“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the "good" of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent “moral” busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own "good" will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”― C.S. Lewis: (1898 – 1963: was a British novelist, poet, & academic)
Gospel Text: (MT 10:16-23)
Jesus said to his Apostles:
"Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves;
so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.
But beware of men,
for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues,
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
as a witness before them and the pagans.
When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death,
and the father his child;
children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved.
When they persecute you in one town, flee to another.
Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel
before the Son of Man comes."
Jesus was always realistic during His earthly life. So it’s no surprise that He says to His Apostles, “I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves”. His words were true in the first century, and are so also today.
What is surprising is His subsequent command: “be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.” What does it mean for Jesus’ followers to “be shrewd as serpents”? We might recoil from His command because we associate the serpent with the Devil. So what can His words mean?
One of the simplest ways to understand Jesus’ words is to look at His actions. After all, Jesus practiced what He preached. While it’s true that on Calvary Jesus was the sheep that opened not His mouth [see Isaiah 53:7], during the three years of His public ministry He acted differently. For example, at the beginning of His ministry in Galilee, when Jesus infuriates the people in the synagogue with His preaching, the people try to kill Jesus, but “He passed through the midst of them and went away” [Luke 4:16-30].
One lesson for us disciples is to know that conflict will inevitably arise from our fidelity to the Gospel, but that with shrewdness we may often find safety with the Lord.