May 28, 2019
by Michael Cherney
Creighton University's Physics Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Lectionary: 292

Acts 16:22-34
Psalms 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 7c-8
John 16:5-11

Daily Easter Prayer

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Rediscovering the Corporal Works of Mercy

In today’s first reading Paul and Silas are arrested and beaten, but events lead to their release and the conversion of their prison guard. In the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that he will leave them, and they are promised the Holy Spirit.

Contemplating today’s readings I was left with the thought that the magistrates and the jailer could have been good people who were doing their job. Similarly, my sense is that even Paul when he was persecuting the Christians, may very well have thought that he was doing the right thing. This moved me to reconsider the views of good and evil which I had previously pictured in a reflection from St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises as well as thoughts that I had on a Cherokee legend.

In the mediation of the Two Standards, St. Ignatius asks the retreatant to consider under which flag he will serve. Under the flag of the evil spirit one sees worldly success – riches, honor, fame. Under the flag of the Good Spirit, the Christ, one sees simplicity, humility, and call to service and behavior that follows from those of Jesus. At the end the retreatant is asked to choose.

In the Tale of the Two Wolves, a Cherokee elder describes the conflict that might be found inside of everyone. There is the bad wolf embodying envy, greed and resentment. There is also the good wolf embodying humility, empathy and compassion. A young boy asks the elder which wolf will win. The elder responds “the one that gets fed”.

I used to see these two reflections as much more black and white. There are bad people, but I believe that they are the vast minority. The flag of the evil spirit (and well as the ways of the bad wolf) now seem much more subtle. As I have aged and reflect on my own life, I consider how often I promulgated my own thoughts which I honestly believed to be doing good at the time. I come back to my view of the magistrates, the jailor and even the “pre-Paul” Saul. I also have begun to wonder how often my statements and action were instead a function of my own ego, a wish to be admired at work or even a desire to be the center of attention.

My prayer today is to feed the good wolf being more aware of all of its subtleties and remembering that Jesus did not abandon his disciples; he promised them the Advocate, the Spirit.

Dear Lord,
Too often I find it easier to complain.
Help me to choose the direction of humility.
Give me the wisdom to know when my ego leads me in the wrong direction.
The way is not always obvious.
Grant me the patience and grit to see below the surface.
Open my heart to the Holy Spirit.
Aid me in my discernment of the right path.

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