Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus gives us fairly straightforward criteria for discerning good and evil.  Many times, when what is evil takes the form of dogs or pigs we can recognize it a mile away.  Capital sins are supposed to be of that sort: murder, fornication, deception, etc.  Sometimes evil takes the appearance of sheep though.  They are wolves hiding in sheep’s clothing when what they say delights or entices but leads to sin.  This is the most pernicious attack of the enemy, because we are in some ways fooled and consent to evil while we were unable to grasp the necessary relationship between what seems to be good and its evil consequences.  We see this in gossip: sometimes what starts as simply giving people updates turns into complaining about others, or spreading rumors about what others have said or done.  We see it in murder: sometimes what starts as taking a stand against apparent injustice ends in the death of another.  We see it in fornication: what starts as pleasant affection ends in the act reserved for marriage.  We see it in greed: what starts as working to have enough turns into getting as much as possible by any means necessary.  The key to identifying the wolf is trying to see where what seems to be good actually leads.

Sometimes what seems to be bad is actually not so.  Most often this happens when some kind of suffering is involved.  Not all suffering can be easily shown to lead to a greater good even though God can and does always bring a greater good out of suffering.  Some suffering however, is only apparently evil.  The suffering of grief after committing sin can lead to repentance.  The suffering of restraint can lead to temperance.  The suffering of setting reason before passion can lead to prudence.  The suffering of putting others before myself can lead to justice.  The suffering of holding fast to what is right when one’s life is in danger can lead to fortitude.

Let us not judge by appearances, but by the fruit the tree produces.


Matthew 7:15 (ACCS Mt 1-13): One must guard oneself not only against pigs and dogs but those other, more elusive creatures: the wolves. They were going to face inward anxieties as well as outward difficulties, but they are not to despair. “Therefore do not be thrown into confusion,” Jesus says in effect, “for nothing will happen that is new or strange. Remember that the ancient adversary is forever introducing deception as if true.”1


We need not wonder that Huldah, the prophet and wife of Shallum, was consulted by Josiah, king of Judah, when the captivity was approaching and the wrath of the Lord was falling on Jerusalem: since it is the rule of Scripture, when holy men fail, to praise women to the reproach of men.2


“They went to the prophet Huldah,” and not to Jeremiah, even though he was already well known as a prophet, probably because Jeremiah was not there at the moment, or maybe because this woman surpassed him with the power of her gift of prophecy.3


Love faith. For by his devotion and faith Josiah won great love for himself from his enemies. For he celebrated the Lord’s Passover when he was eighteen years old, as no one had done it before him. As then in zeal he was superior to those who went before him, so do you, my children, show zeal for God. Let zeal for God search you through and devour you, so that each one of you may say, “The zeal of your house has eaten me up.” An apostle of Christ was called the zealot. But why do I speak of an apostle? The Lord himself said, “The zeal of your house has eaten me up.” Let it then be real zeal for God, not mean earthly zeal, for that causes jealousy.4


When Jesus notes that “there are few who find it,” he distinguishes these from those who do not find the way yet pretend to find it. So do not look to the mask but to the behavioral fruits of those who pursue the narrow way.5



  1. The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 23.6.
  2. AGAINST JOVINIANUS 1.25.  Conti, M., & Pilara, G. (Eds.). (2008). 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (p. 230). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  3. BOOKS OF SESSIONS 2 KINGS 22.14.  Conti, M., & Pilara, G. (Eds.). (2008). 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (p. 230). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  4. DUTIES OF THE CLERGY 2.30.154.  Conti, M., & Pilara, G. (Eds.). (2008). 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (p. 233). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  5. THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 23.6.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (pp. 153–154). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
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