Summary: We must remain faithful, as Christ is faithful, and allow even our sufferings to be united to His.
Celebration of St. Jerome
September 30, 2008
There’s an unintentional irony in the use of these readings from Job and Psalm 88 on the memorial of St. Jerome. Job, sitting on his compost heap scratching his boils, is longing for death, to go down into the depths of the earth. The psalmist, probably in similar trouble, feels like he’s in the depths of the pit, surrounded by darkness. The irony is that if you go to Bethlehem, as we did three years ago, you can celebrate Eucharist in St. Jerome’s cell, where he translated the Sacred Scriptures into Latin. To get there, you go down into a cave in the depths of the earth, not far from the cave where Jesus was born. So Jerome translated the Word into the people’s language just a few meters from where the Eternal Word was first revealed to the world. The difference is, of course, that the birth of Jesus finally gave suffering some meaning, some cosmic significance. When we suffer, we suffer with Christ, whose sufferings and death brought redemption to the world.
The psalmist also tells us that his companions shun him, that he has become a thing of horror to them, that he feels shut in and cannot escape. Luke sets this scene in Samaria just a few days after the Transfiguration, where Jesus spoke with Elijah and Moses about his coming Passover. Luke tells us here that Jesus’s face was firmly set toward his own Passover in Jerusalem. He knew God’s will for Him–to draw all to Himself through his passion, death and Resurrection–and he was determined to do it. Because such a thing would be the death of their own dreams of conquering Rome and restoring an earthly kingdom, his disciples tried to stop Him. Because it involved what the Samaritans considered the heretical Temple of Jerusalem, they wouldn’t help Him. Ultimately all but His mother and the Beloved Disciple would abandon Him to His untimely but life-giving death. But Christ would remain faithful, as the Father was faithful.
Here in this Eucharist we celebrate Christ’s faithfulness, and we participate in it. Without His grace, we are in a dark hole, we have no hope. But with the grace of Christ, given through His Body and Blood, we not only hope for our own salvation, but for the Holy Spirit to work through us to draw many more to Christ and His Church. We hope for the power to follow the plan of God for our lives, and be happy and attractive to our companions even in the midst of trouble.