but not naïve
That's what Christ wants us to be. Simple but not naïve. In fact, he wants us to very clever and shrewd. “Be as cunning as serpents and as innocent as doves,” he said. (Mt 10,16)
He addressed these words first to his apostles in the context of their very tricky mission in the world where they would be like sheep in the midst of wolves. Try to imagine that scene of a sheep in the midst of wolves and we cannot help but think there's no way a sheep has any chance of survival.
But these words are actually meant also for all of us who want to follow Christ consistently. We also live in a very complicated world where the spiritual and supernatural values seem to be systematically put out of place. It indeed would appear impossible for us to be consistent with Christ while in this world of ours. We definitely would feel helpless.
But these two qualities simply have to be cultivated, as commanded by Christ. But how? I believe the answer can only be when we don't lose sight of the example of Christ himself. More importantly, the only possibility is when we identify ourselves fully with him.
Christ himself lived these two contrasting qualities. He was simple, innocent, meek and humble, like a lamb. And ultimately he allowed himself to die on the cross, like a sacrificial lamb that bore all the sins of men.
But that apparent helplessness and defeat, as regarded in human standards, proved to be the smartest and shrewdest act of all, since it accomplished the full repayment for our sins and offenses against God, and achieved our own reconciliation with God, our own redemption.
This is the most precious lesson we should learn by heart. Only when we allow ourselves, with Christ and in Christ, to be helpless and to suffer whatever pain and sorrow we can encounter in this life can we also take part in that cleverest act of Christ!
The cleverness of Christ is not of the kind that simply reflects the cleverness of our own flesh, or of the world and of the devil. It's not of the tit-for-tat type that would simply make us resemble the enemies of our soul, and destroy the simplicity and innocence proper to us. Let's be most wary, since nowadays many are provocations we can encounter and would tempt us to respond in the manner of eye for an eye.
It is the cleverness and cunning of God who is full of love and mercy, patience and compassion, eager to assume all the sins, faults and mistakes of men. It is the cleverness that does not repay evil with evil, but rather repays evil with good.
That is how such cleverness can sit well with simplicity and innocence. With our vital union with Christ, we can manage to be full of love and mercy also, full of patience and compassion. We would be willing to assume the sins, faults and mistakes of others.
With that cleverness, we would destroy the last bastion of our pride that hates to suffer for others, that always wants to be correct and righteous all the time, never mind how the others are. It's the kind of pride that hates to follow Christ's example of becoming like sin without committing sin for the sake of the others. It's that kind that wants to be holy and saintly without any concern for the others.*
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