“I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals;and greet no one along the way.Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him;but if not, it will return to you….”
From today’s Gospel reading: Luke 10:1-9
In both readings today, we are reminded that those who teach the faith will experience resistance … and that this resistance may come from an unexpected corner: from those who already profess belief. In the first reading (from 2 Timothy 4:10-16), we read that “Alexander the coppersmith” resisted the teaching of the Apostle Paul with such eloquence that he lured others away from the faith as well. In the words of St. Paul, the coppersmith “did me great harm.”
Why would Alexander – or anyone else, for that matter – be so presumptuous? Why didn’t he recognize and submit to St. Paul’s apostolic authority? Clearly, the man had his own “agenda,” his own sphere of influence he was determined to defend.
The human story is full of such political intrigue: alliances and power struggles, battles fought with words intended to wound or destroy not only the opponent’s argument, but his or her reputation as well. We get the sense that there were times when even the Apostle Paul experienced this kind of betrayal … “At my first defense no one appeared on my behalf, but everyone deserted me!”
How painful this must have been for Paul, to experience this kind of betrayal! Calling for his parchments (written documents) and papyrus scrolls, he set about conveying his teachings through a more lasting method: writing them down. By this response, the apostle teaches by example an important spiritual principle: Sometimes God leads His people by opening doors … other times, by allowing obstacles to be placed in the path so that we choose a different door.
Pathways of Charity
In the Gospel, the Lord warns that He sends His followers “like lambs among wolves.” Indirectly He also hints at “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” those who tear down and divide the flock from within. He offers away that His children can recognize like-minded souls: the mutual exchange of peace. Love lived out in humble service.
This has practical applications for us. In our efforts to “defend the faith,” do we couch our arguments hoping others will admire our well-polished intellect? Or do we harbor a shameful tendency to build up our own reputations at the expense of other believers – or, worse, those who are still searching for the fullness of the truth?
Do we practice humility, recognizing that when all is said and done we are primarily students, not teachers? Do we eagerly search for (and pick apart) minor flaws in another’s viewpoint, instead of trying to learn from another’s insights?
Is our highest priority being faithful to the task God has given us, or are we preoccupied with our reward—whether financial, emotional, or relational? (A fellow blogger reminded me of this recently, wisely advising me to focus on writing quality content, and trust God to get that word into the right hands.)
“Knowledge puffs up; love grows up.” Our first parents were separated from God because they chose to eat from the “tree of knowledge of good and bad” (Gen 2:17), choosing the desire to be like God over the desire to know God. And so, as St. Paul reminds us, the surest pathway to sanctity … is charity.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child;
when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:4-12