Memorial of Saint Jerome, priest and doctor of the Church



Firelight on flagstones
Justice is with the Lord, our God;
and we today are flushed with shame,
we men of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem,
that we, with our kings and rulers
and priests and prophets, and with our ancestors,
have sinned in the Lord's sight and disobeyed him.


People sometimes doubt the reality of sin although they still believe in God. But to know the Lord one must be baptized, and that is to own and confess one’s own sin. There can be no relationship with God that does not recognize the hard realities of personal and communal sin. It's not that we must sin, or that to be human is to be sinful. We can't beg off with that excuse. We do sin and there's no excuse for it. 

The realization of our guilt begins with that statement above, “Justice is with the Lord, our God.” Even those who deny the existence of God usually have a sense of justice. They know that some things are just not right. Though killing in wartime may be necessary, murder is wrong. Though a marriage may have lost its luster, infidelity is still wrong. Even unmarried couples complain about infidelity, though that sounds oxymoronic to this aging priest.

In the presence of God we must admit, Justice is with the Lord our God, and we are flushed with shame.Especially when we stand before the Crucified Lord, seeing his gentleness and compassion, we feel shame mingled with bitter regret.

To own one’s sin I have to admit to myself and to others, “I didn’t have to do that. I have no excuse.” Being insane with desire hardly counts as a reason for irrational behavior; I am responsible for my own arousal. Loss of courage is only another word for cowardice. I had choices; I chose one of the worst.

The Hebrew prophets wrenched the Jewish tradition away from every tendency to compromise with injustice. They demanded what is only reasonable but too often eludes rational people: care for widows and orphans, hospitality to aliens and strangers, and deference to the elderly, sick and disabled, especially the poor. 
If the people of Israel and Judah would call themselves The People of God they must act with God’s principles of justice and mercy.
The Hebrew prophets knew that sin sabotages every institution of human life. The clever human mind is too subtle for its own constructions; we cannot create an institution or a system inoculated against evil. Even the priesthood -- both of Ancient Jerusalem and today's Church -- is compromised.
Finally the prophets assured the people of God’s mercy. If we will own our sins – especially our sins against justice and mercy – and attempt to make amends, God readily forgives us. 

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