"We shall steer safely through every storm so long as our heart is right, our intention fervent, our courage steadfast, and our trust fixed on God." — St. Francis de Sales
Gospel text (Mt 10,16-23): Jesus said to his Apostles:
“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves;
so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.
But beware of men,
for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues,
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
as a witness before them and the pagans.
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 will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death,
and the father his child;
children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved.
When they persecute you in one town, flee to another.
Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel
before the Son of Man comes.”
Today, the Gospel emphasizes the troubles and contradictions we Christians have to suffer because of Christ and his Gospel, and how we must stand firm and persevere to the end. Jesus promised us: «I am with you always, until the end of the age» (Mt 28:20); but He did not promise his disciples an easy journey; on the contrary, He told them: «Everyone will hate you because of me» (Mt 10:22).
Who are the wolves?
They wear attractive masks, and they can become addictive. When the forces are victorious, their victims often become their agents, and they are the wolves -- like the officers at Enron, the smartest guys in the room; or the coaches cheating their way to championships; or the terrorists who called the shots for 9/11. They are the bullies of our lives. The pornographers and child abusers, the hucksters who become sensationalists in news and entertainment, the petty thieves and the men and women unfaithful to their spouses. All these agents are the greedy, selfishly ambitious, and arrogant ones.
Folly? To the world, certainly yes. But not to us, the members of Christ’s own Mystical Body. As faithful individuals and as communities of Faith – across the globe and in our personal lives – we are called to bear the Cross of Our Lord precisely in those places where the Cross is deemed a folly. When we do so, we do it to perform Christ’s own mission: to foster reconciliation among those who are divided and who neither relent nor forgive; to forgive the trespassers, even and especially the ones who trespass against us; to heal and represent the sick, the wounded, the poor, and the oppressed in the very environments and territory where the forces of evil are prevailing.
To do these things requires the virtues of humility, courage, trust in God, and generosity of spirit. It depends upon the nourishment of the sacraments and prayer and upon the graces of Faith, Hope and Love. With such virtue, nourishment and grace – and as long as we abide in the Redeeming Christ – we sheep will scatter the wolves. The forces of evil will fail, flee, and end up defeated.
When we confront them, we will surely pay the cost. Salvation costs. Anyone who has ever tried to actually save someone knows it costs. Salvation requires sacrifice. Dealing with evil and caring for those who suffer it will often lead us through humiliation, insult, and – for the martyrs among us – death.
The cross therefore seems a folly to the world. But it is part of our mission – a mission given to us by Our Lord who accompanies us as we pursue it. The witness of our lives in our pursuit demonstrates that the cross of Christ is by no means a folly. It is wisdom. We are wise to know that being innocent with Christ on the cross will lead us with Him to Resurrection and Easter Joy.