Grace to you!
I continue the reflection on the twelve apostles' mission, as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew 10. It is part of what I shared with you yesterday. The Lord advises the apostles: "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16). What a combination!
You may have an idea of what those parallels suggest—the wisdom of the snake and the innocence of the dove?
As an African and having seen live snakes a few times in some of our bushes, I know. Also, having lived on the mountain here in the U.S.A., where rattlesnakes are, I have some knowledge of the "skills" of the snake. I had to research snakes to be safe from them where I live.
Snakes are shrewd. With poor eyesight, adapted to see more at night, they learn fast how to meander through dangerous paths and not fall prey to predators. A few species, like pit vipers, have high sensitivity at night. It is something that acts like an infrared light making it highly safe for them to crawl their way to safety amidst dangerous paths.
For the most part, snakes' crawls are unnoticeable. They are so silent that one could easily step on a huge snake without knowing it was there. When they buzz, hiss, or rattle depending on their species, they often lure their bait or warn an intruder.
Snakes are smart. They know precisely when to be visible and when to hide. They can easily spot the safest zones in the field and readily hide in case of danger. They are highly intuitive, as well.
Finally, snakes don’t expose themselves unnecessarily. Their first instinct is how to preserve themselves and resurface when the danger is over. They are the best examples of the instinct of self-preservation at work.
The Blessed Lord Jesus says, "Be wise as a serpent." Why?
I suggest, because the territory of missions, of evangelization and the cultures which the gospel must penetrate, are, for the most part, hostile to the gospel message. The Lord compares the evangelizer as sheep among wolves. It's not funny at all.
Look, for instance, at the odds the evangelizer must face. You are preaching purity to the sexualized world. You are preaching traditional gospel marriage to a world that sees it differently. You are preaching
love to a world that prefers hate and vengeance. You are preaching obedience to God when many have banished that virtue from their way of life.
The evangelizer is calling for faith in God, who has a personal relationship with us in Christ. On the other hand, popular culture is advocating for impersonal spiritualities or any other not focused on one form of religion. The list is endless. Many of the core values of the Gospel of Christ are at variance with pop culture.
So how would you, as a messenger of God’s Word, live and operate in such an environment?
The Lord shows a simple strategy: Be wise as a snake. See those qualities of the snake, don't be unnecessarily loud, don't waste your words, know when to act, and when to refrain. Know exactly how to identify and use opportunities well. Be smart.
The Lord adds: "Be innocent as a dove." Namely, be known as a gentle, peaceful, pure, and honest person. Be meek as well, because the message you bring is ultimately about "shalom"—peace. It isn't you that bring about the transforming impact of the message. It is the Word itself, which can renew and shatter the rocks of hardened hearts. The power of your message isn't because you said it. It is because it is true and of God. So, don't force about it.
A combination of these two qualities would help our work of evangelization today. However, know that it won't stop us from being persecuted. We can't avoid persecution altogether, no matter how much we try. Our assurance from the Lord is this: "He who endures to the end will be saved" (Mt 10: 22).
I pray for firm commitment to the mandate to bear witness to God’s saving grace without fear. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Friday Week 14: Hosea 14: 2-10; Matthew 10:16-23]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.