St. Jerome, one of the most intelligent and well-educated men in the history of the Church, grew up in Rome in the fourth century. In addition to being one of the greatest writers of all time, an accomplished Greek and Latin scholar, (with a special expertise in the work of the Roman orator Cicero), a secretary to Popes, the official translator of the Bible, and a valiant defender of the true faith against all heretical comers, St. Jerome was an expert in the spiritual life.
But he didn’t get to such heights of sanctity without his struggles. In fact, as a young man, when he was just beginning to make a name for himself, he had a dream that changed his life and set him the right path.
In this dream, Jerome found himself before the judgment seat of Christ, and was asked, “Jerome, what is your faith?”
He answered, “I am a Christian.”
He received the following unexpected response from God, “You are not. You are a Ciceronian.”
And in fact, Jerome himself admitted, upon later reflection, that he was so in love with his studies and with the academic life that he hadn’t completely given himself to Christ.
Thankfully, this dream occurred early on in his life. And he was able to rethink his priorities.
The Gospel from Matthew offers us a warning. Don’t wait till it’s too late. Some of us (myself included) have made procrastination an art form. But what usually happens to procrastinators is that they paint themselves into corners and bring a lot of unnecessary stress into their life. “Why do something today when you can do it tomorrow” is probably not the best of ideas. And I think that’s the point of the parable in today’s Gospel. We should not procrastinate when it comes to matters of faith and how we are living our life. The parable also raises the question of whether or not we are paying attention to any promptings of the Spirit. There are times in our life when God taps us on the shoulder and says, “I want you to pay attention to this.” It might be the way something played out in our life, it might be something that someone says to us that makes us pause, it could be a narrow escape from a difficult situation.
But the ultimate message for us today is: Don’t wait till the last minute to put your life on the right track—the track that points to a deeper relationship with Jesus and full unity with Him in heaven.
St. Jerome thought he was a Christian, but eventually he realized that with where his focus really was, he was NOT being Christian at all! We must ask for God to help us so that we can give ourselves completely to Christ. We could have blinded ourselves to something that is getting in the way of this. Becoming aware of it now rather than later is a gift from God. So, to all of the procrastinators, pay attention to the promptings of God, and shift the focus to Christ now rather than later. Do it today not tomorrow!