Cunning as Serpents and Simple as Doves

First Reading: 1 Hos 14:2-10

Psalm: 51:3-4, 8-9, 12-13, 14 And 17

Gospel: Mt 10:16-23

The words of Jesus in today’s Gospel are words of warning accompanied by words of promise. He tells his apostles that they are being sent out “as sheep among wolves” and therefore they (we) must be “cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves.”

Jesus then goes on to describe coming persecutions when his disciples will suffer, but he also promises that the Holy Spirit will be there to provide whatever is needed for the apostles’ ministry.

Most Christians find it easy to understand being like sheep among wolves or being as harmless as doves. This is often interpreted to mean that we should be meek and humble. What we often overlook is that Jesus also asks us to be as “cunning as serpents.” What could this mean?

Maybe there is still a place for being “cunning” in a Christian’s life, and perhaps it has to do with discerning the needs of every time and place. We are asked not only to be meek and humble followers or servants (sheep and doves), but also to be cunning-to understand the ways of the world and to do what is necessary to proclaim the Gospel, even if it involves suffering and persecution.

We must be cunning as serpents and simple as doves.