While St. Francis of Assisi was staying with his fellow brothers in a small town called Gubbio, a wolf began attacking animals outside of the town gate. The men of the city tried to put the wolf down but the more they attacked it, the more ferocious it became. Within weeks, the wolf had begun outright attacking humans. By the end of the month, the city was under siege. No one was allowed to leave town for fear the wolf would attack and kill them.
One evening, after his prayers, Francis went out to meet the wolf, against the townspeople’s wishes. When the wolf leapt at him, Francis made the sign of the cross and the wolf suddenly became docile. Francis spent a great deal of time preaching to the wolf, explaining to him the gospel and what it meant to be a Christian. Finally, he asked the wolf if he would like to be a Christian and the wolf put his paw in Francis’ hand.
Francis entered the city, as the wolf trotted peacefully behind. Then he announced to the crowd, “People of Gubbio, this wolf has received pardon for his sins from our Lord and now seeks our pardon as well. It is his hunger that drives him to attack you, so I beg of you to take care of him and love him as your brother in Christ.”
From that day forward, the wolf was a friend to all in Gubbio. He stood watch at the gate to protect his brothers who kept him happy and fed.
In this wonderful legend, Francis sees the good in a creature most see to be an unlovable beast and actively works to bring about peace through redemption. Sometimes violence is the simplest answer to a problem but the simplest answer is not always the best answer. It is not always possible to bring about peace but Christ does teach that peace should be our first inclination and he does promise that those who make peace will be blessed in the Kingdom of God. Disciples walking in the way of Jesus are called to look for the good in those the world despises and to be agents of healing. Sometimes that means going where others fear to go and looking the monster in the eyes.
Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…