In my reflections on the Gospel these days, I refer to a compilation of St Thomas Aquinas of commentaries of Church Fathers on the Gospels. The compilation is a four volume set called the Catena Aurea. In it, St Augustine says dogs assault the truth and rend the whole truth and swines defile it and if I may add, attack those who proclaim in. It is interesting that St Thomas Aquinas see this passage as an assault on the truth. This shows how important the Truth is to our spiritual lives. This fits into what Jesus said Enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it. This totally contradicts what many believe today, that everyone goes to heaven.
The road to heaven is narrow and difficult because it is based on the Truth of Jesus Christ, who is the only Savior of the world and whom many reject. Jesus warns us about dogs who will assault the truth and against swine who corrupt it and attack those who bring it. This is the antagonism Christians face when we speak the truth. How many already have suffered, lost their jobs, are bullied, persecuted and sometimes killed, because they speak the truth? They have been attacked by dogs who refuse to listen to the truth. They have been attacked by swines who defile the truth. These swines could be the clergy or preachers and teachers who distort the truth and attack those who speak it. No wonder the Pseudo-Chrysostom equates these swines to heretics.
So what are we to do, when we are attacked by dogs and swines? Do we give in? The First Reading shows us how to respond to threats: Jerusalem was surrounded by the Assyrian army. The king of Assyria sent a mocking message to Hezekiah, telling him to surrender. Instead of surrendering or assessing his military strength, Hezekiah, the King of Judah, went directly to the Temple and prayed. His prayer shows how we are to pray when confronted with threats. It praises God for who he is, it asks God to hear and see the words of the enemy. It ends with So now, O Lord our God, save us. I pray you, from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord are God alone. Hezekiah knew victory is not won by the strength of his army. But it is won by the power of God.
God heard him and sent Isaiah to Hezekiah who assured him of God’s protection the king of Assyria shall not come into this city, shoot an arrow there, come before it with a shield, or cast up a siege ramp against it. By the way he came, by the same he shall return. He shall not come into this city… for I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.
God fulfilled his promise and he himself struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. What happened, we do not know. But God intervened.
Our God is a mighty God. He defends us when we trust him. When we are confronted by dogs and swines who resist the Truth, we turn to God our defender. We should not be afraid. The road to life is hard, the gate to it is narrow. But when we stay in the hard and narrow path, we will find it.
Lord, in your mercy, deliver me from evil. When I am confronted with the truth, let me have courage to accept them and repent. Give me courage to speak the truth, even when dogs and swine shall attack me. Let me not cower in fear, but instead, let me hold fast to your promise that you will defend me, that you will take up my cause, that you are the Great God and greatly to be praised. You are my sure defence, O Lord. I trust in you.