Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 373

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing,
but underneath are ravenous wolves.
By their fruits you will know them.
Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?

The Gospel of Saint Matthew stands first among the four gospels not only because it's the longest of the synoptic gospels. It is also about the church., written with much experience of problems in the community.
That should come as no surprise; what's surprising is that so many people are surprised that the Church has many, many problems. As Cardinal Dolan has said, "You don't have to tell me about sin in the Church; I'm a church historian!"
We may have been forgiven all of our sins with the rite of Baptism but we have not been purged of every sinful tendency, nor have we created a community without problems.
Saint Matthew's gospel, written about 80 AD, addresses some of the problems encountered to date. In today's gospel, false prophets.
They are like ravenous wolves in sheep's clothing.
The expression has a colorful history following Saint Matthew's teaching, but I wonder if there is some precedent. Did thieves camouflage themselves as sheep to rob unsuspecting shepherds? A real wolf could not pull off such a trick but a clever enemy might. A small group of camouflaged soldiers might ambush an army camp, tossing off their sheepskins as they attacked.
In any case, all that glitters is not gold and not every preacher of the Gospel is a good person. Some are rogues with no scruples about exploiting the unwary; others sincerely believe their intentions are good. The latter are worse because their claims of innocence are so appealing. They really think they intend only good.
By their fruits you will know them.
Is this person unitive or divisive for the Church? Does this person polarize a community into friends and enemies? Does this person lead us toward union with Rome or away?
Regardless of their intentions, divisive persons are wolves in sheep clothing and should be avoided.
An "intervention" might help them to see how they generate such trouble; it might give them some insight and reveal another way of being.
There are people who expect to find enemies wherever they go and, because of that, do so. They need an inner healing which might come through wise spiritual direction. If they are willing to accept admonition and correction, they might be welcomed into our church of sinners.
Our response to them should be both compassionate and wise. First of all, we lay aside our naïve conviction that the church has been inoculated and is immune to false prophets. Secondly, we repent of that naiveté; it has no charm. Finally we welcome sinners among us even as we confess our sins to one another.
No community is perfect and if I ever joined one, it would not be perfect after I joined it. I expect to discover perfidy in the Church because it's in my heart. I cannot be surprised to find it among others, both shepherds and sheep.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

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