Dear Friends in Jesus Christ,
Are you not surprised by the response of James and John in the Gospel? James and John asked Jesus: “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?”
Are you surprised to see two of Jesus’ disciples praying for the destruction of a Samaritan village? The Jews and Samaritans had been divided for centuries. Jewish pilgrims who passed through Samaritan territory were often treated badly and even assaulted. Jesus did the unthinkable for a Jew. He not only decided to travel through Samaritan territory at personal risk, but he also asked for hospitality in one of their villages! Jesus faced rejection and abuse in order to reconcile us with God and one another. Jesus’ offer of friendship was rebuffed. Is there any wonder that the disciples were indignant and felt justified in wanting to see retribution done to this village? Wouldn’t you respond the same way? Jesus, however, rebukes his disciples for their lack of toleration. Jesus had “set his face toward Jerusalem” to die on a cross that Jew, Samaritan and Gentile might be reconciled with God and be united as one people in Christ. Jesus seeks our highest good – friend and enemy alike. Tolerance is a much needed virtue today. But aren’t we often tolerant for the wrong thing or for the wrong motive? Christian love seeks the highest good of both one’s neighbor and one’s enemy. When Abraham Lincoln was criticized for his courtesy and tolerance towards his enemies during the American Civil War, he responded: “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” How do you treat those who cross you and cause you trouble? Do you seek their good rather than their harm? Jesus explains the cost of following as his disciple When the Lord calls us to follow him he gives us the grace to put aside everything that might keep us from doing his will. Loyalty to Jesus requires sacrifice, letting go of my will for God’s will. A would-be disciple responded by saying, I must first go and bury my father, that is, go back home and take care of him until he died. Jesus certainly did not mean that we should refuse to care for others, especially our parents in their old age. His startling statement, however, made clear that God must always be first in our lives. If we love him above all, then everything else will fall into its proper place and time. Jesus surprised his disciples by telling them that they must not look back but keeps their focus on the goal set for their lives – full happiness and union with God. A plowman who looked back caused his furrow to be crooked. Likewise, if we keep looking back to what we left behind, our path in following God will likely go off course and we’ll miss what God has for us. When the going is rough or the way ahead looks uncertain, we are tempted to look back to the “good old days” or to look for “greener turf”. Are you resolved to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and to “stay the course” in following him to the end? Let us keep in mind what we heard in the second reading (Gal. 5:1, 13):
“Brothers and sisters:
For freedom Christ set us free;
so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.
For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters.
But do not use this freedom
as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.”
Whenever we give into our emotions just like James and John in the Gospel we submit to the yoke of slavery to sin. Jesus wants us to grow beyond the chains of emotions and always focus on the higher good. We are all called to joy not hatred. You know how to achieve joy: by putting Jesus first, others second and you last. In our everyday lives if we can give priority to God and others we will grow in tolerance.
God Bless You,