Memorial of Saint Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church
“Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning and shown the dawn its place?”
Reading 1 JB 38:1, 12-21; 40:3-5
The LORD addressed Job out of the storm and said:
Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning
and shown the dawn its place
For taking hold of the ends of the earth,
till the wicked are shaken from its surface?
The earth is changed as is clay by the seal,
and dyed as though it were a garment;
But from the wicked the light is withheld,
and the arm of pride is shattered.
Have you entered into the sources of the sea,
or walked about in the depths of the abyss?
Have the gates of death been shown to you,
or have you seen the gates of darkness?
Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all:
Which is the way to the dwelling place of light,
and where is the abode of darkness,
That you may take them to their boundaries
and set them on their homeward paths?
You know, because you were born before them,
and the number of your years is great!
Then Job answered the LORD and said:
Behold, I am of little account; what can I answer you?
I put my hand over my mouth.
Though I have spoken once, I will not do so again;
though twice, I will do so no more.
Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.
Responsorial Psalm PS 139:1-3, 7-8, 9-10, 13-14AB
O LORD, you have probed me and you know me;
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar.
R. Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.
Where can I go from your spirit?
From your presence where can I flee?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I sink to the nether world, you are present there.
R. Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
if I settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
Even there your hand shall guide me,
and your right hand hold me fast.
R. Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.
Truly you have formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works.
R. Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.
Alleluia PS 95:8
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 10:13-16
Jesus said to them,
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented,
sitting in sackcloth and ashes.
But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon
at the judgment than for you.
And as for you, Capernaum, ‘Will you be exalted to heaven?
You will go down to the netherworld.’
Whoever listens to you listens to me.
Whoever rejects you rejects me.
And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
● The Gospel today continues speaking about the sending out of the seventy-two disciples (Lk 10,1-12). At the end, after sending them out, Jesus speaks about shaking off the dust from the shoes, if the missionaries are not welcomed or accepted (Lk 10, 10-12). Today’s Gospel stressed and extends the threats upon those who refuse to receive the Good News.
● Luke 10, 13-14: Alas for you, Corazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! The place which Jesus travelled or covered in the three years of his missionary life was small. It measured only a few square kilometres along the Sea of Galilee around the cities of Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Corazin. Precisely in this very small space Jesus works the majority of his miracles and presents his discourses. He has come to save the whole of humanity, and he hardly went out of the limited space of his land. But, tragically, Jesus had to see that the people of those cities do not want to accept the message of the Kingdom and are not converted.
The cities fixed themselves in the rigidity of their beliefs, traditions and customs and they do not accept the invitation of Jesus to change life. Alas for you, Corazin; Alas for you Bethsaida! For if the miracle done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes”. Jesus compares the two cities with Tyre and Sidon which in the past were unyielding enemies of Israel, ill-treating the people of God. For this reason they were cursed by the Prophets: (Is 23, 1; Jr 25, 22; 47, 4; Ez 26, 3; 27, 2; 28, 2; Jl 4, 4; Am 1, 10). And now Jesus says that these same cities, symbols of all the evil done to the people in the past, would have already converted if so many miracles would have been worked in them as in Corazin and in Bethsaida.
● Luke 10, 15: And you Capernaum. “Did you want to be raised high as Heaven? You shall be flung down to hell. Jesus recalls the condemnation which Isaiah, the Prophet launched against Babylonia. Proud and arrogant, Babylonia thought: “I shall scale the heavens; higher than the stars of God I shall set my throne. I shall sit on the Mount of the Assembly far away to the north. I shall climb high above the clouds, I shall rival the Most High”(Is 14, 13-14). That is what it thought! But it completely deceived itself! The contrary happened.
The Prophet says: “Now you have been flung down to Sheol, into the depths of the abyss!” (Is 14, 15). Jesus compares Capernaum with that terrible Babylonia which destroyed the monarchy and the temple and took the people as slaves, from which it never succeeded to recover. Like Babylonia, Capernaum thought it was something important, but it fell into the most profound hell. The Gospel of Matthew compares Capernaum with the city of Sodom, the symbol of the worse perversion, which was destroyed by God’s anger (Gen 18, 16 to 19, 29).
Sodom would have converted if it had seen the miracles which Jesus worked in Capernaum (Mt 11, 23-24). Today, the same paradox continues to exist. Many of us, Catholics since we were children, have such consolidated convictions that nobody is capable to convert us. And in some places, Christianity, instead of being a source of change and of conversion, has become the refuge of the most reactionary forces of politics of the country.
● Luke 10, 16: “Anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me. And those who reject me reject the one who has sent me”. This phrase places the accent on the identification of the disciples with Jesus, in so far as he is despised by the authority. In Matthew the same phrase of Jesus, placed in another context, underlines the identification of the disciples with Jesus accepted by the people (Mt 10, 40). In both cases, the disciples identify themselves with Jesus in the total gift and in this gift is realized their encounter with God, and God allows himself to be found by those who seek him.
● Does my city and my country deserve the warning of Jesus against Capernaum, Corazin and Bethsaida?
● How do I identify myself with Jesus?
Protect me, O God, in you is my refuge.
To Yahweh I say,
‘You are my Lord, my happiness is in none.’
My birthright, my cup is Yahweh;
you, you alone, hold my lot secure. (Ps 16,1-2,5)
Most of us like Job have been brought up within a religious tradition. Our faith values and beliefs are dependent on that tradition. Whilst religious tradition is important in shaping our faith in God, yet at times it does not fit into every situation. Indeed, many of us question why the Church is so strict when it comes to divorce and remarriage. There are many other ethical issues or even Church disciplines that some of us cannot reconcile with the mercy and love of God. Some have left the Church as they find the Church too legalistic, dogmatic and ritualistic.
This was the situation of Job. He was brought up in a religious tradition that taught him that the good are rewarded by God and the bad are punished. The doctrine of immediate retribution was very strong in the early part of the Old Testament, which is dealt with in the Book of Ezekiel. One of the sayings in those days was, “The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” In fact, there is a general belief in the doctrine of Karma. You reap what you sow. This is what St Paul also told the Christians in Galatians. “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” (Gal 6:7) Job was brought up in that theology of immediate retribution in this life. Hence, we can appreciate his inner struggle, seeking to reconcile his misfortunes with his innocence.
We can all surely empathize with Job in the way he reacted towards God. Searching and examining his life, in all conscience, he did nothing wrong to deserve the punishments he was receiving. Indeed, he was a just and righteous man. He was blameless and truly a law abiding Israelite. He was more than fair in his dealings with others but was also generous with the poor. Even his friends could not find anything that he had done wrong. Although most of us cannot compare with the integrity of Job, on many occasions, we too have been fair in our relationships with God and our fellowmen. We treat our workers and our loved ones well. We provide for their welfare and pay them a just salary. Yet, how often have we been cheated by them, or even betrayed in spite of all the good we have selflessly done for them. In such moments we feel like Job, that God has been unfair to us. We have contributed so much to the Church all our lives and then He has permitted us to suffer a terminal illness or taken away our spouse or children. When such tragedies strike, then, like Job, we wonder where the justice of God is, since we read so often in the bible, particularly in the psalms, that the righteous man will be rewarded by God.
Right from the onset, we must state clearly that the doctrine of immediate retribution cannot be applied without qualification. Most times, retribution happens in this life. If we do not work, we will be sacked; and if we do not study, we will fail our exam. This is something expected and a principle based on universal experience. However, it is also true that there are many occasions when the unjust also seem to prosper as well whilst the good suffer. This was how the psalmist felt too, “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold for I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles their bodies are healthy and strong.” (Ps 73:1-4) Indeed, sometimes like the psalmist we envy the evil and selfish people because they seem to be doing so well even though they break all the commandments of God, whereas law-abiding Christians like ourselves suffer the disadvantages of being true to our principles. So we must not fall into the sin of presumption, as the friends of Job did when they sought to find some hidden blemish in his life to defend the justice of God. The fact was that Job’s suffering had nothing to do with any wrong that he had done.
So where do we go from here, when religious traditions do not agree with life experiences? We are called to embrace the mystery of God’s love in the midst of a world that is imperfect and sinful. Suffering will remain always a mystery regardless how we try to explain it away or to make sense of it. Even God is not exempted from suffering. So it is not just us who are suffering. Anyone who loves will suffer. We suffer not just for ourselves but for our loved ones. The answer to the question of suffering and evil is not a matter of logic but a matter of embracing this profound mystery in faith and love. This was the sin of Job.
What was the sin of Job? Even though initially he claimed he had no sin, in truth he did sin by questioning God’s wisdom and knowledge. He was so proud and confident of himself to think that he could bring God to a trial and show forth the lack of wisdom and justice in God. He had accused the Lord of being unjust. With that limited knowledge of his, without being able to see the big picture, Job was simply thinking about himself. He was too presumptuous to think that he was able to understand everything. One thing was that he was unaware of the reason why God permitted Satan to tempt Job. This is so common even in daily life. Many of us are not happy with our superiors and all those in authority for their decisions and management of situations. That is why those in public service get the most complaints because those who complain can only see the problem from their narrow perspective. It is about “I, me and mine”. So when their needs are not satisfied or their convenience is compromised, they will accuse the authorities for not being responsible or caring, failing to realize that there are many other factors and considerations to be taken in every decision.
Seeing things in perspective and humbly admitting our ignorance is what is required of us, as Job finally did. God did not defend Himself or explain His reasons for what He did. He simply helped Job to know his place in the world. God spoke through His creation. Where was Job when God created the world? The point is that God in His wisdom and power created the universe. Surely, He knows better how to manage this creation than anyone of us. We cannot even bring a person to life or create life in any creature. So who are we to question the wisdom of God, His justice and providence? When Job came to realize his insolence of wanting to bring God to trial, he became conscious of his sin. His sin was to question God and think he knew better what to do. He doubted God’s justice and even suggested that He was unjust and evil. He was deeply remorseful when challenged to see the bigger picture of life and creation. He said, “My words have been frivolous: what can I reply? I had better lay my finger on my lips. I have spoken once…I will not speak again; more than once … I will add nothing.” We are limited, finite and mortal. So all we can do is to bow down in silence before the mystery of God’s creation and accept it in faith and love.
Yet, the irony is that when we surrender ourselves to the providence of God and His divine will, we will find peace. Like the psalmist, we are called to surrender in faith to God’s will and plan for us. With the psalmist, we must pray, “O where can I go from your spirit, or where can I flee from your face? If I climb the heavens, you are there. If I lie in the grave, you are there. If I take the wings of the dawn and dwell at the sea’s furthest end, even there your hand would lead me; your right hand would hold me fast. For it was you who created my being, knit me together in my mother’s womb. I thank you for the wonder of my being, for the wonders of all your creation.” If we could pray this prayer with faith, then like Job, we will once again experience His love and blessings.
When our commitment to God is dependent on circumstances and temporal favours, our faith remains weak. Rather, we must follow Job in coming to realize our finiteness and God’s incomprehensible wisdom. Let us be humble before God and continue to respect and trust in Him even when we are suffering. We must avoid falling like the inhabitants in Capernaum, condemned by the Lord for their pride. We must not lack faith like those in Chorazin and Bethsaida who did not recognize the marvels of God’s love and creation. So with faith and humility, embracing God’s plan and His will, we will find peace and joy.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
(From October 4, 2013)
How are you feeling about your life? Are you happy and at peace with yourself and in all that you do? The irony is that we might appear happy and successful, yet deep within we remain unhappy and we know that our life somehow is in a mess even though many do not know how much we are struggling. Why is there a struggle within our hearts if not for the fact that we are not living a life of integrity? It is similar to the experience that St Paul went through when he wrote in his letter to the Romans, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.“ (Rom 7:18-19) In other words, we are not true to ourselves. We lack consistency in our lives. Indeed, this was the same acknowledgement of the people of Israel. The prophet Baruch wrote, “Integrity belongs to the Lord our God; to us the look of shame we wear today, to us, the people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem, to our kings and princes, our priests, our prophets, as to our ancestors.”
