No One Should Be a Lone Ranger.
The Memorial of Saint Jerome, Priest & Doctor of the Church.
Lessons from the primary feria for the Twenty-Sixth Monday of Ordinary Time, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Zechariah 8: 1-8.
• Psalm 102: 16-21, 29, 22-23.
• Luke 9: 46-50.
…or, from the proper:
• II Timothy 3: 14-17.
• Psalm 119: 9-14.
• Matthew 13: 47-52.
…or, any lessons from the common of Doctors of the Church, or the Common of Pastors.
The Third Class Feast of Saint Jerome, Confessor & Doctor of the Church.
Lessons from the common "In médio…" of a Confessor for a Doctor, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• II Timothy 4: 1-8.
• Psalm 36: 30-31.
• Matthew 5: 13-19.
10:15 AM 10/1/2019 — The event recorded by Saint Luke in today's Gospel lesson is very telling, provided we don’t get distracted by the lead-in to it of our Lord presenting the child to his apostles and warning them against the sin of pride: the Blessed Apostle John has seen some guy casting out demons in our Lord's name; and, because this man isn't a member of the apostolic “club,” the apostles try to stop him. Our Lord's correction of John does not surprise us, and His rebuke to the Apostle is what we've come to expect: “…whoever is not against you is for you” (9: 50 RM3). And, as if that wasn't enough, the very first line of that paragraph is as explicit as it can be, if you know enough to read it between the lines: “Then John said in reply, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company’” (v. 49). Notice how he words it: not “he does not follow You,” but “he does not follow us.” The Apostles have allowed themselves to get so caught up in the excitement of the ministry that they're beginning to mistake their own will for the will of God; so, this is a problem our Lord has to nip in the bud, and He does.
Our Lord's rebuke of the Apostles for trying to stop the non-Apostolic man from casting out demons is a good lesson about how to evaluate and regulate apostolic activity in the Church. Everybody in the Church, both in the time of the Apostles and now, has a different job. We have husbands, we have mothers, we have students, we have priests, we have bishops, we have teachers, with have popes. Each one has a job and duties suited to the state in life each occupies, and the individual gifts and abilities bestowed on them by God. But even though each one's duties differ from another's, each one must still function within the framework, and the rules, established by the Church for everyone. Being different and having different roles to fill does not mean that each one is a Lone Ranger; and, when one of them, for whatever reason, goes off the rails, for the good of the whole he must be corrected
Saint John Paul II had a general rule he used for judging whether someone's apostolic activity was helpful or harmful to the Church. He said that the best indicator of the authentic nature of someone's activity for Christ was that it proclaimed and defended…
…the Catholic faith, embracing and proclaiming the truth about Christ, the Church and humanity, in obedience to the Church's Magisterium as the Church interprets it. For this reason every association of lay faithful must be a forum where the faith is proclaimed as well as taught in its total content.*
The two important words in that quote are “obedience” and “total”: obedience to the Church which alone has the authority, given to her by Christ Himself, to teach in His Name; and, total in proclaiming the whole of the truth taught by that Church, and not just the parts of the Catechism with which one personally agrees.
When the non-Apostolic exorcist was casting out demons and the Apostles wanted him stopped, what was it that indicated to our Lord that he was OK, other than the fact, of course, that our Lord is God and knows everything? Listen to the first verse again: “John said to him, 'Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name…'” (Luke 9: 49 NABRE). There's the indicator right there! The man was doing this in the Name of our Lord, not in his own name or for his own benefit. Whether the Apostles were tinged with jealously, like Joshua in that famous incident in the Book of Numbers, or genuinely concerned for the integrity of the true faith we'll never know, and it's probably unfair of us to ascribe a motive to their attitude, as it could very well be the latter; but, the motive of the non-Apostolic exorcist is clear: everything he's doing is in the Name of the Lord. And even if, by circumstance, it had turned out that he was making some mistakes or saying a few things here or there that needed correction, that wouldn't have invalidated his entire ministry, because another indicator that his ministry is valid would then have been his willingness to accept correction from the Church. Nobody who works for or in the Church, priests included, is perfect; but, as our Lord Himself says in Mark’s account, “There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me” (9: 39). And, if you look at the Greek text of Mark, it's possible to translate that verse in the form of a question: “Is it likely that someone who does a deed in my name will speak ill of me?”** Not very. And what's so scary about more people doing things in the Holy Name of Jesus?
When Joshua complained to Moses about the two elders who didn’t bother to get the Prophet’s blessing before prophesying, Moses threw up his hands and shouted, “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow his spirit on them all!” (Number 11: 29 NABRE).
It goes hand-in-hand with the life-story of today’s Saint, Jerome, who died in Bethlehem in the year of Our Lord 420. He was born in Dalmatia, and was baptized in Rome, and spent his whole life in service to the Church. In order to study the Sacred Scriptures more properly, he moved to Palestine, and lived the life of a hermit in the Syrian desert, living a life similar to that of the Desert Fathers of the East. Eventually, he was ordained a priest by Paulinus, the Bishop of Antioch, and resettled in Bethlehem, where he lived very near the crib of our Lord's birth.
Questions on Holy Scripture were sent to him from all over the world. Pope Damasus and Saint Augustine both consulted him several times concerning difficult questions of Scriptural interpretation because he was the only person around who knew all the languages needed to understand the Bible: Hebrew, Latin, Greek, Chaldean, Aramaic; he know them all. He translated the Old Testament from the original Hebrew and, at the command of Pope Damasus, revised the New Testament to make it more faithful to the Greek original, creating in the process what we know today as the Latin Vulgate; and, in the process, commented on and explained passages of the Bible that no one before him could figure out.
He lived to an extreme old age, and was originally buried in Bethlehem; but, the Pope later commanded that his body be brought to Rome, along with the crib of our Lord, and both now rest in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.
He has been, for centuries, the patron saint of Scripture Scholars and is the prime example of what should be the true attitude of those who study Holy Writ: everything he did with the Bible was in service to Holy Mother Church; and, I would like to suggest that, for anyone who reads the Bible and who loves the word of God, Saint Jerome is the perfect patron saint. In fact, his influence on the Catholic Church's understanding of the Bible is such that, I would like to recommend, whenever we sit down to read from the Bible, we begin by offering a prayer to Saint Jerome, that he will guide our hearts and minds to understand God's Word in complete fidelity to the teaching of the Church, without which, as Saint Jerome taught, the Bible itself has no meaning and would not, in fact, exist as we know it.
* Apostolic Exhortation, Christifideles Laici, Dec. 30, 1988, art. 30.
** Ἔφη αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰωάννης: διδάσκαλε, εἴδομέν τινα ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου ἐκβάλλοντα δαιμόνια καὶ ἐκωλύομεν αὐτόν, ὅτι οὐκ ἠκολούθει ἡμῖν.