Sheep Among the Wolves
Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images
Uno, Duo, Tre
Having called his Twelve Apostles, the Lord endowed them with great power and sent them to rescue the lost sheep of the House of Israel. He said ‘I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves’ and then enjoined them to be ‘wise as serpents, and harmless as doves’ (Matthew 10:16).
And, if the wolf thing wasn’t scary enough, the Lord went on to say:
34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 10:34-39)
I’m still trying to understand why the Lord’s messengers were sent out among the wolves with instructions to be as harmless as doves. My gut tells me that it would be prudent to carry a stick of some sort. But the instruction says nothing about sticks–only to be wise and harmless. I can only imagine how scary that would have been for the Apostles. It’s enough to make you get on the next boat to Tarshish.
Recently we got a graphic visual of what its like when the sheep join the wolf pack. Pope Francis sent out peace doves as a papal symbol calling for world peace. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. As tens of thousands of the faithful looked on, the doves were set upon by lurking predators which had their way with them.* The peace doves were abruptly introduced to the reality of bird-on-bird violence. So much for the symbolic gesture.
|Gregorio Borgia, Associated Press|
I don’t pretend to know why the Lord intentionally sends his messengers out into the mean world with all the weaponry of a dove. But it seems pretty clear that the messengers of the Lord should expect trouble. Perhaps realizing that you’re a harmless dove in a pecking fight with a big hungry crow is a means to an end. To be so hopelessly outmatched can’t help but teach us to rely on God for strength. In fact, a careful reading of the rest of Matthew 10 (verses 19-20) suggests that this is what makes the Lord’s messengers powerful in the first place.
19 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.
20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
* Both doves were able to break free and fly off, but its not clear what became of them. Something similar happened in January 2013 when the peace doves of Benedict XVI flew back inside the Vatican after a giant seagull tried to make a meal of them. How’s that for symbolism: finding refuge in the house of God!