I am starting to think that God has divinely intervened to give me the particular passages I am assigned each month. I can’t help but approach all of these readings with the hope that God’s word will shed some light on the current realities and struggles we all face daily. Today’s gospel resonates with me for many reasons.
Luke tells us that Jesus has set his course for Jerusalem. In anticipation of this journey, He sent some of his disciples ahead to the area inhabited by Samaritans, "to prepare for his reception there." We are told, however, that the Samaritans would not welcome Him. I can’t tell you whether this was simply because they rejected Jesus and his teachings, or as the reading might suggest, because he was destined for Jerusalem (and the Samaritans and Jews were historically enemies). That debate, I will leave for the scholars and philosophers.
What strikes me is the response of the disciples to the Samaritans’ rebuff: "Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?" In other words, let’s show them what they get for rejecting us! It almost makes you wonder if the disciples have been paying attention to Jesus at all. Of course our Lord "rebuked" James and John for this, and instead journeyed to a different village.
I think the lessons here are endless-first of all, you don’t return evil for evil or judgment for judgment, hate for hate (you get the point). Jesus didn’t come to judge. Let me say that one more time, because it’s important. Jesus didn’t come to judge. He came to save us. I’m not sure how many different ways Jesus can say this. He literally proclaimed it from the mountaintops, and yet we still don’t seem to get it 2000 year later.
Perhaps even more poignant, we need to look at what Jesus did when the Samaritans rejected his arrival. He simply moved on. He didn’t brood or wonder about it. He didn’t weep and seek pity. He didn’t throw up His arms and gnash his teeth and proclaim their day of reckoning. He continued on his journey without hesitation or uncertainty.
You know, people have turned the phrase "what would Jesus do" into a sort of pop-culture joke. But I think this is one perfect example where we can take Jesus’ model and make it real in our lives. How many times have we had experiences where we knew we were on the side of right and yet we were rejected or ignored or even persecuted? This could be as simple as having the right-of-way in traffic or standing up for something we believe in.
But when we meet such opposition, how much energy do we waste in feelings of contempt or superiority or anger? How often do we just move on in our lives? It’s so easy to become stuck in wanting acceptance or recognition that we miss out on other opportunities. Sometimes the best thing we can do is move on. And that’s ok. Even the Samaritans came around eventually.
Marlo Serritella is on staff at the Holy Cross Province Development Office in Chicago, Illinois.