Wise and Pure Sheep Sent Among Wolves, 14th Friday (I), July 14, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sacred Heart Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Friday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Kateri Tekakwitha
July 14, 2017
Gen 46:1-7.28-30, Ps 37, Mt 10:16-23

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 
  • Today we continue focusing on Jesus’ preparation of the Apostles to be sent out on their training run to prepare them for their post-Pentecost continuation of his salvific mission, Jesus says something truly shocking and absolutely astonishing. The Good Shepherd, the one who would lay down his life to protect and save his sheep, says that he’s about to send the apostles out “as sheep in the midst of wolves.” That would be like sending a bunch of unarmed Christians out into a gang of armed ISIS members, teenage girls unprotected into a male prison, African-Americans to a Ku Klux Klan rally. He told them that they be handed over to courts, scourged in houses of worship, led before governors and kings, betrayed by siblings, parents and children, persecuted in one town to the next and hated by all because of him. Why would he possibly send out his sheep into a coven of wolves? Why would he send his loved ones out to be slaughtered? How is this consistent with his loving us?
  • Jesus loves us so much that not only does he want to save us but he wants us to be his assistants in saving others and the way both will occur is when we become truly united to him. Basically everything Jesus described that the wolves would do to his sheep and lambs as he sent them out, he himself endured: he was handed over to the Sanhedrin, brought before governors and kings, scourged in civic and religious contexts, betrayed by those he had made his brothers and sisters, his spiritual sons and daughters, hated by so many because he didn’t fit into their categories, and ultimately brutally massacred. But the Lamb led to the slaughter rose from the dead on the third day. And he beckons us to follow him, to love like him, to redeem with him. It’s through this contest with the wolves that Jesus will accomplish the hard work of conformity with him that few of us would ever choose voluntarily. No matter how many times Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, pick up our Cross and follow him along the narrow road that leads to life, few of us will take him literally and follow up along that bloody path: that’s why he allows the wolves to help us.
  • Jesus is clear that as we’re being persecuted in the way he describes we will be able to accomplish the mission he has sent us out to accomplish, the mission of proclaiming that the Kingdom of God has arrived, to heal, to raise from the dead, to exorcise through our incarnating the Gospel. He says we will suffer so that we can be a “witness before them and the pagans,” as the “Spirit of your Father [is] speaking through you.” Jesus doesn’t say merely that “God” or the “Holy Spirit” will speak through us, but the “Spirit of your Father,” because this experience of suffering will convince us more than anything of our Divine Filiation, that the Father cares for us more than he cares for the sparrows and the lilies, that every strand of hair is numbered. At the end of the passage, as he encourages us to persevere in union with him, he reminds us that we will now even traverse Israel before his kingdom comes, before some, moved by our witness, accept the testimony and follow us to meet the Son of Man. This is a powerful message, one that many of us are tempted to duck rather than believe and embrace. We have a prejudice that if we love God, if we’re moral, if we do everything that God asks, that we will be blessed in this world with friends, with good health, with professional and personal honor, with universal praise for our virtue. Jesus promises us we’ll be blessed, but blessed in another way, blessed with the Cross, blessed with the presence of the Spirit of our Father, blessed with salvation and the opportunity to help save others. He clear articulates the cost of discipleship but says that the price tag is worth it. He sends us out before wolves as lambs and tells us not to be afraid because God the Holy Spirit will be with us.
  • As he sends us out he gives us the instruction to be as wise as serpents and as pure as doves. He doesn’t send us out as naive sheep. If we’re united with him, we won’t be naive. He wants the children of the light to be savvier, more prudent, than the children of this world (Lk 16:1-12). He wants us to recognize that there are wolves out there — those that we can see and the spirits of those we cannot see — who will oppose us for no other reason than we represent Him and he doesn’t want us naively to walk into their trap. Jesus himself repeatedly avoided those who were trying to entrap because his hour hadn’t yet come. But as we are savvy in this way he wants us at the same time to be as pure, as simple, as single-minded as doves, focused on God and how he is with us in every moment seeking to save us. He wants us to be docile and united to the One who came down upon him in the Jordan under the form of a dove. That is the way we will be able to give him the type of witness he deserves and the type of testimony that will genuinely help others to seek to conform themselves to the same Good Shepherd.
  • We see two illustrations of this today. First we see it in what happened to Joseph the Patriarch, on whom we’ve been pondering throughout the week. It was through the betrayal of his brothers that he became conformed to God’s plans for the salvation of his family. We see the wickedness of the brothers in having allowed their father to be tortured all of these years not knowing whether Joseph his beloved son had been murdered by animals. They had never repented throughout the years. Beyond that, as we’ll see tomorrow, they would continue to try to lie to their brother for their own sakes. But Joseph, having learned the lessons of God, transcended it. And in his merciful, providential care for his family, he was showing that he bore within, to some degree, the spirit of his Father in heaven.
  • We see also see these lessons depicted in the life of the saint whom the Church celebrates today, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, a fellow New Yorker, a native American born in Auriesville, New York who was canonized in 2012 by Pope Benedict. She was a Mohawk orphaned at a young age when smallpox decimated her village claiming the life of her parents and brother. She was raised by her uncle, the chief of the Turtle tribe, and two aunts, all of whom were fiercely resistant to Christianity. They sought to prevent her contact with the “black robes” (the Jesuit missionaries) — St. Isaac Jogues had died in their village just a decade before Kateri’s birth — and marry her off at a young age, but she had already been moved by a desire to give herself totally to God as a Christian. She overcame their rejection, sought instruction and baptism against the will of her uncle. In the midst of all of these burdens, she came to Christ and yoked herself to him. Even though familial and tribal loyalties are incredibly strong among the native Americans, after her baptism at the age of 19, she fled to Kahnawake, just south of Montreal. There she dedicated herself to him in a life of prayer and mortification, adoring Jesus kneeling in the snow outside the Church before it would be opened early each morning and staying there until the last Mass was celebrated at night, sleeping on a bed of thorns in reparation for the sins of her tribe and for their conversion, caring for the sick and elderly. In worldly eyes, she was an insignificant, simple Indian with the residue of small pox on her face. But she loved Jesus and became more and more like him in a short time because of what she suffered, dying at the age of 24, just five years after her conversion, with her last words “Jesos Konoronkwa” (“Jesus, I love you”) as she passed into his eternal embrace.
  • Today the Good Shepherd comes to us here in this Chapel not as a Lamb among wolves but as a Savior among those who have received his gift. Rather than being betrayed by family members, he’s here to be embraced, as he hands himself — betrays himself — over to us to strengthen us precisely as he sends us out. It’s here the Holy Spirit hovers over us, reminds us of our filiation in Jesus’ divine filiation and makes us siblings who won’t betray each other or him, but those who will support him and each other, persevering until the end. It’s here that the Father seeks to fill us with the virtues of the Heart of His Son, inflame us with His Love, conform us to his image and give us the fullness of redemption. Let us receive these great gifts today and, like St. Kateri, be fortified to go out fearlessly among wolves with the power of God and seek to draw into this mystery as many sheep as we can and by God’s miraculous power to transform as many wolves as possible, through serpentine wisdom and dovelike purity, into sheep for God’s eternal fold.
The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 Gn 46:1-7, 28-30

