Sheep Amidst Wolves

Matthew 10: 16-23
Gen 46:1-7,28-30 / Psa 37

Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and gentle as doves.
(Matthew 10:16)

It’s not for glory or men’s praise
We struggle to proclaim God’s Word;
We’re driven by the Spirit’s grace,
To win men’s souls as our reward.

Jesus said, “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and gentle as doves. But beware of men; for they will hand you over to courts, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes.” (Matthew 10: 16-23)

Reflection

The apostles of Jesus knew whereof He spoke, He being gentle, compassionate, and kind to all the afflicted who came to Him with their troubles. Meek as a sheep, He wanted them to imitate Him in dealing with the Jews that they would encounter. But they would not be in danger “in the midst of wolves” because in their ministry they would have God’s protection, and the Holy Spirit would endow them with the wisdom and discernment they needed to speak boldly before governors and kings.

“Wolves” in this case represented the persecutions that the early Christians had to face, first from the Jewish authorities who opposed the doctrines taught by Jesus, especially when the disciples began to accept Gentiles and Samaritans into the early Church, and later from the Romans, when Christianity began to spread throughout the realm of the Roman empire. The emperor Nero was particularly brutal in these persecutions, feeding the believers to wild lions for the entertainment of the pagans.

Among the earliest martyrs, St. Paul stood out as one of Christ’s greatest apostles in having established churches in many countries beyond Palestine. He is the Church’s model in being ‘shrewd as a serpent’ and at the same time ‘gentle as a dove’. He said, “Our war is not fought with weapons of flesh, yet they are strong enough, in God’s cause, to demolish fortresses.” (2Cor,10:4) “We prove that we are servants of God by great fortitude in times of suffering: in times of hardship and distress… by our purity, knowledge, patience and kindness; by a spirit of holiness, by a love free from affectation; by the word of truth and by the power of God; armed with the weapons of righteousness, prepared for honor or disgrace, for blame or praise.” (2Cor., 6:4, 6 & 7). He outsmarted his enemies, and endured many hardships, and yet he taught his followers with such gentleness and compassion.

As St. Paul and all the martyrs and saints of the Church have shown us, following our Lord Jesus entails great sacrifices, the reason why the world hates Christianity so much. For them this faith that we profess is so vague and abstract that it cannot be real. If we point to its historical validity in the Bible, it is just so much antiquity and irrelevance. The advice of St. Peter however can’t be more relevant: “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. The God of all grace Who called you to His eternal glory through Christ will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you after you have suffered a little” (2 Peter 5:8-10).

We know what it entails to follow You, Lord Jesus, especially when we look at Your figure on the cross. We pray for the grace of perseverance, that it may keep our faith strong in bringing the Good News of Your Word to others. Amen.

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