Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43
Mr. Rogers used to say: “Have you ever noticed that the very same people who are bad sometimes are the very same people who are good sometimes?” I came across an illustration that I’ve adapted to try to make some sense of this phenomenon. It goes like this:
“An old Cherokee once told his grandson about life. He said there is a great fight going on inside all of us, and it’s a fight between two wolves. One wolf is good. [It represents the Self as it is detached from dependency on things of the world.] It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The other wolf is [for lack of a better term, divided – for it isn’t necessarily “evil” but rather, divided within itself. This wolf represents the self that is attached to the things of this world.] It is anger, envy, greed, regret, resentment, arrogance, self-pity, and false pride. These wolves are always at odds. The grandson thought about it for a moment and then asked his grandfather, ‘Which wolf do you think will win?’ The old Cherokee replied, ‘The one that I feed.'”
Have you ever felt like there was a war going on inside you, like two wolves fighting for power or control? “I know I should do this, but I want to do that?” Or like St. Paul said, “I want to do good but I don’t” and “I do the things I hate.” What’s going on inside you and me? Aren’t you glad to know? There are two wolves inside! I’ll give them biblical names before I go back to referring to them as wolves.
One of them, the good wolf, is Christ, which means “the anointed one.” The apostle Paul asked, “Don’t you know that Christ is within you?” Jesus said he and the Father would come and make their home within you. The Hebrew Scriptures say that humankind was made in the image of God. This image is the Christ-image. It’s the image of goodness, the
“good wolf.” The good wolf is like the wheat in Jesus’ parable. It gives rise to fruits like peace, love, joy, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control (Gal. 5:21-22).
The other wolf is the biblical image of the Adversary, better known as Satan, the father of lies. This wolf is like the tares in Jesus’ parable that bring forth the fruits of the sinful nature – as St. Paul tells the Galatians – immorality, corruption, hatred, conflict, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, disagreements, divisions and cliques, and envy (Gal. 5:20). These wolves live together in your world. Both make their home within you…a good wolf and a false wolf competing for control within your kingdom.
The false wolf has a personal salvation plan for you. It thinks it knows what is necessary for you to be happy, and it’s goal is to protect you. You’re its kingdom, but it’s deluded in thinking the things of this world will make you happy and secure instead of trusting that
God and God’s love for you is all you need.
That’s why, when something threatens what the false wolf sees as important to your security, this makes the false wolf angry or fearful of losing it, and it wants to hold onto it. It howls and gnashes its teeth in its efforts to hold on.
While the good wolf says, “Chill out. Life is not about what you eat or what you drink or what you wear, or the car you drive, or the position you hold, or the amount of money sitting in a bank account.” Don’t worry about tomorrow. Live in today.
The false wolf is concerned about, “What do others think of me?” It’s concerned about your reputation, your success, how you stack up in comparison with others – in fact, it’s always comparing you with others and what they have instead of letting you live and be content with the beauty and peace and the blessing of what is at hand in the present moment. Whatever threatens the things the false wolf believes are important makes that
wolf anxious. It has no peace or joy until it’s false treasures are protected and secured.
The process of spiritual growth is learning how to feed the good wolf and starve the false wolf. It’s learning to let go of the things of this world in which the false wolf finds its security. Once you’ve let go of the false securities of the world, that’s when you experience
the kingdom of heaven…it’s peace, it’s joy, it’s patience, it’s love. These things reign in the kingdom of heaven and are secured by the good wolf.
The good wolf is the Christ-self, the true self. It’s who you always have been from the beginning and it’s who you always will be. St. Paul says we are hidden with Christ in God. He is the divine DNA within you. He is who you are as a child of God.
So how do you do feed the good wolf and starve the false wolf? You do that by practicing letting go of the world’s false securities. The more you practice letting them go, the closer you come to discovering your true self in Christ.
The most common way that spiritual guides help their students to come into contact with the inner good wolf is to send them out for an extended period of time into nature, into solitude and silence.
You need to remove yourself from the things that feed the false wolf, the usual diversions of entertainment, status, reputation, past failures and successes, and the people you think you need to please or impress. Even the image you hold for yourself as a wife, mother, husband, father, child, executive, or person who is good or bad – these must be set aside so they don’t control who you think you are. They must have no influence until you find out who you truly are – made in the image of God, which is your true self. Once you know that person – the good wolf – then you can let go of the false wolf and be a better – more attentive – wife, mother, daughter, husband, father, son, executive, whatever. Because you are letting the Christ-self reign within you. You just have to feed the good wolf more often than the false one.
I think that’s why Jesus went to the mountain to be alone as often as he did. He was feeding the good wolf. He was separating himself from thinking the things of this world are needed to make him secure. Silence, solitude, the removal from thinking he had to please or impress anyone, having no one’s expectations to meet or satisfy.
Once he knew himself as the son of God, made in God’s image, he knew his strength and he was able to let go of the world. The things of this world had no control over him. Not even death. His security was found in God his Father.
Maybe that’s why Jesus could focus completely on the needs of others. He could place his full attention on the person who stood or lay in front of him in the present moment. He could bring the peace that was within him to the person with whom he was interacting. He brought the kingdom of heaven to all he met.
That’s what we are called to do as sons and daughters of the most high God. We are sons and daughters made in the image of God, sent to bring the kingdom of heaven to all we meet.
(I give credit to Richard Rohr’s comments in “The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of St. Francis” for the Christ-image information and short quotes for this blog…the analogy to the two wolves is mine.)