Second Week of Advent: Peace and Indigenous Reconciliation
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.
In western understanding the wolf is seen as an evil creature, killing the lambs and scattering the sheep. Even our Lord draws attention to the wolf in this way — the creature that harasses and scatters the sheep, the flock of God. We can think of the European tradition of the werewolf as a paramount symbol of evil. In First Nations, certainly amongst the west coast people, the wolf is seen in a very different way.
The wolf, living in a pack, is a sign of community. Wolves are committed to each other in the pack, as Christians are committed to each other. They are a sign of caring. Wolves look after and care for the young cubs in the pack, even if they are not their own offspring. They will feed and play with them, teaching them, irrespective of whether or not they are the cubs’ parents. Wolves in First Nations understanding are good creatures and worthy of emulation. They are a good figure for our Lord who was the Sinless One, but who was maligned – crucified and thought badly of for no fault of his own — as the wolf is.
Fifty years ago as a young priest on the Naas River in northwestern British Columbia, I was adopted by the Nisga’a Nation into the Wolf Tribe, as were two other priests at the same time. My Nisga’a name in English is ‘Shepherd Wolf ’, a name which I continue to try to live up to, as a pastor and priest caring for those for whom I have some responsibility. I try to reflect the Sinless One whose servant I am. I try to recognize our Lord in all others who bear his name.
Our first reading for this Sunday, as also elsewhere in scripture, says the sign of God’s peaceable kingdom is the wolf lying down with the lamb. May it be so for us.
Let us pray
Our Incarnate Chief, help us to recognize and value your presence in those we might despise or see of little worth. Amen.
THE RT. REV. JOHN HANNEN was bishop of the Diocese of Caledonia from 1981 to 2001. There he was adopted as a wolf member of Kwaxsuu, Nisga’a Nation where he held the name Lihlksim Matx Gibuu (Wolf Shepherd). In 2001 he became the rector of St. Barnabas’ Church in Victoria and worked with Indigenous people in the Greater Victoria area. He is now an Honorary Assistant at Christ Church Cathedral in Victoria.