St. Jerome, Scholar, Translator, and Confessor
Zion Lutheran Church, Detroit
St. Michael’s Liturgical Conference
September 30, 2013 A+D
St. Matthew 5:13-19
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
You are the salt of the earth, the light of the world. You are the reason the earth still spins, the sun still rises. Your presence here, along with the good works foreordained for you yet unperformed, hold back the destructive angels and the consummation of the ages to come. In the eyes of your neighbors and peers you may be insignificant and uncomely, but the faces of your angels are always toward your Father in heaven.
In light of such cosmic significance, could you not bring yourself to watch with the Lord for one hour? Could you not control your flesh and your tongue for one evening? Could you not stay alert during one Mass, make it through one Our Father undistracted? You are the salt of the earth, the light of the world, but if you cannot pray without distraction, if you cannot restrain yourself from daydreams of wealth and sex, if you cannot hear confession without judging and lusting, then how will you, who have promised to die with Christ, ever be able to despise this life and embrace the cross? If you cannot restrain your evil thoughts apart from torture, apart from real hunger or thirst, what will do when more is asked of you?
You are the legacy of the martyrs and confessors like St. Jerome, of whom the world was not worthy, of whom we are not worthy.
The Lord asks: “How can saltiness be restored? How can the extinguished wick come back to flame?” Let us learn an answer from St. John, “Sir, you know.”
Who pays for labor that was not performed? Who hands over the harvest to those who did not sow? Who welcomes and eats with sinners? Sir, you know. There is a shekel in that fish.
The Son pays the tax for the stranger. The sheep get credit for works they never did. If the salt loses its saltiness, the Lord will salt the earth with His Blood and will allow Himself to be trampled underfoot and will provide skins to protect Adam and Eve. If the light is hidden under a basket then the Father will turn His face from the Son and forsake Him, send Him to Hell on pole in your place, so that light would shine again and bring you out of darkness and all men be drawn unto Him.
This is the miracle of grace. It is the summation of our religion, our life, and our hope. Christ not only forgives sinners and eats with them but He also declares them righteous. He uses them for good. His Blood is spilt upon the earth to restore saltiness to men not simply upon Calvary in history but to this day in the Holy Communion by the men He places into Office to administer that Blood to His dusty, nearly salt-less people. He shines through you, an earthen vessel full of trouble, soon to fade away, but more glorious than the lilies and more valuable than Solomon.
Are you worthy? Yes! You are as worthy as Jerome. For the Lord has called you. He has pulled out of the mouth of the fish. You are every bit as worthy as Jerome and all the martyrs. He has called you. Like Isaiah you have said, “Here am I. Send me.” The Lord is no respecter of persons. You get the credit for the Life of Christ the same as them, the same as the heroes and the same as the quiet men in the land.
He says that you are the light of the world. He also says that He is the Light of the World. What this means is that what He is, you are. He is holy. You are holy. He is the beloved Son of His Father. You are the beloved son of His Father. He is a martyr whose death undoes death and whose life bestows life on others, who is unappreciated and even despised at times by those He serves: so are you.
Your Ministry is more glorious than that of Moses. It restores saltiness to preacher and hearer alike. It holds back the destructive angels. It opens heaven and makes men free. For through it the Father delivers Jesus Christ to sinners, pays the tax for the strangers, gives wages to those who did no work.
Your light, the Light of Christ, shines before the world. If no one else, then at least the great company of holy angels and the Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and His Holy Spirit, see your good works and they give glory to your Father who is in heaven and they sing your praise. You are the salt of the earth, the light of the world, the heirs of Jerome.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.