Israel set out with all that was his.
When he arrived at Beer-sheba,
he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.
There God, speaking to Israel in a vision by night, called,
“Jacob! Jacob!”
He answered, “Here I am.”
Then he said: “I am God, the God of your father.
Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt,
for there I will make you a great nation.
Not only will I go down to Egypt with you;
I will also bring you back here, after Joseph has closed your eyes.”
So Jacob departed from Beer-sheba,
and the sons of Israel
put their father and their wives and children
on the wagons that Pharaoh had sent for his transport.
They took with them their livestock
and the possessions they had acquired in the land of Canaan.
Thus Jacob and all his descendants migrated to Egypt.
His sons and his grandsons, his daughters and his granddaughters—
all his descendants—he took with him to Egypt.
Israel had sent Judah ahead to Joseph,
so that he might meet him in Goshen.
On his arrival in the region of Goshen,
Joseph hitched the horses to his chariot
and rode to meet his father Israel in Goshen.
As soon as Joseph saw him, he flung himself on his neck
and wept a long time in his arms.
And Israel said to Joseph, “At last I can die,
now that I have seen for myself that Joseph is still alive.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 37:3-4, 18-19, 27-28, 39-40

R. (39a) The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Trust in the LORD and do good,
that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will grant you your heart’s requests.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
The LORD watches over the lives of the wholehearted;
their inheritance lasts forever.
They are not put to shame in an evil time;
in days of famine they have plenty.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Turn from evil and do good,
that you may abide forever;
For the LORD loves what is right,
and forsakes not his faithful ones.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
The salvation of the just is from the LORD;
he is their refuge in time of distress.
And the LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.

Alleluia Jn 16:13a; 14:26d

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
When the Spirit of truth comes,
he will guide you to all truth
and remind you of all I told you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel 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.”