St. Vincent cautioned, “On that day it will be better to be a sheep of Jesus Christ that to have been a pope, or king, or emperor.”
Vincent powerfully detailed five virtues revealed in Scripture that distinguishes the sheep: “simple innocence, ample mercy, steadfast patience, true obedience, and worthy penance.”
First, simple innocence is when a person “lives simply, nor hurts anyone in his heart, by hating, nor by defaming in speech, nor striking with hands, nor by stealing. Such a life “is called simple innocence, which makes a man a sheep of Christ.”
In each case, St. Vincent next colorfully details reasons why. A sheep doesn’t attack with horns like a bull...
...nor bite with its teeth like a wolf, nor strike with hooves like a horse… if you wish to be a sheep of Christ, you should strike no one with horns of knowledge or of power, for lawyers strike by the horns of knowledge, jurists, advocates, or men who have great knowledge. Merchants by deceiving others. Lords and bullies strike with the horns of power, plundering or injuring, and extorting, using calumnies and threats, and the like. Listen to what the Lord says by the mouth of David: ‘And I will break all the horns of sinners: but the horns of the just shall be exalted’ (Psalm 74:11).
“Biting” is to defame your neighbor’s reputation, and devour by saying “nothing good praising someone, but only the bad,” so “defamers are not the sheep of Christ, but wolves of hell.”
Kicking like horses means to despise. Therefore, he warns, “children, do not hate your parents; nor parents, children; nor young people, old folks; nor the healthy, the sick; nor rich, the poor; nor masters, their servants; nor prelates, their clergy; and vice versa. It is clear what is simple innocence.”
Second, ample mercy means distributing your God-given temporal and spiritual gifts to the needy. “Because,” Vincent illustrates, “among all the animals a sheep is the most beneficial of animals. For the sheep by growing wool, shows us mercy and benefits of mercy, because how many poor people does a sheep clothe?” Sheep give milk and food to eat to. We imitate and give love this way: our wool is “external and temporal goods, bread and wine, money and clothes and the like.” The milk is “interior and spiritual goods, by giving good teaching to the ignorant… If you have the milk of knowledge, of devotion, or of eloquence, you should give to those not having them.” Vincent reminds of Jesus telling the sheep, “For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink... naked, and you covered me” (Matthew 25:35-36).
Third, steadfast patience takes different forms, such as when someone “suffering from injuries inflicted or spoken to him does not want to concern himself with taking revenge. Rather he loves everyone in general, and prays for them all.” The analogy? The “sheep is a most patient animal, for if harassed while eating, or if struck, it does not defend itself, but goes elsewhere, nor does it avenge itself like a dog or a goat would do, but humbly yields. O blessed is the person, man or woman, who has such patience, and takes no vengeance for injuries, but forgives, as God forgives him.”
Fourth, true obedience means ordering all thoughts, words and actions according to God’s will, not ours, just as sheep are so obedient that a child with a staff easily “can easily guide 30 or 40 sheep.” Remember Psalm 23? Remember Jesus illustrating the shepherd was able to leave 99 safely alone as he searched for the lost sheep?
Vincent Ferrer’s simple summary for the shepherd’s commands includes these: “First that we live humbly” because Jesus said “learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29). Those with pride aren’t Christ’s sheep but the devil’s goat. Second, give with mercy and generosity. Who “disobediently goes by the way of avarice by committing usury, robbery, theft, etc., is not a sheep of Christ, but a goat of the devil.” Next, we must “walk by the way of cleanness, of chastity, etc.” Matthew 19:12). “Whoever therefore goes by the way of uncleanness and the filthiness of lust and carnality, such is not a sheep of Christ but a goat of the devil.”
Fifth, worthy penance must be performed for sins we’ve committed. The Angel of the Apocalypse emphasizes no one is exempt from sin, As Ecclesiastes (7:21) noted, “For there is no just man upon earth that does good, and sins not.”
“Therefore worthy penance is necessary, by sorrowing for sins and proposing not to relapse, confessing, and making satisfaction. And in this way penance makes a man a sheep of Christ.” To make the analogy, he explains in detail how a sheep is modest, but concludes a goat reflects “the notoriously shameless person, because everyone knows his wicked life and sins, like wicked clergy, and other notorious cohabiters, nor do they wish to cover it up with the tail of penitence; they are impenitent.”
The End of World and the Antichrist
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