Ps 68:29-30, 33-36ab
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John.
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying:
“Holy Father, keep them in your name
that you have given me,
so that they may be one just as we are one.
When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me,
and I guarded them, and none of them was lost
except the son of destruction,
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
But now I am coming to you.
I speak this in the world
so that they may share my joy completely.
I gave them your word, and the world hated them,
because they do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
I do not ask that you take them out of the world
but that you keep them from the Evil One.
They do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
Consecrate them in the truth.
Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world.
And I consecrate myself for them,
so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”
Good News Reflection: Recognizing wolves in sheep’s clothing
In today’s first reading, 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 cliche, 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.
Pope Francis understands this. He has warned (April 14, 2014) seminarians (and this can be applied to all who are in ministry) to take seriously the words of the Prophets: “Woe to the wicked Shepherds who pasture themselves and not their flocks.” He said, “May this ‘woe’ make you reflect seriously on your future.” And if we are not willing to be shaped by the Holy Spirit, “meditating every day on the Gospel…experiencing the mercy of God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation…eating the Eucharist with faith and with love…being men of prayer…it would be better for you to have the courage to seek another path,” he said.
Wolves that come from within are those who push their own agendas or deliberately make themselves look important. Some genuinely believe that they are trying to right a wrong or that they are doing God’s work, but they are not being guided by the Holy Spirit. Others are bullies in the way they shepherd the people who work under their supervision.
We all act like wolves sometimes. 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 as well as his guidance on what to do when we encounter wolves. 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 recognize the wolves.
And then the question becomes: When I see a wolf, what does the Good Shepherd want me to do to help rescue vulnerable sheep?
Beloved Jesus, I take shelter under Your prayer to our Father, to preserve and protect my life and my family’s life, while we walk toward the dwelling You have prepared for us. Amen.
© 2018 by Terry A. Modica