Homily or September 27th, 2016: Luke 9:51-56.
In Jesus’ day the enmity between Jews and Samaritans was proverbial. We might compare it to the enmity between Sunni and Shia Moslems today. Samaritans were especially resentful of Jews passing through their territory on pilgrimage to the holy city of
This explains why the Samaritan villagers mentioned in today’s gospel reading
“would not welcome” Jesus and his friends. Because there were twelve of them,
thirteen with Jesus, Jesus had sent messengers ahead to let the villagers know
he was coming, and wanted accommodation for the night. Jerusalem
Mark’s gospel tells us that the brothers, James and John, sons of the fisherman Zebedee, were given the name “Boanerges,” or Sons of Thunder (Mk. 3:17). Their hot-tempered anger at the refusal of hospitality by these Samaritan villagers helps explain the reason for their nickname. The two brothers’ desire to “call down fire from heaven,” reminds us of what the Old Testament prophet Elijah had twice done to destroy his enemies (2 Kings 1:10 & 12). It was the biblical equivalent of the modern slogan: “Don’t get mad, get even.”
Luke has already reported Jesus’ rejection of such revenge. “Love your enemies,” Jesus says in the sixth chapter of Luke’s gospel. “Do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you and pray for those who maltreat you” (6:27f.) Acting in that way is never easy. But those who, with the Lord’s help, overcome the longing for revenge which comes naturally not only to us adults, but even to young children, call down a different fire upon those who maltreat them. It is the fire of love, which alone can overcome and burn out hatred. And so we pray in this Mass: “Lord, pour out into my heart the all-consuming fire of your love, that I may share that love with others.”