|1896 etching by William Strutt|
On Tuesday of the first week of Advent, Isaiah writes in chapter 11 about how God can foster life in situations where death seemingly reigns. He says that: “On that day a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.”
In this process, the spirit of the Lord will bestow wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge and fear of the Lord. There will be justice and retribution and faithfulness.
Because of these gifts given by God, those who were considered adversaries would come together: the wolf and the lamb, the leopard and the kid, the calf and the young lion, the baby and the cobra. And God declares that: “There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain…”
These words from the prophet have inspired artists and saints and simple believers. They never fail to stir within me a desire for a better world, one that functions according to the vision of God.
As I reflected on them one more time I was reminded that God invites all of us to be part of the process by which the world becomes God’s kingdom, and that this struggle to transform the world demands faithfulness, courage and persistence on our part. My reflection also called to mind a story that was sent to me a number of years ago, about two Native Americans. It goes like this:
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said: “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealously, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied: “The one you feed.”
All of us are capable of doing great things to help bring about God’s kingdom, which is a place of peace, justice, love and truth. But we are capable of evil things as well, as can be seen by the actions of so many throughout the course of history.
Advent is a season that reminds us that we must take time out to nurture the gifts and talents that God gives us, to feed the good wolf within. As Jesus often found time to go off alone for prayer and reflection, we must find time to be alone with God to strengthen the good with us and to work to eliminate the bad.
Dear God, help us to spend time with you during these days, to evaluate our lives with honesty, and to feed the wolf that helps keep us on the path to you and to our sisters and brothers.
Fr. Joseph Rozansky, OFM is a Franciscan friar of Holy Name Province. He is currently the director of the General Office for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation at the OFM headquarters in Rome. He holds a Masters in Theology from the Washington Theological Coalition, and a Masters in Economics from American University in Washington, D.C. His first assignment was in Goiás, Brazil, where he worked from 1975 to 1985. He worked in formation of new Franciscans for sixteen years, in both Brazil and the United States. He has been in his current position since 2005.