In today’s Gospel, as the time approached “for him to be taken up”, Jesus “resolutely turned his face towards Jerusalem”. The word “taken up”, literally translated from the Greek “analempsis”¸ can refer to Jesus heading to Jerusalem, or being lifted up onto the cross, or ascending into heaven. Jesus clearly saw His suffering and death on the cross, but looks beyond it, and sees too the glory of His Resurrection. Many of us who desire to follow God will experience something similar – that the only way out is through and the door is shaped like a cross. But knowing that Jesus has walked the same path, and indeed now reveals to us the Way, we can choose to follow Him in joy and trust, or to reject Him, just as the Samaritan village did.
Are we resolved to do God’s will, even if it means enduring humiliation, shame and suffering, all for the sake of His name?
The main divergence between the Jews and the Samaritans was where they worshipped – Temple Mount in Jerusalem for the Jews and Mount Gerizim for the Samaritans. And so, hearing that Jesus was “making for Jerusalem”, the Samaritan village refused their hospitality, even as Jesus had sent people ahead of him to make preparations and minimise the imposition. Here we see that Jesus faces rejection as He is resolved to do our Father’s will. His disciples, James and John, ask permission to “call down fire from heaven to burn them up”. Have you, under the same pretence of defending God’s honour, desired something similar? To destroy with violence those who oppose the message of the Gospel, to rebuke them in order to show them the Truth, and to take revenge on the insult they have paid to Jesus’ name? Justifiable as all these may be, they directly oppose the spirit of Jesus’ ministry. He came not to condemn but to save,
“For God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.”
– John 3:17
Jesus’ mission is not one of violence and revenge, but of peace and love. Preached in the Beatitudes and the parable of the Prodigal Son, and shown in His mercy to prostitutes, tax collectors and the adulterous woman, Jesus performs countless miracles of healing, drawing people to Him by the power of love, not of destruction.
Jesus has broken the cycle of violence. By bearing our sins for us on the cross, He responds with love and forgiveness to the rejection of this world, and in doing so, sets us free. Similarly, when we are confronted with an adversary, we can choose to conquer him with love. Instead of retaliation, we bring reconciliation. Instead of reacting in anger, we respond with a smile that brings peace.
It is only human to repay love with love and evil with evil – it certainly takes something greater to repay evil with love. We may prefer to stay in our comfort zones, tending our memories, past sins, unforgiveness, bad habits and old mentalities… but we have in ourselves the power to break out of the tired and worn grooves of our lives. Love and forgive as Christ did, and you will find yourself liberated. We are both the prisoner and the jailer, and Christ has come to set us free.
The choice to follow Jesus is in response to an invitation, not an imposition, and that’s precisely why we follow Him. The path Jesus leads us on is a path of love – a life in fullness, giving and receiving God’s love.
Today, we should examine our own following of Jesus and ask Him for the grace to follow him faithfully, radical as it may seem. Let us never be afraid of committing ourselves to Jesus, but open our hearts to Him always.
In faith, hope and love,
Patrick and Faith