faith in disasters. This is proper. But sometimes when the disaster passes we turn away from faith and move back to the same patterns. I’m not suggesting that we encourage disaster or live in disaster but perhaps we need to learn from disaster and allow it literally to “move” us further in faith. And allow it to help us to stay there.
Today is also the feast of St. Jerome. One story I heard about him, although I don’t know if it’s true, is that his comment on today’s scripture and Jesus’ suggesting we be as little children was that Jesus probably did not know children very well or he would not have used them as an example as, in Job’s opinion, they tend to be capricious and disobedient! That probably says more of Jerome or the person who made up the story in honor of Job, if indeed it is a story, than it does about children!
Jesus tells us those who are not against us are for us. God is for all of us, no matter our faith, features or faculties. We create stories where God “gets someone” but in fact God is loving, so loving that we are endowed with free will and God loves all peoples. We can look for those who are for us or those who are against. I’m not suggesting we be naïve about real national threats but I suggest we look to alliances and the good in dealing with evil. We also need to look to commonalities not difference. Devout Hindus, Jews, Muslims, practitioners of traditional Native religious are just that, devout. Here is our commonality, faith in the Divine and devotion. In a secular world such as ours we are often tempted to seek the Divine when all else fails. Job was rooted in the Divine before anything failed and his roots of faith were the only things that did not fail him.
Jesus tells us the least shall be the greatest. Reconciliation
means that we give up something on both sides and make ourselves less.
When we are less we are more open to faith—witness September 11th.
Let us not fool ourselves into forgetting our losses and leaving our faith
now that things are seemingly back to normal. Let us be mindful also
that in many parts of the world, back to normal is a distant memory and
oft fading hope. Let us not fool ourselves into fantasizing that
disasters are God’s doing and we can do nothing. Let us not fool
ourselves into thinking we can do everything. Events disastrous and
triumphant must lead us to deeper faith and help keep us there. It
is in the healing and learning that the hand of God is truly present—there
to guide us and there to remain—if we allow it.
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