“I am sending you out as lambs among wolves” -Luke 10:3
“It is right to make known the gift of God and his eternal consolation. It is right to spread abroad the name of God faithfully and without fear…he gave me such great grace, that through me, many people should be born again in God and brought to full life.” – St. Patrick
It‘s scary out there. Between internet comment sections and presidential debates, at times it seems that our common discourse contains too little substance and far too much shouting. What does someone who wants to be a force for the New Evangelization do in all this confusion? How can we work for God’s kingdom with so many working to tear down any stone we erect?
We are tempted just to run away. We long to retreat to a sanctuary of the like-minded, to dodge difficult questions, or just to pretend that there is no real issue, that any view is acceptable. Sometimes, we hide quite virtuously, preparing ourselves for another fight or knowing that we are not prepared for such conversations. But there comes a time when we must stand our ground and preach. For most people, this time comes about fairly frequently, and to fail to be a light in the darkness is to commit what Cardinal Robert Sarah calls “silent apostasy.” There are some, true, who take this call to preach as a call to join in the shouting match, becoming just another voice among the many, but this is also insufficient.
These responses are natural: we have the animal instincts to run and hide from the predator or to fight back. But none of these approaches can be the final option. Many people think that the culture of death is the only valid option because the few voices they hear to the contrary seem oppressive or moralizing. How will they hear the Truth unless we risk it all and go, as Christ calls us, to be lambs among wolves?
Lambs, though easily scared, follow the voice of the Shepherd. His loving voice means safety, security, and green pastures. The lamb cannot hide in the paddock; the wolf will sniff her out if she stays. She cannot outrun the wolves—to run is to be eaten. Neither is it in her nature to fight. It is for her only to love the Shepherd and to trust Him who has shown her such love. We are therefore called to preach as meek and loving lambs, simply speaking what we know to be true: the Love of the Shepherd.
St. Patrick showed to his people this love of Christ the Shepherd. Having been a literal shepherd, Patrick knew what lambs are like, meek and docile. And his people knew that he cared for them, because he had left the relative safety of his native England and returned to shepherd a people living among wolves—the Druids. Under his loving care, the people of Ireland, freed from fear, learned to preach the truth in their meek and gentle love of Christ.
Jesus, while truly a loving Shepherd to His sheep, is also a fierce Lion. As the saying goes, “Truth is like a lion: It does not need defending; set it free and it will defend itself.” Christ, our constant companion and Truth incarnate, is this Lion of Truth. He lies down with the loving lamb (Is 11:6), but tears to pieces any wolf that may threaten His flock. Since we are little lambs, Jesus does not call us beyond our nature, but asks us only to love Him, both in Himself and in those He loves. His Truth is the defence for us lambs in a hostile world. St. Patrick set this Lion free in Ireland by his loving words and deeds, and watched Him decimate the wolves with the majesty of His golden visage and the sharp claws of His sacrificial Love. We too can be heralds to this Truth not by joining in the noise, but by a meek loving presence, a witness shocking to the noisy world.
So, though it’s a scary world out there, we need not fear, for our guide and guard is a Lion. In all this, the best thing that we can do is unabashedly to be lambs, children of God beyond reproach. By simply being His meek and loving lambs, we witness in gentle words and simple deeds to the Good Shepherd and Mighty Lion who is always with us.
Image: Petr Kratochvil, Baby Lamb