Spiritual Warfare

Matthew 10:16-23
Hosea 14:2-10 / Psalm 51

Behold, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. You must be cunning as snakes, and gentle as doves.
(Matthew 10:16)

Shrewd as serpents, gentle as doves,
be humble, but cunning and brave.
Words we speak will come from above;
Whoever endures will be saved.

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (Matthew 10:16-23)

Reflection

The ‘Lamb of God’ was sending out his apostles, and like Himself, they were meek and vulnerable, but He admonished them to be cunning, or clever. “Be on your guard with respect to people,” Jesus advised them. He knew the inevitable persecutions and martyrdom that His disciples would face when they began their ministry. They must be gentle in their dealings (like doves, bearers of peace), but must also be discerning of the people they would be ministering to, avoiding those who might be offended by their teachings.

There was a time when our Church was held in very high esteem, and our priests enjoyed the respect and honor as befit their sacred calling. Sadly, that is no longer the case today. The scandals that rocked the Church, involving priests and even bishops charged with immoral behavior, have diminished the role of the clergy in the work of evangelization. Tolerance of homosexuality and of feminist causes have also eroded the respect for and authority of the Church over its more conservative faithful. This is probably the main reason why many among the laity have taken up the slack, and heeded God’s call to be sent forth as the modern missionaries of Christ.

As Christ’s lay missionaries, we face a different kind of persecution. The enemy is unseen, and definitely more cunning than we can imagine. The handiwork of the ‘Prince of Lies’ is evident in the unrelenting siege besetting our Church on all sides. That is why we need to be shrewd as a serpent so that we may be alert to the traps of Satan and his cohorts. To be wise in discerning danger, we must pray often for the gift of discernment so that we will be well guided and kept from harm’s way. And we must read the Word of God daily to fortify us in our spiritual warfare against the evil forces. St. Paul, the most active missionary of Christ, advises us in his letter to the Ephesians: “Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens… So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate… hold faith as a shield … the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (Eph.6:11-12,14,16-17)

Keep our faith steadfast, Lord, as we set out to spread your Good News in the marketplace; protect us from the harassments of the evil one, we pray. Amen.

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