Sunday, October 13, 2013

Homily - 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Good Wolf vs. Evil Wolf

2 Kings 5:14-17
2 Timothy 2:8-13
Luke 17:11-19
Jesus has a challenging message for us all this weekend.

Just as there were in His day, there are lots of Pharisees in the Christian world today.

They preen around as “defenders” of the faith, but fail to fulfill God’s most basic demands like taking care of the poor and marginalized or loving their neighbor.

This is who Jesus is taking to task both then and now.

These hypocrites show their faces at church every week, but outside of church bad mouth their fellow church-goers, stabbing them in the back with unkind and mean words, stirring up all sorts of trouble in the community.

These hypocrites criticize the poor, saying, “Why don’t they just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and quit taking government handouts.”  They say about the poor and marginalized, “These people are the problem with our country today.”

Boy, does Jesus have a lesson for people who fail to live by His teachings.  And Jesus also has hope for those who are targets of these hypocrites.

This weekend’s message is about how we treat people we deem social outcasts or not like us. 
Ironically, we all have been outcasts in some way or another in our lives.  We’ve all stood outside the circle, feeling rejected or cast out or just plain unloved… maybe in our families or our circle of friends or at work or at school.

            We’ve all felt abandoned, lonely, desperate or despairing. We’ve all been bullied or betrayed in some way or another. 
Christ makes us all whole again and heals our wounds of being an outcast in this world. 

And Jesus marvels at how these healed people are the ones most grateful and filled with faith when they experience the healing power of God.

But Jesus is also pointing a finger at the Pharisees of our world and scolding us for “defending” the faith, but not actually living it by our words and our actions.  And we all have the capacity to be one of these people, too.

To illustrate what Christ is asking of each of us in today’s message, I’d like to share a two stories. You may see yourself in the reflection.  It’s OK.  I see myself, too.


An old Cherokee told his grandson, “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all.

One is Evil.  It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies and ego. 

The other is Good.  It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth.”

The boy thought about it and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?”

The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.”  


The next story is a contemporary tale about the power of feeding the Good Wolf.  I found it on Facebook recently.


A woman pulls her car into the drive-thru line at Starbucks, and wonders why it was dozens of cars deep.

It wasn’t raining, yet it seemed everyone was driving through today.

It was as she entered the line that she saw the woman.

She was getting into line, too, and was leaving just enough room to not collide with the first woman’s car.

So, the first woman smiled, and gestured to her. “Are you next, or am I?”

The second woman became furious.

Thinking the first woman was trying to snag her spot to be next in line, she gunned her Suburban, rolled down the window, and let out a string of expletives that would make anyone blush.

“Go ahead, please,” the first woman said.  She really wasn’t sure who was first.

The second woman wasn’t buying it. She continued with the name calling without taking a breath.

Then something really strange happened.

Instead of getting mad or yelling back at the other woman, a sense of empathy overtook the first woman. 

She looked at the angry woman again, and this time saw someone different, someone who wrenched her heart.

Her eyes were red and puffy. Her hair was pulled back in a natty ponytail.  She held her phone in her palm, glancing down at it every few seconds.

And she was driving that big ole’ Suburban, the first woman’s own car of choice when she had three kids at home and a carpool every school day.

Dear God!  The first woman realized she was looking at herself ten years ago. Same car, same ponytail, same frustration.

We’ve all been there. Dog vomits on the sofa. Both kids have strep throat. The garbage disposal chooses today to break, when you’re trying to get rid of moldy leftovers from the fridge. Husband is mad because you forgot to pick up the dry cleaning and he’s going on a business trip. Sound familiar?

The second woman gunned forward, just to show the first woman that she was first.

The first woman left her a wide berth, smiled at the other woman’s splotchy face.  The second woman shot her a sideways scowl, mouthed the mantra again.

Pulling up to the loudspeaker, the first woman said “I want to pay for whatever the woman in front of me has ordered. And please tell her I hope she has a better day.” And she meant every word. 

The woman idled in front of her for a good four minutes, talking to the barista who had leaned out the window.  The woman shook her head and handed over a bill. She drove around the side of the building slowly, this time no gunning.

“She wouldn’t let me buy?” the first woman said to the barista as she pulled forward.

“Nope. She said she couldn’t believe you wanted to pay for her drink after all the names she called you.  She said she couldn’t allow it, and said to tell you she was sorry.  She felt really bad.”

“Did you tell her I hoped she had a better day?”

“Yep. She said thanks— that it already was.”

As the first woman drove away, she began to cry. Not because she’d been called so many terrible names, or from the stress of the encounter, but because God had answered her very recent prayer—which was that He would allow her to see people as He sees them, not as we see them.  That she might be able to see the hurting inside, instead of just the hurtful outside.

            My sisters and brothers, we are all broken whether we want to admit it or not.

Jesus sees through our hurt and wants to heal us of our brokenness.

Jesus wants us to see the world and all its people the way He sees it.

Jesus encourages us to feed the Good Wolf and starve the Evil

            When Jesus heals us from our brokenness; our hurt, our pain, our sorrow, gratitude should be our response. 

When we are shown love and mercy from Jesus, love and mercy should be our response to others as a sign of our gratitude. 

Today, nine healed lepers returned to their old lives without saying a single word of thanks.

Today, one outcast Samaritan approached Jesus with gratitude. 
As we approach the altar today to receive Christ, will our response after Mass be gratitude by a display of compassion and love for others? 

Or will our response after Mass be ingratitude by showing a lack of charity and intolerance toward others, complaining, grumbling, being prideful, egotistical, or showing presumption in situations we do not understand?

This is the Evil Wolf speaking.  Jesus encourages us to always feed the Good Wolf.  Jesus encourages us to show gratitude over ingratitude always. 

            I’d like to pray this prayer for us all this morning:

“Lord, may I never fail to recognize your love and mercy.  Fill my heart with gratitude and thanksgiving and free me from pride, discontentment, and ingratitude.  Help me count my blessings with gratefulness and give thanks in all circumstances. Amen.”