As Christian Catholics, we do not adhere to the Word of God literally. We believe in science and believe in God’s amazing creation. We do not have to test our faith with snakes and their unforgiving nature. We understand that as Jesus spoke and taught in parables, so does the Word in Scripture. So, in puzzling over this list that is given to us about what it means to believe, what does it mean?
I prayed and thought about the grace to understand this Scripture. I know if we spend time with God’s Word, we may be granted the grace to have our eyes and hearts opened to comprehend, and we may hear His voice. According to Scripture, do I really have to handle serpents and drink bad stuff (besides the occasional cocktail), to prove I am His disciple?
I believe that what is meant by all these things in this list is really pretty simple: driving out the demons is driving out the demons of sin and greed and fear. You will have the grace to manage and handle serpents: those people who are difficult, broken and evil—who are beset by demons. You will drink deadly things—having to swallow hurtful, neglectful, painful, and sometime abusive acts from those around us—and yet, forgive them. You will speak in tongues and be understood—speaking the languages of love and mercy, gentleness and kindness. This is truly proclaiming the Gospel to every creature.
Both the readings from St. Paul today (we have a choice), give us lists of the gifts we are given to survive and surpass these many deadly things. We are equipped by our Baptisms in water and Spirit to deal with ungodly events. We are all given the strength and ability to deal with the world and all its bad stuff. Now go and do it!