September 30, 2017
by Eileen Burke-Sullivan
Creighton University's Division of Mission and Ministry
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of Saint Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 454

Zechariah 2:5-9, 14-15a
Jeremiah 31:10, 11-12ab, 13
Luke 9:43b-45

Praying Ordinary Time

There are many comments in Christian history about how challenging it is to live with, or to live in close friendship with, a saint.  Recognized saints – those who have been officially canonized by the Church or, in earlier times, acclaimed by the people of a city or a whole geographical region, are men and women who in this life were so focused on God and the Kingdom of God that they make people of ordinary holiness uncomfortable.  Jerome, however, is in a different category.  He was considered difficult to live with because he was, by all reports, difficult; truly cranky, and often very rude.  In fairness, lots of historical water has gone under many bridges since Jerome lived in this world, and anyone’s reputation can be tarnished by the harsh criticism of enemies in writing, even or especially, over centuries.  One problem for Jerome, however, is that some of the other great saints of his own time found him difficult to deal with.

So how did such a cranky, biased, abusive person become recognized by the Church as a Saint?  One reason certainly is that he put his extraordinary gifts of knowledge of language and culture to the service of the Church in translating the Scriptures. He profoundly loved the Scriptures, and not only translated them, but wrote magnificently about them – opening them for men and women across the centuries by his insights.

Most famously, Jerome translated the entire collection of the Old Testament and the New Testament books from original languages into what had become the common language of the Roman Empire, Latin.  Jerome knew that people needed to study the scriptures in their own languages if it was going to become part of their heart and soul, so he spent many years of his life undertaking a thorough translation – placing the texts into Latin so clear that even the poor could understand the meanings.

Today’s readings are some that might not have needed so much interpretation as Jerome was capable of offering.  The first reading from the Prophet Zechariah, reminds us that God is with us.  God surrounds us and offers us the Divine love and guidance through the relationships and challenges of our lives.  Even if we live in a big city, God will surround us and care for us, each and every one.

As I prayed with this reading I was reminded of an older Monk I met one October at a Monastery in outstate New York, that was out in the “country” (Yes, there really are rural areas in New York!).   This very wise old man was kindly speaking to me about God’s care.  He suggested that God is like the other monks who want to take care of the deer who came down from the higher hills to the monastery grounds in the bitter cold winters. The deer will run if they think anyone is near, so the monks had to be silent and virtually invisible as they slipped around the pastures that the deer frequented leaving food and hay.  “Like God’s self with us, the monks are like gossamer veils wound round the pastures, but never really seen and certainly never heard,” he told me. “Just as God acts toward us.  Although invisible and silent God is closer than our own breath; sheltering us, protecting us, gently keeping us from doing the worst possible things to ourselves in our ignorance and silliness.”

As the autumn season begins in this northern part of the world, I am reminded again of the kind eyes of the Old Monk, that filled with tears as he spoke of God’s love for us, and the analogous love of his brothers for the deer. 

The Gospel reminds us of something Ignatius repeated: “always remember God’s grace in times of desolation, and remember the difficult prayer times when things are going well.”  In today’s short passage from Luke we hear that Jesus’ mission seems to be most successful, and surely the apostles were thrilled about that – they were backing a winner!  But “while they were amazed with his deeds” Jesus gives them the hard news: he will be handed over to the enemy and brought low.  The last line of the short text speaks for many of us.  The apostles didn’t know what he was talking about, and they were afraid to ask.

I don’t know about you – but too many times I have been confused about what Jesus is trying to tell me, and I often frightened to stay with the difficult prayer to find out what it might really mean.  As September slides into October and the final quarter of this year of 2017, it would be important for us all, writers and readers alike of these reflections, to pray for one another that we WILL understand God’s desires for us, and will never be afraid to turn to the love that surrounds us, and count of the Divine Fidelity – in every situation.

May your harvests of blessings be rich indeed this fall in the northern hemisphere, and may your planting and growing be fruitful in the south as you head into springtime, may all of us remember that God is near as a gossamer veil surrounding us with care.

Click on the link below to send an e-mail response
to the writer of this reflection.

Sharing this reflection with others by Email, on Facebook or Twitter:

Email this pageFacebookTwitter

Print Friendly

See all the Resources we offer on our Online Ministries Home Page

Daily Reflection Home

Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook