Homilette for Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, virgin and doctor of the Church

(Job 9:1-12; 14-16)

“Your arms are too short to box with God” is the way one author chooses to describe what Job says in the first reading. Despite the way some believers talk about God as if He were a next door neighbor, Job recognizes that God is further beyond us than the ends of the universe.

Because of God’s transcendence, our initial reaction coming into His presence must be one of fear and awe. It is like a space voyageur’s coming into the vicinity of a black hole that can consume a galaxy. However, we know more about God than that He is other and all-powerful. With Jesus God reveals Himself as our Father whose univocal stance toward us is love. For this reason there is no need to fear God when we strive to conform to His loving will.

Few people have understood our relationship with God more than St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. Called to monastic life as a teenager, she responded to God’s paternal care with simple acts of charity. She wrote, “The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love." Like everyone else, Thérèse’s arms were too short to box with God but quite sufficient to perform acts emulating His love.

Homilette for Tuesday, September 30, 2008

St. Jerome priest and doctor of the Church

(Luke 9:51-56)

We sometimes see images of St. Jerome with a lion at his side. Those who know little about him opine that Jerome befriended lions much like St. Francis of Assisi and St. Martin de Porres endeared themselves to smaller animals. But much more likely the lion represents St. Jerome himself whose anger for his enemies flared to a rage at times. The heretic Pelagius was one who felt the incandescent brilliance of Jerome’s anger.

In the gospel Jesus’ disciples James and John demonstrate a similar tendency to rage. Learning that the Lord will not be welcome in a Samaritan village, they want to call down fire upon the place. They have quickly forgotten Jesus’ own instructions for the eventuality. Jesus told his apostles that if villagers refuses to welcome their mission of goodwill, they were only to “shake the dust your feet in testimony against them.”

Jerome is a saint despite his irascibility not but because of it. We may be sure that he mastered it before entering the Kingdom of God. Jesus counsels forbearance and forgiveness when people rebuke our best efforts. Uncontrolled anger has no place in his following.