Bearers of God’s Gifts- Reflection for Mass of September 30, 2009- St. Jerome

30 Sep

Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Memorial of St. Jerome
Readings: Nehemiah 2:1-8; Psalm 137:1-6; Luke 9:57-62

Over the past two weeks, feast days excepted, the first readings have centered upon the activities of the Israelite people after the Babylonian exile. Following their conquest of the Babylonians, the Persian kings, beginning with Cyrus, were sympathetic toward Israel and allowed the exiles to return to their land and to rebuild the walls and temple of Jerusalem. (1)

Two especially important figures emerged for Israel in this period, both namesakes of books in the Bible: Ezra, a scribe and priest, (2) and Nehemiah, whom we hear from in today’s first reading. Nehemiah is shown to enjoy the company of people. Later in the book named after him he would host a banquet for “a hundred and fifty people, Jews [as well as] magistrates” of the Persian Empire. (3) He was a highly-regarded royal official of King Artaxerxes- his cup-bearer, Scripture tells us. (4) Nehemiah takes advantage of his friendship with the king, who knew that Nehemiah’s sadness at Judah’s plight was a departure from his normal disposition, (5) to ask for letters granting him passage to Judah that he might help with the construction of the temple, fortifications, and a house for himself in Jerusalem. (6)

All of Nehemiah’s requests to the king are granted, but more significantly, he attributes his success to God. (7) Nehemiah is merely God’s instrument at a pivotal point in Israel’s history. Likewise, we should understand ourselves as instruments of God, who has given us the joyful responsibility of Christian discipleship.  In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus’ three short proverbs, each told with a humourous hyperbole, are meant to show us the traits of the ideal disciple. (8) We are to emulate Jesus, the humble servant who gives His all, even a place “to lay his head.” (9) Though important, even family bonds are subordinate to our duty as followers of Christ. (10) Lastly, we are to be cheerful disciples who always look forward to future service, not back upon the already-ploughed field. (11) This looking forward is the example of Jesus, as it was that of Nehemiah and that St. Jerome, commemorated today.

St. Jerome was the translator of the Bible into Latin, the language of the common people. His Vulgate was used for centuries thereafter, and made an official Catholic Church document by the Council of Trent. St. Jerome was a skilled apologist, and defended the Church against many early heresies. He was not, unlike Nehemiah, a people person; he lived for four years in the Syrian desert. (12)

I could not help notice that I often refer to the Jerome Biblical Commentary to help with my understanding of Scripture. A Catholic newspaper that a friend of mine started in Edmonton was called “The Jerome.” This is the legacy of this saint and Doctor of the Church. He is frequently portrayed in icons with “writing materials and the trumpet of final judgement.” (13)

Like Nehemiah the cup-bearer, Jerome the bearer of Sacred Text employed his talent to serve God. Thus we, too, are called to use our many gifts. In our Mass, we are both the bearers of the Good News in the Liturgy of the Word, and bearers of the bread and wine that become for us the Body and Blood of Christ. Let us be thankful for what the Lord has given us and may our words and actions always give glory to God. Amen.



One Response to “Bearers of God’s Gifts- Reflection for Mass of September 30, 2009- St. Jerome”

  1. canadiancatholicblog September 29, 2009 at 9:42 pm #


    (1) cf. especially Ezra 1:1-4
    (2) cf. The Book of Ezra, Introduction, in The New American Bible. New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1970. Old Testament 444.
    (3) Nehemiah 5:17
    (4) Nehemiah 1:11
    (5) cf. Nehemiah 2:2
    (6) cf. Nehemiah 2:4-8
    (7) cf. Nehemiah 2:8
    (8) I addressed this triplet of hyperbolic proverbs from Luke’s Gospel in my blog article, “He Set His Face- Luke 9:51-62”.
    (9) Luke 9:58
    (10) cf. Luke 9:59-60
    (11) cf. Luke 9:62
    (12) A good short biography of St. Jerome with the details in this paragraph about his life is in the Living with Christ missalette for September, 2009. cf. Living with Christ, Large Print Edition, Vol. 15 No. 9 September, 2009. Montreal, QC: Novalis, 167.
    (13) Wikipedia article on St. Jerome,


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