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No whining: The surprising lesson from the truly persecuted

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Hans Lucas via AFP

Fr. Luigi Maria Epicoco - published on 07/08/22

We are sent as sheep amid wolves, yes. That doesn't authorize us to play the victim.

Today’s readings can be found here.

Matthew 10:16-23


“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

“I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” This clear, dramatic statement should not be misunderstood.

The fact that we are sent like sheep amid wolves does not authorize us to play the victim. Jesus’ statement is a warning never to assume the logic of wolves, nor to dwell in resignation. 

I have never heard any whining coming from people who are really fleeing from persecution. In fact, those who are fleeing real persecution oftentimes assume Jesus’ own attitude: meekness and patience. True, being patient and meek does not spare us from feeling lonely or abandoned in the dark. But Jesus also experienced these feelings, so there is nothing wrong with that. 

Now, being a lamb does not mean being inexperienced or naïve. Jesus puts it quite bluntly: innocent as doves and wise as serpents. Innocence and wisdom are two things that a Christian must always keep in balance. Simplicity without cunning becomes naivety, and cunning without simplicity becomes malice.


Father Luigi Maria Epicoco is a priest of the Aquila Diocese and teaches Philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University and at the ISSR ‘Fides et ratio’, Aquila. He dedicates himself to preaching, especially for the formation of laity and religious, giving conferences, retreats and days of recollection. He has authored numerous books and articles. Since 2021, he has served as the Ecclesiastical Assistant in the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and columnist for the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

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