As I was away the other week “wasting time in the presence of God”, as Bishop Dolan described retreat to be, I had a lot of time to reflect in that serene environment. Suddenly while there, what seemed to be ordinary encounters and normal interactions began to take on new meanings as I meditated upon them. The retreat center offered just a perfect opportunity for me to do that. For instance, one morning as I took a walk in the quiet desert surrounding of the Center, before my morning prayer, I came across what looked like a wolf which scared the hell out of me.
However, out of that terrifying encounter with the wolf (or perhaps a coyote), an old story I heard years ago about wolves came to my mind and not only got me thinking but also inspired this article.
The story was about an old African elder who was telling his grandson, as they were warming themselves around the fire one evening, a story about a battle that constantly goes on inside all of us all the time. Typical of African elders in such stories, he used the imagery of animals to illustrate his point. He said: “My son, the battle I am talking about is a battle between two wolves inside us. One is Evil, the other is Good. “
After narrating the story in a flowery detail, he went on to describe the evil wolf as anger, hatred, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The good wolf, on the other hand, he said, is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
The mesmerized grandson thought about this for a minute and then asked his grandfather “Which wolf usually wins this battle?” the elder simply replied: “The one you feed.”
A gospel passage I read that morning about the accusations the Pharisees brought against Jesus after driving out a fierce demon from a demoniac struck me as I reflected on this elder’s story. It got me questioning what wolf the Pharisees usually fed in their relentless battle against Jesus. They accused Jesus of driving out demons using the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons (Mt. 12:22-25). However ridiculous this accusation is, it drove home to me afresh, the fact that at the time of Jesus, not everybody liked him in spite of all the miracles he performed, the good works he did and his great teachings. They were all consumed by the evil wolf which they constantly fed. Forefront in this were the Pharisees and scribes who hated Jesus with passion.
And so, Jesus answers their accusation by saying what is supposed to be obvious: “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house,” (v. 17). He said this to show that He is not casting out devils by the power of the devil, as they accused Him of doing. Instead, He had a far superior power. In fact, He is that power! He goes on to point out that He is for unity and ardently prayed for the unity of the whole Church before ascending to heaven. He said: “That all may be one, just as you Father and I are one” John (17:21-23).
One of the causes of disunity among us today dear friends, is how we feed the bad wolf. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale (an author and inspirational speaker) in his Inspiring Messages for Daily Living gave some seven suggestions on how to get along with others (and how to feed the good wolf in us). I want to propose these seven simple suggestions for us to follow in the coming days as we practice feeding the good wolf in us. He says:
Practice loving people. This requires effort at first, because some people seem not lovable. But remember that every person has lovable qualities when you really learn to know them.
Look for something to praise in people. Make this a habit. Reverse the tendency to be critical and judgmental of others.
Practice believing in people. And show them that you believe in them. While some will fail you, in most cases it will awaken in them a corresponding belief in you. Build up persons in your mind. You will like them better, and they will like you better because your esteem of them raises their self-concept and appreciation.
Practice helping others. Do something every day for as many as you can. Do not expect anything in return. This is the surest way of learning how to get along with people.
List the names of people whom you do not like. Pray for each one by name and forgive them. In your mind, reach out to them and surround them with love. There is a power that emanates in prayer that affects people. You may be astonished.
Watch out for opportunities to congratulate people on their birthdays or about their children, or their other achievements. This week we celebrate the birthdays of all those born in this month of November. Let us do so sincerely.
Pray daily that all self-consciousness may leave you and when you are with people, you may be your own happy, natural, and released self.
If we practice these suggestions of Dr. Norman, and reinforce it with daily prayers, then be sure, that we will be able to achieve the peace and unity for which our Lord and Savior Jesus prayed for us. This is because, we will be feeding the good wolf in us. Let us go and do this today and remember that as we do so, our ultimate goal is to get to heaven.
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