October 5, 2023
Thursday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus appointed seventy-two other disciples whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.” Luke 10:1–3
Why would our Lord send His disciples out like lambs among wolves? At first, this might be concerning and cause us to wonder if our Lord were sending them into a situation in which they would encounter harm. Saint Ambrose, in commenting on this, explains that there is no reason for these disciples to fear, since Jesus is the Good Shepherd Who always protects His sheep. It’s helpful to reflect upon what sort of danger these disciples would encounter on this mission and all future missions and to contrast that danger with the only form of danger we should fear.
The “wolves” in this situation are especially some of the cruel religious and civil leaders of that time, as well as those who would reject the disciples and their teaching. When looking at the worldly danger that our Lord encountered, as well as His disciples, we see that it was a danger of persecution. But is that a “danger” that one should fear? Clearly not, since Jesus never cowered in the face of it. In the Acts of the Apostles, we see how this same fate of persecution befell Jesus’ followers. But in the divine perspective, true “danger” is only that which has the potential to do eternal damage to one’s soul: sin.
Sin and sin alone has the potential to do true damage, not persecution or even death. So when Jesus sent His disciples out “like lambs among wolves,” He was fully aware of the persecution they would receive in this world. But He exhorted them and sent them, because He knew that even if they were to eventually suffer persecution and death, their faith and courage in the midst of it would gain them merit in eternal life and would become an instrument of grace for others in their life of faith. As was commonly said in the early Church, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.” For that reason, as Jesus sent these sheep out among wolves, He also accompanied their souls as the Good Shepherd, protecting their virtue, strengthening them in their witness to the faith, and keeping them from fear and from sin. He did not want them to fear the death of their body or their worldly reputation—rather, only the death of their souls which He, as the Good Shepherd, vigorously defended.
Reflect, today, upon the glorious truth that our Lord also sends you forth to be like a lamb among wolves. The fulfillment of the will of God in your life will take fortitude and courage as you trust that our Lord will keep you free from the countless temptations of sin. As you go forth, do not be surprised if you encounter harshness from others in the world, judgment and even persecution in various forms. When you do, respond with virtue. Keep faith, hope and charity alive in your life and do not fear those who can harm you in ways that are not eternal. Instead, stay firmly grounded in your mission to love and to share the mercy and truth of God in our world, no matter the consequences. Doing so will bring with it countless interior blessings of grace and will enable God to use you as an instrument of His grace in ways beyond that which you can ever conceive.
My courageous Lord, You came face-to-face with a harshness and cruelty in this world that ultimately enabled You to give witness to Your divine love by freely laying down Your life. Please send me forth on Your mission and strengthen me with every divine virtue so that I will not fear any form of persecution but always remain steadfast in my love of You, overcoming all fear through the gift of faith. My life is Yours, dear Lord. Do with me as You will. Jesus, I trust in You.