When preparing young people to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation we often speak to them of gifts. We speak of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and wonder & awe) as well as the Fruit of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.) The idea being that when we graciously receive the fits God bestows upon each of us and work at strengthening them, we are rewarded with the fruit of our effort.
One way in which we speak to this relationship between gifts and their fruit is through the telling of what is often attributed to as a Native American parable, called “The Two Wolves,” and it goes something like this:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside all of us,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One is evil. He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, inferiority, false-pride, superiority, and ego.
He continued, “The other wolf is good – she is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
“The Two Wolves” may not be a perfect comparison, but the central message stands: receive the gifts given to us by God, grow and nurture them and everyone will benefit from the fruit of our effort. Not just me, but those around me as well.
In a perfect world I would say, “and we all lived happily ever after,” but…reality…and I am telling you the last thing you want to chirp at someone experiencing a depressive episode or someone who has lost their job because of COVID-19 is, “Cheer up, buttercup! Feed the Good Wolf!”
Another way I can look at this is to ask myself if my behaviour is motivated by fear or by love?” Am I feeding my fear so it multiplies and colours how I see the world around me or am I feeding the love within me so that multiplies and colours my worldview? Do I express my faith through fear or through the lens of Christ’s love?
Reflect for a moment on how differently the two might look.
The truthful answer for me personally is that I strive to focus on that which is good and true and honourable but sometimes succumb to that which is not, and I suspect this may be a realistic depiction of how life unfolds for many of us. Yet the Parable of the Talents told by Jesus in today’s gospel reminds us that we will never run short of that which we offer to God. More love, more compassion, more kindness, more understanding are the things which will not only multiply by my giving of them, but at the same time will draw me closer to God. Despite my knowledge of “the instructions,” I suspect the struggle between the two wolves is one that will continue to play out for the remainder of my human experience.
Trevor Droesbeck, Office of Youth Faith Development