Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter

Today's Readings:
Acts 20:28-38
Ps 68:29-30, 33-36ab
John 17:11b-19

Recognizing wolves in sheep's clothing

In today's first scripture, St. Paul warns about "savage wolves" who harm the flock of Christ. They come from within, he says, and pervert the truth. Why? "To draw the disciples away after them." This, to use a modern cliché, is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Sometimes it's a wolf in shepherd's clothing, which is far worse, because the sheep are more vulnerable, since they naturally trust their shepherds.

Wolves that come from within are those who push their own agendas or deliberately make themselves look important. We all do this from time to time. A common wolfishness is to manipulate others into giving us what we want. Whenever we try to control others for our personal benefit, we are wolves in sheep's clothing; we call ourselves Christian, but in fact we're hiding behind this title to feel safe while behaving very unlike Christ.

Wolves pervert the truth because they have to; it's the only way they can get the sheep to follow them. Instinctively, Christian sheep recognize that a wolf is a wolf, because the Holy Spirit within us is giving us good discernment and has taught us how to recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd. But when a wolf seems to be a sheep who's following Christ, or worse, when a wolf is one of Christ's shepherds who has perverted his vocation, we have to be vigilant, as St. Paul said. We have to remain so deeply in prayerful union with Christ that we hear the Holy Spirit's warnings.

A true sheep of the flock and a true shepherd of Christ "can build you up and give you the inheritance" of God; a wolf tears down. A true Christian does not serve the kingdom of God to build up his bank account; a wolf loves money more than he loves people. The hands of a true Christian serve the needs of his friends; a wolf is more interested in having friends who meet his needs. A true Christian helps the weak; a wolf takes advantage of the weak. A true Christian understands the blessings that come from giving; a wolf is generous only when it's to his own advantage.

Jesus consecrated us all to the truth, as it says in today's Gospel passage. We have the ability, through the Spirit of Truth, to discern the truth and to feel uncomfortable with lies.

A few days ago it was shared with you, a prayer for an increase of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Here's an adaptation of it for today's reflection:

Lord Jesus Christ, fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that my soul may be sanctified and grow in the gifts of Your grace and love. Increase in me the gift of holy wisdom, that I may recognize the difference between the worthless ideas of this world and the lasting truths of heaven. Increase in me the gift of understanding, to enlighten my mind with Your divine truth. Increase in me the gift of Your good counsel, that I may always follow the will of God. Increase in me the gift of knowledge, that I may grow in holiness by knowing God and myself more fully. Help me, dear Lord, to be one of Your true disciples, filled with Your Holy Spirit. Amen.


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