“One who dislikes Christ’s Commandments is more than Christ’s adversary; he is anti-Christ.” ~ Saint Jerome
Provocative words kick off today’s Reflection, spoken by the man whose Memorial we celebrate, the sapient Priest and Doctor of our Church Saint Jerome. This was a grumpy man, one who habitually made enemies and was never one to mince words or soft-peddle the unchanging and everlasting truth of the Gospel. One of his more famous quarrels was with fellow future Doctor of the Church Saint Augustine https://discover.hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Saint-Augustine-and-the-Scenic-Route-to-Sainthood, who took umbrage with his interpretation of Paul and Peter’s confrontation as captured in Galatians 2:11-13. Legend has it they exchanged very heated letters for years. Saint Jerome’s living and tender love for the written word of God however, as proclaimed in this morning’s Collect Prayer and thus the inspiration for the title of today’s Reflection, would ultimately become his legacy.
A prolific scripture scholar, essayist, and one of only 36 Doctors of the Church, Saint Jerome is most well known for undertaking the arduous task of translating the first official text of sacred scripture from its original Hebrew into Latin. At the time, throughout Europe, Latin was the most common language. As such, he opened the gateway to the Word of God for all Christians. Medieval Europe learned to read, pray, and reason by virtue of the very pages of the Bible that were translated by Saint Jerome. In his 1920 encyclical entitled Spiritus Paraclitus, written in support of the life and work of Saint Jerome, Pope Benedict XV began with these words:
“Since the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, had bestowed the Scriptures on the human race for their instruction in Divine things, He also raised up in successive ages saintly and learned men whose task it should be to develop that treasure and so provide for the faithful plenteous "consolation from the Scriptures." Foremost among these teachers stands St. Jerome. Him the Catholic Church acclaims and reveres as her "Greatest Doctor," divinely given her for the understanding of the Bible.”
Although irascible and at times impetuous, particularly in defense of the faith, Jerome’s profound knowledge of scripture coupled with his uncanny ability as an interpreter of text makes him every bit as enduringly relevant today as he was 1,601 year ago. How perfectly fitting is today’s 1st Reading (Nehemiah 8:1-4, 5-6, 7-12) wherein we revisit the prophet Ezra as he addresses the Israelites upon their return from the Babylonian exile. We’re told that Ezra “read plainly from the book of the law of God, interpreting it so that all could understand what was read.”
Jerome died on this day, September 30th, in the year 420 in Bethlehem near the grotto of the Nativity of our Lord. “Be ever engaged,” he would often say, “so that whenever the devil calls he may find you occupied.” Scripture was Saint Jerome’s divine occupation, his ticket to paradise where he will forever reside in the rarefied air of the Communion of Saints.
We too must take a page from Saint Jerome and foster a living and tender love for Sacred Scripture. Oftentimes you’ll hear people say “I never hear God talking to me.” Never will you hear this from someone who reads scripture on a daily basis. It was Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who said “The diligent reading of sacred scripture, accompanied by prayer, brings about the intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking. And in praying, responds to the one who is speaking, responding with an openness of heart.”
Incorporating daily scripture into one’s life is vital. Want a homework assignment? Read the Acts of the Apostles tonight. Tomorrow night begin to delve into the Psalms and the Prophets, John’s Gospel perhaps. These passages aren’t merely insignificant letters written 2,000+ years ago but instead life giving knowledge given to us by God today. Saint Jerome would often tell those who sought his spiritual guidance to “Read assiduously and learn as much as you can. Let sleep find you holding your Bible, and when your head nods, let it be resting on the sacred page.”
Saint Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church, pray for us.