Friday of Week 14 in Ordinary Time
“Remember, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; so be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves.”
Once in a while, the Gospel readings surprise me. Sometimes, I can’t believe what I am reading and cannot fathom why our Lord Jesus would say something like that. It is then that I realize that I did not truly understand what Jesus was trying to tell us, until it is explained to me.
Can you imagine Jesus telling us to be cunning like a snake? No matter how you look at it, snake-like qualities in a human are never flattering nor desirable. So why would Jesus tell us to be cunning like serpents? Like most passages, we can’t really look at just one phrase; we need to read the whole passage and put everything into context. What Jesus was telling His disciples then still applies to us in the present day.
He was telling His disciples to evangelize, to spread God’s word and to teach that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. The message at that time (before the Passion of Christ), was mainly for the house of Israel, who had fallen away from God (Matthew 10:6). The message the disciples were to deliver is probably controversial and ill-received. They probably faced ridicule and hostility from others. In other words, they were vulnerable like sheep and they were vulnerable to the attacks, perhaps physical and/or spiritual, from the wolves or people who were against them.
This is truer today than at any other time. Our society has made great leaps and bounds in some areas, but has fallen wayward or regressed in others. God and His teachings have become ‘uncool’ and unpopular. Jesus’ message is unwelcome at best and mocked at by others. If we are to evangelize or lead others to Christ, it can be a harrowing experience. The current societal climate is one of relativism, without the parameters of true moral teachings. More than likely, you will be ridiculed or called out if you disagree or challenge the view of the masses. Like Rosa Parks in overcoming racism, evangelization requires us, Christ’s disciples, to be courageous, determined, and prayerful. Yes, there will be suffering, but nothing that cannot be overcome by our faith in the Lord. We cannot spread God’s word by force nor by passivity. We should not be confrontational, yet we should take our stance with the truth that Jesus taught us.
To be true disciples of Jesus, some of us are called to evangelize actively, while some of us are called to evangelize through our words and actions in our everyday lives. Whatever the case is, bringing people to Christ should be considered as our ultimate love for that person. Love is “willing the good of others as others”, it is not for our own intents and purposes, but for their good. After all, Christ is the best thing and eternal happiness is for us. We should always maintain purity of hearts and good intentions. The most important thing is to remain prayerful. God can do wonders if we only trust in Him.
In terms of the need to be ‘cunning’, I interpret this as anticipating threats and finding ways to reach the masses like other interest groups have done. We can’t force people to listen, we can’t lecture them or shout at a street corner; these actions would achieve nothing if not negative results. We can, however, reach all children of God slowly, and with patience. With love and prayer in our hearts, a simple smile or hello, a casual conversation can open doors to introduce people to Christ.
You may think, “That’s all wonderful, but evangelizing isn’t for me.” That is what I myself thought too. Until I learned that the Second Vatican Council clearly states that all of us have a responsibility to spread God’s word, to be Jesus’ disciples. It is up to you and me.
So, brothers and sisters, let us take up the cross and help to spread the message of peace and joy to people we meet. Let us be cunning or savvy like a serpent. At the same time, let us be pure and peaceful like a dove. This can only be achieved by faithfulness and trusting in God.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)
Prayer: Lord Jesus, please grant us the cunning of a serpent but the purity and peacefulness of a dove when you send us out in the world to spread Your Word. Grant us the grace of courage, determination and love when doing the Father’s will.
Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us the gift of Jesus and His disciples. For teaching us Your way. May we, in turn, help bring others to come to know You and the joy that only You can bring.