The Lion’s Vigilance.
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. – Matthew 26:40
In old times, shepherds were regularly exposed to danger. They roamed out in the open, uncovered and liable to meet thieves or predators in the night. The staves they carried not only served to prod and gather the sheep but also became bludgeoning weapons. Now the weapons of Christ are unlike ordinary weapons. The first have a purpose to injure or kill while the latter are used in the work of redemption. Christ’s weapons are faith, hope and charity. Armed with these, the priest is to be ever vigilant of the evils which threaten his flock. With faith he dismantles the deceivers, laying out true doctrine and sound teaching. With hope, he beats back the wolves, declaring God’s mercy a sweet remedy. With love he battles the darkness, pointing onward to saving standard of the cross.
Whenever the lion is mentioned in Holy Scripture, he is a symbol of imminent danger, “He is like a lion that wants to tear its prey to bits, like a young lion crouching in hidden places.” (Psalm 17:12). And in another place, “Rescue me from the mouth of lions.” (Psalm 22:21). We also read a passage where the risen Christ is called “The lion of Judah” (Rev 5:5). To the powers of evil, Christ is terribly dangerous. He is a conqueror, a killer even, of evil things. By virtue of his anointing, this is how dangerous the priest can be to evil. Let him seize upon the spirits of discord, heresy, false teachings, allurement and blasphemy and tear them to bits. With his own children however, he is tender. The killing jaws of the lion are pacified as he carries his cubs to safety. Merciless the priest should be towards sin but merciful always towards the sinner.
Because he is so dangerous to evil, the priest does well to guard his own soul. Let him also be the father and guardian of his own soul. The priest keeps vigil against counterattacks with prayerfulness, devotion and mortifications. Prayer strengthens the priest. Christ knew this when he asked his disciples, his newly ordained priests, to watch with him an hour. Perhaps if they had kept vigil, their hearts would have been better prepared to endure the passion? Though a lion, the priest is weak. He must realize it. Aware of his own weakness, the true minister of Christ works in humility trying to do what is pleasing to God (PO Ch 3, 15). Humility is the greatest tool for bludgeoning evil- for it strikes the hidden evils in one’s own heart. Taking up the sheild of humility, the priest regards his own stains. What he has preached, he turns on himself. He prays earnestly: “Wash away my iniquities and cleanse me from my sins.” Then the words he preaches will be better-received for a holy man spoke them.
And that foul devil seeks to weary and weaken Christ’s priests. He will make them question their vocation, play on their insecurities: “Isn’t this too lofty a calling for such a lowly man?”. He will try bringing the world down around a priest’s ears, assail him with temptations to lust and despair. Yet is it by God’s mercy shown to his priests that the “lowly man” can triumph. He calls for divine aid and the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, shall rush down crying out “Do not touch my anointed!”.
The demons know who Christ is. They recognize also Christ in the priest- and they tremble. Nothing strikes more terror into the devil’s heart than a holy priest. He is a constant testimony that Christ crushed the serpent’s head while in the weakness of human flesh.
To be continued in, Lamb in the Confessional