What are those sins that are so insidious and destructive to the peace and joy in our lives? The most fundamental of all sins is that of idolatry. The sin of Adam and Eve, of wanting to be like God without God, is basically the sin of idolatry. It is connected with the sin of pride of wanting to take charge of our own lives instead of submitting to the will of God. Idolatry leads to the worship of self, our ego and focusing on our individual needs. Pride of course leads to disobedience.
This was the same sin of the Jews during the time of Jesus. Hence, Jesus cried out, “Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida!” Why were these two towns particularly singled out? They were proud and arrogant because of their status. What is even worse for us is that besides being blind, we are too proud to see our failures and weaknesses. Like those in Capernaum, we hold our heads high and are too self-righteous to see the need for conversion. The truth is that we all need conversion. The danger is that just like the Jews, we do not feel any real need for repentance. Lukewarm and nominal Catholics feel quite happy with their response to the Lord. Hence, the urgency of conversion does not seem that real to us. We do not feel the necessity of growing in virtues and grace. Since we are not truly sorry for our sins, we do not feel the need for conversion.
As a consequence we reap the effects of our sins. Many of our unhappiness and misery in life come from bad decisions that we, or those in charge of us, have made. At least the Israelites recognized that the sufferings they were going through were the consequence of their folly. The Israelites in exile confessed their sins when they reaped the consequences of their failure to change. Indeed, they admitted that the disasters they experienced were because they “have sinned in the sight of the Lord, have disobeyed him, and have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God.”
For many of us, instead of admitting our responsibility we blame others, and even God, for the suffering that has come upon us. Some even become resentful of God, as if God was responsible for the abuse of their freedom. By not admitting our sins and taking responsibility for our disobedience because of our pride, we only prolong our misery instead of coming to realization and start living the life we are called to live; one that is consistent with who we are, the people of God, a life lived in total surrender to God and in loving service to our fellowmen. So with the psalmist, with a sincere and contrite heart, we must make the same plea, “O Lord, deliver us … and pardon our sins for your name’s sake.” The question is, are we serious about changing our lifestyle and being delivered from our sins, especially the false gods we serve in ourselves? Because we find it so difficult to do the right thing, quite often, God in His mercy allows us to suffer the consequences of our sins so that giving up sins will not be that difficult.
Today, we are invited to take the cue from the first reading. Like the Israelites, we must realize that sufferings are meant to awaken us from our sleep and folly. Instead of taking kindly the signals from the Lord that He is patient with us, we commit more sins and destroy ourselves ultimately. When we are proud and arrogant like the Jews during Jesus’ time, then Jesus warns us: “For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. And still, it would not go as hard with Tyre and Sidon, at the judgment as with you. And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted high as heaven? You shall be thrown down to hell.”
Truly, we must in all humility accept the punishment from God. The letter to the Hebrews says, “God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”(Heb 12:11-12)
Like the people in Chorazin and Bethsaida, we too are called to recognize the visitation of God, whether in suffering or in times of happiness. We must learn to be grateful for all the opportunities given to us to grow in faith. In fact, many of us fail to appreciate the many blessings God has given to us. We do not know how fortunate we are in Singapore until when we travel to other countries. If we are not choosy, we can certainly find a job here. Public amenities and facilities are all within our reach. On the spiritual level, we have easy access to religious education and formation, and the celebration of the Liturgy if we are truly interested. We have also seen the mighty works of God in our own lives. Some of us who are involved in the Renewal have seen the power of God at work in the miracles of healing and deliverance. Yet, having encountered the awesomeness of God, many have abandoned the Lord once again. Unfortunately, like the Jews, we have taken all these for granted. We fail to see them as the means by which God visits us. Very often, it is complacency that leads us to sin. After all, the idle mind is the devil’s workshop. When we are not occupied by meaningful activities, then our minds and hearts begin to wonder after things that can harm our soul and body.
