Today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 10:16-23) makes it pretty clear that following Christ doesn’t come without its share of conflict and persecutions. I mean, it mentions wolves right off—that can't be appealing. While many of us probably aren’t subject to the physical torments Jesus was prepping the Apostles for, dissent amongst our families, conflict with co-workers, and being told we are “intolerant” is a reality for many of us. Living as a counter-cultural Christian means just that—living against the culture. And that’s going to be uncomfortable.
Here’s the thing, though: Jesus knew this all of this ahead of time. He knows the cost, and He still asks us to go out and evangelize equipping us with the tools and graces needed. The Gospel today describes how we are to do that by giving us a “Virtuous Zoo.”
Sheep. Found frequently in the Bible, sheep signify humility, a realization that we aren’t in control and are in need of a leader. Peacefully plodding through life, the sheep's contentment is found via their trust in the Shepherd.
Snakes. The snake honors the virtue of Prudence, slithering away rather than engaging in conflict. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes it this way: “Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it . . . .” (Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1806). We can use our creativity and innovation to engage when necessary and step out when needed.
Doves. Doves often symbolize purity. Here they are described as simple: a simplicity that is uncomplicated and honest. When we embody simplicity, we are authentically and transparently living our lives. The person we are when attending Mass on Sunday is the same one who wakes up to go to work on Monday and hangs out with friends on Thursday nights.
And when the struggle on this Earth seems like too much, we can turn back and look to Jesus. He is the embodiment of self-sacrifice, going forth unafraid, living authentically amongst the wolves, and paying the ultimate sacrifice. And because of that, we know that we live with the hope of Christ as we are brought a step closer to our eternal redemption.
Take a few moments to journal today. Where are you facing resistance internally when trying to live out the Gospel? What's making you uncomfortable about sharing proudly?
Sarah Ortiz is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother to four boys. When not folding laundry, she can be found reading, experimenting in the kitchen, or writing at her blog. You can find out more about her here.