One evening an old Cherokee chief told his young grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My child, the battle is between two wolves that live inside each of us. One wolf is evil. It is filled with anger, envy, regret, frustration, resentment and false pride. The other wolf is good. It is filled with joy, hope, courage, compassion, thankfulness and understanding." The boy listened attentively to his grandfather's words and thought about the two wolves for a moment, picturing them in his imagination, and then asked, "Grandfather, which wolf wins the battle?" The old chief replied simply: "The one you feed!"
In today's 2nd reading Paul refers to a problem facing the faith community in Corinth. The people are not united; they are divided by their allegiances to particular leaders in their community. Some prefer Paul, others want Apollo, still others want Peter. It's causing some serious problems. So Paul encourages them to give their attention to what's really important: the message of Jesus and the community's well-being, not the personalities or preaching styles of the leaders.
Our perception of history may betray us when we look back at these early faith communities like the one in Corinth. From a distance of almost 2000 years, things can look rosy and promising! After all, these communities are new, fresh and highly energized. There were as yet no chancery regulations, no bishops' policies, no Vatican edicts, no clerical culture, no code of Canon Law to contend with. But there were important challenges to face, much to discuss, decisions to be made. For example, do converts to Jesus need to be circumcised : after all, the first Christians were all Jewish? Do the newly baptized adults have to observe Jewish fasting and cleansing rituals? How should their religious leaders be selected? Should women be invited to continue working alongside men in spreading the message, in healing and serving the people? What are the best ways to tell the Jesus story, to reach out to people in need, to establish Jesus' reign of peace and justice on earth?
At times, Jesus Our Shepherd has been compared to these early faith communities. There are some similarities and many differences of course. But we still need to heed Paul's warning. We need to be united, not divided, in our efforts. We'll have differing viewpoints, so to achieve unity we'll need to thoroughly discuss matters of concern to us and to our future. At our community meetings, we'll need to listen well to what others say and we'll need to listen to the Spirit within each of us. We'll need to say what we honestly feel and respect what others have to say. Most importantly, we'll need to focus on the message of Jesus, not the man or woman delivering the message. Otherwise resentment, frustration and anger grow and the evil wolf wins. If we do work through this admittedly difficult process of community building with hope, courage and mutual understanding, the good wolf wins. Which wolf shall we feed ?