If we want to put our house in order, we must turn to the Lord,asking for forgiveness for our sins, confident, like the psalmist, that God will forgive us our sins so long as we are contrite. Unlike us, God remains faithful to us even when we are unfaithful to Him. He does it because God is faithful to Himself. God saves us not only because He is merciful but because His very nature is Mercy and Compassion. So being faithful to His essence, God’s saving grace is certain if only we turn to Him and ask for forgiveness.
This turning to the Lord for forgiveness must at once be complemented by the desire to walk in the truth, which is found in scripture and taught by the Magisterium, the Bishops who are the authorized teachers of the Church. Jesus told His disciples that “anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me.” We must seek the truth by submitting ourselves in humility to the appointed teachers of Christ. Obedience to the Word of God and faith in the authority of the Church to teach the Word of God authentically presupposes we have faith in Christ, since He is the One who assures us that the Church is indefectible in doctrines and morals.
Today, let us pray for a true contrite heart so that we can change our ways and heed the appeal for conversion, which is an ongoing process. In this way, we avoid falling into greater sins and the consequences of our wrong actions. God does not wish us to destroy ourselves but that we turn over a new leaf and be faithful to His voice. Let us once again listen to the voice of the prophets that God sends into our lives. The truth is spoken to us in so many ways each day. The psalmist says “Today, if only you would hear his voice, ‘Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did. For forty years I was angry with that generation’; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” (Ps 95:7-11)
When you surrender yourself to God’s control, you relinquish or give up any power and yield yourself totally to the Almighty God. You also allow your desires and attitudes to be challenged, and over-ruled by God. Total surrendering is saying, “Yes Lord” to whatever He asks you to do. Surrendered people obey God, even when it does not make sense to them and other people around them. You will get fantastic results when you decide to surrender totally to God, for His glory. When you let go and let God, you know you are totally yielded to God.
“People who totally surrender to God take responsibility, don’t blame others, do service for their fellow man and obey God’s Plan.” — Archbishop William Goh of Singapore
There are many wonderful stories about Francis of Assisi. If we can all strive to be like him just a little bit; and a little bit more each day; we can change the world…..
St. Francis of Assisi carried a human skull from time to time — to remind himself and others of the important (and brief) nature of our work here on earth.
The Imitation of Christ is one of the most widely read books in the world, after the Bible. It was written by a 15th century monk named Thomas A. Kempis. Anyone looking to increase their spirituality and to get closer to Jesus would be well advised to study and read this great book, which is available for free on line. It is a great idea to purchase a copy of this book also, to take with you to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Spiritual reading is one thing that is recommended by a lot of saints to overcome the unholy trinity of the flesh, the devil, and the world. It is broken down in to 4 sub books, with many great chapters in each one. And the really good news is that it is very easy to read, and it will change your life in ways unimaginable.
Tags: And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me, Babylonia, Bethsaida, But from the wicked the light is withheld and the arm of pride is shattered, Capernaum, city of Sodom, Corazin, For if the mighty deeds done in your midst, Guide me Lord along the everlasting way, Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning and shown the dawn its place, humility, instead of admitting our responsibility we blame others, JB 38:1 12-21 40:3-5, let go and let God, Lk 10:13-16, Prayer and Meditation, Ps 95:8, Psalm 139, September 30 2016, service to others, surrender totally to God, Surrendered people obey God, The most fundamental of all sins is that of idolatry, those who refuse to receive the Good News, total surrender to God, Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me., Will you be exalted to heaven?, You will go down to the netherworld