by Fr. Tommy Lane
Three individuals converse with Jesus in the today’s Gospel about following him (Luke 9:57-62). The conversation with each is very brief and also very different. Only the first could be said to be a model for us. He takes the initiative and goes to Jesus and offers, “I will follow you wherever you go.” This disciple put no conditions on following Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
The second and third would-be disciples were called by Jesus but were more immediately conscious of other duties before devoting themselves wholeheartedly to the Lord. They were making excuses and holding back from saying yes to the Lord. Their problem was that they did not know they were called because they were loved by the Lord. They received their call and vocation from the Lord because the Lord loved them. Sometimes we also make excuses and hold back from responding properly to the Lord because we forget that the Lord has called us because he loves us. When people answer God’s call to priesthood, we sometimes hear about what one gives up to become a priest, but should we not also think about what we receive from the Lord when we answer his call? We are called because the Lord loves us.
Spending time with the Lord in prayer is central in being able to respond well to the Lord’s loving call. Living life with God makes everything so much better, even though we still have the cross. Nehemiah discovered that in dramatic fashion in today’s first reading (Neh 2:1-8 Year 1). Artaxerxes, the king of Persia, whom Nehemiah served, had earlier issued a decree forbidding the reconstruction of Jerusalem as we read in Ezra 4:21. Now in today’s reading, Artaxerxes sees Nehemiah sad and asks why. About half way through the first reading, something happens so subtly that we might miss it. Before telling the king the reason for his sadness, Nehemiah prayed, and then the unexpected happens; Artaxerxes agrees to the rebuilding of Jerusalem and offered what help he could. This was a complete turnaround, and it happened immediately after Nehemiah uttered his brief prayer to God. Living life with God makes everything go so much better, it would make the lives of the would-be disciples of the Gospel better and it turned around the life of Nehemiah.
We could say the same for St. Jerome (Memorial September 30th). It was only because he lived in union with God that he was able to leave his native Dalmatia, Slovenia and Croatia now, and after studies in Rome, travel around the Middle East learning the biblical languages. When you find learning biblical Greek difficult, take courage from what Jerome wrote about learning Hebrew,
What a toil it was! How difficult I found it! How often I was on the point of giving it up in despair, and yet in my eagerness to learn took it up again! (Letter to Rusticus 125.12)
It would be fair to say that he was the first biblical scholar and there was no one else like him at his time. Latin translations of the Bible before Jerome had been made from the Greek Septuagint but Jerome retranslated most of the Old Testament from the Hebrew. His new translation, the Vulgate, became more and more the translation used as the centuries went by.
In today’s Gospel only one disciple responds unconditionally to Jesus’ call while two make excuses. They did not fully know the Lord called them because he loved them. Living life with God makes everything so much better, as it did for Nehemiah, and for Jerome, leading Jerome to write,
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.
(Letter to Eustochius 22:17)
© Fr. Tommy Lane 2015