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Samaritan inhospitality

Gospel Reading: Lk 9:51-62
When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.

As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”

And to another he said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.” And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.”

The violent stance taken by James and John against the Samaritan village that has refused them access is understandably a natural human reaction. They howl for revenge and want to call down fire on the entire village. The two brothers, nicknamed “Sons of Thunder,” belong to the inner circle of Jesus. Even if they do not as yet completely comprehend Jesus’ mission, they can somehow identify themselves with Jesus and his plan to go to Jerusalem.

Jesus is determined to go to the Holy City, but instead of blustering his way through the Samaritan village, he quietly makes a detour. His non-confrontational demeanor lends a powerful teaching to his apostles who are adept at making a show of muscle and force.

Jesus knows how the people in the Samaritan village can be hostile to his group. The Jews and Samaritans have a long history of strained relationship and do not mix like water and oil. The Jews look down on the Jewish people of Samaria and consider them impure (half-Jews) since they intermarried with so-called pagans.

Jesus makes a final attempt to reach out and gather the scattered children of Israel. He decides to be prudent by sending messengers ahead of him to the Samaritan village. Jesus takes the chance to be able to share the Good News with the Samaritans, but once rejected, he does not turn ballistic but chooses to walk quietly away.

On his final journey to Jerusalem, Jesus feels the increasing weight of his mission and sees that the most part of this will be pain from torment and torture. This is pain experienced in the sum of one’s humanity – physical, spiritual, psychological, moral, and beyond. Jesus feels bludgeoned by pain in its entirety, but he will choose to transform this monumental amount of pain into a sacrifice of love. To him, there will be no shirking from the Cross; Jesus is prepared to give everything and all.

To the three persons attracted to him, Jesus emphasizes the need for radical commitment in the measure that he himself is about to accomplish in Calvary. He tells them that discipleship is not a soft and easy life, but must be anchored in trust in divine providence. Secondly, he says that the call of discipleship must take top priority, eclipsing even the most legitimate responsibilities, especially towards the family. Lastly, true discipleship entails a forward movement towards God and the Kingdom and not turning back to one’s old way of life.

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SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.