A wealthy man decided to go on a safari in Africa. He took his dachshund with him. One day the dog starts chasing butterflies, and before long he is lost. Wandering about he notices a leopard rushing in his direction with the obvious intention of having a dog for lunch.
The dog thinks, “Boy, I’m in deep trouble now!” Then he noticed some bones on the ground close by, and immediately settles down to chew on the bones with his back to the approaching big cat. Then, just as the leopard is about to leap, the dog exclaims loudly, “Man, that was one delicious leopard. I wonder if there are any more around here.” Hearing this, the leopard halts his attack in mid stride, and a look of terror comes over him, and slinks away into the trees.
“Whew!” says the leopard, “That was close. That dog nearly had me!”
Meanwhile, a monkey who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree, figures he can put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection from the leopard. So he quickly follows the leopard. But the dog saw him and figured that something must be up. So he starts thinking of a new stratagem.
The monkey soon catches up with the leopard, spills the beans and strikes a deal for himself with the leopard. The leopard is furious at being made a fool of and says, “Here monkey, hop on my back and see what’s going to happen to that conniving canine.”
When the dog saw the leopard coming toward him with the monkey on its back, he did not run away but sat down with his back to his attackers pretending he hasn’t seen them yet. And just when they got close enough to hear, the dog said loudly, “Where’s that monkey? I can never trust him. I sent him off half an hour ago to bring me another leopard, and he’s still not back!!”
I laughed heartily when I read the story on the internet. And realized how deep it is…
First of all, do not be a monkey always trying to take advantage of a situation. Jesus Christ took advantage of nobody. He speaks about serving not about controlling. Stop being a busybody whispering in the ears of others your interpretations of what your neighbor is doing.
Do not be a leopard that is, yes strong, but dumb enough to believe everything that is said. Hearsay is a favorite weapon of the assassins of character. The apostle Paul gives warning against those who go about from house to house, spreading gossip and mischief. So much harm is done in Church by those who spread rumors. In life, I learnt the hard way never to act on hearsay. How many mistakes we do because we act on what we have heard and not on what we have seen? Too many!
Yes, be like the dog. He was able to quickly adapt to changing situations. He was shrewd. Life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well. Jesus Christ himself tells us to be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
Saint Augustine makes a fantastic commentary on this. Why doves? Because “doves rejoice in society; everywhere they fly and feed together; they do not love to be alone, they delight in communion, they preserve affection; their sounds are the nostalgic cries of love, with kissing they beget their young.”
And what is shrewd about the serpent? First of all, “when the serpent is weighed down with age, and he feels the burden of his many years, he contracts and forces himself into a hole, and lays aside his old coat of skin, so that he may spring forth into new life. Imitate him in this, you Christian as the Apostle Paul says, Put you off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man.”
And then Saint Augustine explains how the serpent does not mind losing his whole body as long as his head is safe. “Have not some of you observed, on occasions when you have wished to kill an adder, how to save his head, he will expose his whole body to the strokes of his assailant?” Do the same. Risk everything but save the head, save the conviction that God loves you beyond your sin.
Animal wisdom reigns!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.