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& the story of Francis and the wolf at Gubbio | overcoming evil with good
One of the famous stories about Francis is his encounter with a wolf in the village of Gubbio. [LINK to the Story from the Little Flowers of Francis] Located just miles from Assisi, it was often visited by Francis, yet this event overshadows the others. Supposedly the villagers and their animals were threatened, attacked and killed by a wolf. Francis came confronting the wolf, who bowed to him as he held the sign of the cross. The wolf “converted” or was overcome and redirected by Francis, and spent the remainder of his days supposedly helping the villagers who in turn promised to feed the wolf daily from their table scraps. Whether the story is objectively true, a legendary metaphor, or hagiographic story-telling, the foundational theme is that Francis didn’t just take on evil, destroy it, or avoid it, rather he confronted it and overcame it, subverting it to the good of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our scriptures for the day also address how Jesus calls us not to condone, avoid, or merely resist evil; but rather to radically overcome it through self-sacrifice, communal commitment and creative non-violence. The Apostle succinctly sums it up in Romans 12:21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Evil is defined as “profound immorality, wickedness, and depravity, esp. when regarded as a supernatural force.” Some says that it’s when something bad becomes systemic in our culture or social systems.
Jesus gives a radical teaching on evil in the Sermon on the Mount. He links the actions of those who hear him (and us by extension) to the transformative, healing work of God in the world: salt, light. Jesus gives concrete ways to confront, and overcome evil in his teaching. How do they confront evil? How do they overcome it? How do they transform it? Are they really possible? Look at the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37): what evil is present? How is it confronted? How is it overcome?
Questions for Reflection:
*What word, phrase or image strikes you in the passages?
*How do you struggle with the evil in our world?
*What do you think is an evil in our world, nation, city?
*How have you – or haven’t you – overcome evil with God’s good? How might you be hearing the Spirit of God call us to do so here in Berkeley, Oakland and Piedmont?