“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus is letting us know that once we accept this mission of preaching, once we become determined to walk the walk and live in the light, we should be prepared for trouble!
Yes, get ready for trouble. The book of Sirach would say: “My child when you are prepared to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal.” (Sirach 2:1). You may ask, why does it have to be so difficult? Yes, it is difficult because by accepting to serve God, you are disrupting the kingdom of Satan so be sure that he would want to put up a fight.
This fight is what Jesus expresses by saying, “I am sending you out like sheep in the midst of wolves.” Just as wolves and sheep cannot dwell together peacefully, Satan and his agents would not stop trying all manner of things to pull you down. It is for this reason that Karl Rahner would say: “If you say you are a Christian today, it is either you are mystic or a complete unbeliever.” The meaning of this statement is that you are either a very serious Christian or you are not a believer.
There is no middle way, there is nothing like “let me just do the minimum.” Anyone who has such an attitude easily gives in to pressure from Satan and from the world. That is why these days, you can no longer distinguish those who say they are Christians from those who do not even go to Church at all. And this is why Christians are not making any impact in our world today or changing the moral status of society.
Jesus says we should be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. This means we should be on guard against the attacks of others and do everything possible like the serpent to prevent ourselves from being defeated or killed spiritually. Yet to be at the same time as innocent as a dove is that we should never return wickedness with wickedness or seek to revenge. We should not expect a smooth ride as people will hate us and persecute us for no just cause.
Just as the prophet Hosea calls on the House of Israel to repent and return back to God, we too are called to accept the difficult task of going out to call people to repentance. It is not easy to tell a person his mouth is smelling, he may hate you for it or attack you, yet, that is precisely what the mission is all about. Preaching that does not “offend” people – cause them to search inwards and change their lives is not preaching.
Our preaching should be able to tell people the truth no matter how bitter it is and if they attack us for telling the truth, let such attacks become the cross we carry. We shouldn’t avoid the truth for fear of people’s reaction otherwise we would water down the message and end up only telling them what they like to hear. Much of our preaching in churches today is no longer a truth that touches hearts and moves them to repentance but motivational messages that are laden with so many prayers and fake prophesying.
Let us pray: Almighty ever-living God, give me the grace of faithfulness to the truth and courage to overcome trials and attacks from Satan and agents as I continue to destroy him by my preaching. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Bible Study: Hosea 14:2-10, Ps. 51:3-4,8-9,12-14,17, Matthew 10:16-23)
© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu