Yesterday, in looking forward to preaching today on the feast of St. Jerome, I was poking around in my Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft Vulgate looking for some gem from the great translator that I could turn into a homily. You see, Jerome didn't just translate the Sacred Scriptures into Latin, but he also wrote little prologues and introductions to various sections and books.
In his introduction to the letters of St. Paul he asks the question of the order of the letters in the canon: why should the letter to the Romans be first, when it is clearly not the first that was written? Though the principle of ontological economy would suggest that the letters are simply arranged in descending order of size (excepting Hebrews, of course, whose Pauline authorship was doubted even in antiquity), Jerome comes up with a novel solution: the letters are arranged according to an upward graded path, in ascending order of spiritual perfection.
The Romans were so backward and rude that the spiritual condition they represent has to be presented first. The Corinthians, who seem to have known something of grace at least, represent the next spiritual step, and so on, until we get to the persecuted strength of the Thessalonians and the lofty spiritual heights of the letter to the Hebrews. A grain of humility for us 'Romans,' no?
Now I couldn't bring myself to make the people suffer through a homily concocted out of these obscure points, but it does remind us that Sacred Scripture is not a collection of neutral information about God. Scripture--and all Divine Revelation--is presented in such a way that it is geared for what we need to set us on the path of salvation.