The core of the Christian struggle is for peace. We are certainly called to bring about a just society, but only because it makes for peace. If we decide to use methods or measures to bring about so-called justice at the expense of peace, will we ever truly have peace? Peace is worth fighting for, but the techniques we employ must come from hearts that are fundamentally decided on peace. In today’s Gospel, the Lord gives us an interesting teaching about conflict. He doesn’t tell us to avoid the wolves altogether, but to be aware of them and to have the inner attitude of sheep around them. When persecution becomes fierce, however, we should in fact flee – not just to live another day, but to bring the Gospel elsewhere. This is part of the reason the Gospel spread so quickly at the beginning: when and where it was poorly received, time was not wasted insisting or fighting.
EPHREM THE SYRIAN:
Because Israel, symbolically called “son” since Egypt, had lost its sonship through having worshiped Baal and offered incense to idols, John gave them a name which suited them: race of vipers. Because these had lost that title of sonship, which had been poured over them through grace in the days of Moses, they received from John a name congruent with their deeds. After the Lord went down into the land of the Egyptians and had returned from there, the Evangelist said, “Now the true word spoken by the prophet is accomplished.” He said, “I will call my son out of Egypt.” He also said, “He will be called a Nazarene,” because in Hebrew nezer means a “scepter,” and the prophet calls him a “Nazarene” because he is the Son of the scepter.
Observe how holy and how marvelous is the sequence of things. Do not imagine that wisdom will come before its enactment in deeds. The deeds ought to come first, and wisdom sought afterwards.… We ought not teach others before we ourselves are instructed and rational. After these things, however, “truth” is added because “truth” is the highest wisdom. The prophet also preserves this same order when he says, “Sow for yourselves righteousness and reap the fruit of life; illuminate yourselves with the light of knowledge.” See how he does not first say, “Illuminate yourselves with the light of knowledge,” but first, “Sow for yourselves righteousness.” It is not sufficient just to sow, but he says, “reap the fruit of life” so that after these you can fulfill what follows, “illuminate yourselves with the light of knowledge.”