VIOLENCE CANNOT BE THE WAY OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD
(A biblical reflection on the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time [Year C] – June 26, 2016)
Gospel Reading: Luke 9:51-62
First Reading: 1Kings 19:16,19-21; Psalms: Psalm 16:1-2,5-11; Second Reading: Galatians 5:1,13-18
The Scripture Text
When the days drew near for Him to be received up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem. And He sent messengers ahead of Him, who went and entered aq village of the Samaritans, to make ready for Him; but the people would not receive Him, because His face was set toward Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do You want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village.
As they were going along the road, a man said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay His head.” To another He said, “Follow Me.” But He said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow You, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God. (Luke 9:51-62 RSV)
Messengers are sent ahead by Jesus to prepare for His entry into Jerusalem. However, the path to Jerusalem leads through a Samaritan town. The Samaritans refuse to welcome Jesus. James and John, sons of Zebedee, (surnamed: Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; see Mark 3:17) become highly indignant. “Lord, do You want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?” (Luke 9:54). No! St. Luke tells us that Jesus “turned and rebuked them” (Luke 9:55).
Violence cannot be the way of the Kingdom of God. Jesus is going to Jerusalem in order to drink the cup assigned by the Father. He is going to confront the powers of darkness and the focus of violence. Jesus will tell Peter to banish his sword (John 18:11) and tell Pilate that a whole legion of angels could be summoned for His defence (John 18:36), But such is not the way of the reign of God. Jesus will not come down off the cross. Instead, He prays for His executioners and forgives a fellow prisoner (Luke 23:34,43). Jesus, the Crucified and Abandoned One of God, in perfect trust hands over His Spirit to the Father (Luke 23:46). He refuses to join the ever-widening circle of violence. Jesus came to announce the good news of justice, reconciliation and peace. For Jesus to allow “fire from heaven” would be to go against all that has been entrusted to Him by the Father.
There has been much talk in recent years about the Catholic Church being “a Peace Church”. Such labels need to be carefully applied. They are usually associated with political and military issues. However, there must be a peace also “within” our hearts. This inner peace is a gift from Jesus, who freed us from the bondage of sin and from a blind, compulsive observance of the law which is powerless to save. Only the grace which is given through the death and resurrection of Jesus can save. If our hearts are not at peace there can be no peace in our families, schools, churches or among nations. The old compulsions and destructive forces of sin need not have ultimate power over us.
To be a Peace Church means that we must also be a Freedom Church. We cannot adopt the ways of the world in dealing with one another. We must give up the manipulative techniques of fostering guilt and self-hatred. We must be a Church which instead appeals to the Holy Spirit who dwells within its members with dignity and respect. The truth is taught. The witness is given to all. However, no one can be forced to follow Jesus. There is always the possibility that one can refuse to be in Jesus’ company any longer. This is tragic. Yet if we have done our best, there is simply nothing more for us to do. We cannot change our teaching in order to be more attractive. We cannot call down fire from heaven. We must surrender to the power of God’s grace slowly working in the heart of every person. We are to pray a great deal.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, through baptism You call us to follow You. It is indeed easy for us to offer words “I will be Your follower/disciple wherever You go”. Please let the Holy Spirit guide us so we can be sure that we know what is required. We also realize that we cannot force others to follow You, so we pray for a patient love. Amen.
Jakarta, 24 June 2016
A Christian Pilgrim