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A Picture of Perdition 

By Jeff Crane

Our guest speaker at a recent midweek Lenten soup supper was Tony Elwood, a pilot for Delta Airlines and a degreed catechist.  While in Israel on one trip, Tony told me that he visited the Holocaust museum in Tel Aviv. 

There is a photo display there, he said, whose images connect us personally to the horror of that period as well as our own latent capacity to perpetuate evil in the world.  

In the first photo is a picture of a smiling, proud father lovingly cradling his newborn son.  The man is an SS officer.  Right next to it is a picture of the same man in uniform viciously shoving young children into a gas chamber. 

In a picture below that is serene setting of a man with a young family enjoying each other’s company at a summer picnic on the shores of a lake.  The man is a camp guard.  Right next to it is a picture of the same man moments before he machine guns down a family over a mass grave. 

Below that is a picture of a young boy smiling proudly vested in a gown at his Confirmation.  He is a camp commandant. 

Right next to it is a picture of the same man as an adult with his pistol drawn to the head a young woman.  Images like this teach where words fall short.

Tony also shared a story from the supper which underlies the lesson from the museum photos.  A tribal elder is teaching his grandson about life.  “A fight is going on inside of me”, he said to the boy.  “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.  One wolf is evil – he is angry, greedy, resentful and full of pride.  The other wolf is good – serene, humble, compassionate and full of faith.  This fight goes on inside every human person.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”  The elder replied, “The one you feed”.

Inside of us the war of good and evil is real.  We all hold the potential for great love, but everyone also has a capacity to propagate unspeakable evil.  In the case of the German soldiers, aspirations of a loving father, a caring family man, or a happy faith filled adolescent turned wicked not by design, but through increments of “feeding the wrong wolf,” as the story underscores.

The voices within and without beckon us to choices.  One voice we feed with manna and the other with our misery.  With each feeding we become either the person God destined us to be or the person who serves another master.  We would do well to carry this Lenten lesson into our days ahead.

[Jeff Crane is pastoral associate at St. Mary Cathedral in Gaylord, Michigan]

[Note also: spiritual deliverance books]

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