Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: The Good and Bad Wolf

Lectionary Readings: (Taken from the Biblical meditations of Fr. Carroll Stuhlmueller)

  • Wisdom 12:13, 16-19. Through God is the master of all power, he judges with clemency. He taught us that justice must be associated with kindness so that there is always good reason for hope.
  • Romans 8: 26-27. The Spirit groans within us, expressing thoughts and instincts beyond the reach of words and enabling us to pray in ways otherwise impossible for us.
  • Matthew 13: 24-43. Several parables: the weeds which grow till harvest, the mustard seed which becomes a very large bush, leaven which enables the dough to rise into a loaf of bread.

Thought for Your Consideration: By John Gonzalez

There is an inspiring Cherokee tale that offers the same moral message that we read in the scriptures for this weekend. A Grandfather tells his grandson that there are two wolves constantly fighting within him. There is a good wolf with all the virtues that we recognize such as peace, love, kindness, hope and compassion and a bad wolf with vices that we also are familiar with such as greed, arrogance, selfishness and hatred. This fight is going on in him and in every single person. The grandson then asks, “Which wolf will win?” and the Grandfather responds, “The one you feed.”

The three reading for this week offer instruction on the task of forming our habits towards the good.  In the first reading the book of Wisdom describes how God teaches by example. God has the power to bring about justice but He exerts His power through the virtues of “clemency” and with much “lenience.” Thus, the author tells us, that God teaches by His own example so that “those who are just must be kind.” Throughout his writings Paul uses a similar dualism that is used in the Cherokee legend but in place of the bad and good wolves he uses the image of the “flesh” vs. the “spirit.” In the second reading Paul discusses how the “Spirit” can and should be utilized to help form one’s habit. Prayer is
obviously an important area where we should be mindful of the intercession of the “Spirit” as it offers instruction for our ability to talk with God. In pursuing the habit of being good it is vital that we constantly place ourselves at the service of “God’s will” and not our own desires so it is important that our prayer be a sincere moment where we can place ourselves and all our actions within the aid of the “Spirit”.

As for the Gospel passage we are given a number of parables regarding the Kingdom of God. Many of the parables offer the image of a process of growing into some form of fulfillment. The mustard seed and the leaven both articulate that the Kingdom of God is an ever growing process. This can be read in two ways. One way of reading this is to identify the Kingdom of God as an ever evolving reality that is slowly
developing into a future where it will finally be established. The other way to also consider this image is to identify that we are called to nurture this almost insignificant mustard seed or leaven so that the Kingdom of God can grow within us. The other parable about the weeds and the wheat takes us back to the first reading in describing the compassionate way that God allows for all of us to grow within his field so that even though God does bring about justice he will do it with clemency and leniency.

Life is always offering us trials and opportunities for us to feed either our good or bad wolf. Sometimes, in our pursuit of justice or righteousness we exemplify a style that ends up inadvertently moving people away from a just cause by offering harsh condemnations or condescending criticisms. The example that we hear this week is to blend the prophetic message with a pastoral approach so that we can invite people to contemplate what is good and just through our example of being welcoming, hospitable and of course charitable.
Without these virtues those of us who offer the teachings of the faith will be guilty of bringing people closer to sin and error even if our message and instruction is based on God’s word. Lest we forget the two wolves our also struggling within those of us who our instructors of the faith.

Fr. Daniel Harrington, SJ wrote a book “Why do we suffer” where he comments on a similar imagery to the Cherokee legend that is used in the “Rule of the Community” which was one of the Dead Sea scrolls. In it the “instructor” talks about the two forces that our battling within our souls. The instructor identifies these forces as the “Angel of Darkness” and the “Angel of Light.” Both powers our struggling within us for supremacy and of course, like the grandson Fr. Harrington also contemplates the question of who will win.

“How do you know which group you are in? The instructor admits that everyone has some share in both groups, but goes on to say that it depends on “whether each one’s portion in their two divisions is great or small.” A later Jewish teaching sees in each person both a good inclination and an evil inclination, and contends that one’s destiny depends on which inclination predominates.”


About jdgonzo73

I am a Catholic lay minister in the field of Christian ethics, Latino theology and Paulacrucian spirituality. I am currently a Doctor of Ministry student at Fordham, an ad-junct professor at Molloy College and St. John's University and the Project Coordinator with the Catholic Roundtable.
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