•1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21 • Galatians 5:1, 13-18 • Luke 9:51-62•
Weekly Scripture Readings: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
I have a miniature Swiss cowbell tied to the handle-bars of my bicycle. It tingles softly as I peddle along. I never surprise pedestrians. Several weeks ago I had a real “Missoula experience.” I was heading down to the river-trail and two women were in front of me. They heard my bell and stepped aside. In passing I greeted them and the younger woman said: “yours is my favorite bell in Missoula. I love it!!” Apparently she has heard me coming on previous occasions.
A close reading of the written gospels makes it clear there were many men and women in Israel who listened to Jesus, and placed their hopes in him. They supported and sympathized with him. They were not among the disciples in the strict sense, but more like “resident adherents.”
During the day, as Jesus and his disciples walked to the next village, they often did not know where they would be staying at night. They relied on the hospitality of people to provide food and shelter for the night.
We see evidence of this on their journey to Jerusalem. After they have been on the road all day, they need hosts for the evening. The houses of those who did provide such hospitality probably became the bases of the Jesus movement. As they approached a village in Samaria, “he sent messengers ahead of him to prepare for his reception.” “The Samaritans would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.” Their refusal had nothing to do with Jesus or his message. It was the remnant of a historic feud among the Hebrews.
Note how James and John respond to that rejection by the Samaritans. “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them? It sounds like they had access to drone missiles! These two trigger-happy disciples would have been good candidates for jobs in the Pentagon and the U.S. military. Clearly they had not gotten the message. They still were far from understanding this nonviolent man from Nazareth.
“Jesus turned and rebuked them.” In preparing this homily I learned that some ancient manuscripts have an expanded version of that sentence. That expanded version says, “he rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what spirit you are of, for the Son of Man has not come to destroy the lives of human beings, but to save them’.”
That simple statement that “Jesus turned and rebuked them, and said, the Son of Man has not come to destroy the lives of human beings, but to save them” makes his message abundantly clear. There was no place for warriors in the new community Jesus was forming. He calls peacemakers blest. He sent his disciples out without money or weapons, even without a staff or sandals. They were not to be religious and violent fanatics like the Zealots.
The response of James and John is a manifestation of an ancient obsession that has bewildered and seduced every generation before us, and our generation as well. It is an obsession rooted in the genetic package we inherited from our primal ancestors. It is humanities obsession with violence as the solution for frustration or harm done to us in any way.
I began this homily with a description of what I consider a real “Missoula experience.” I was riding my bicycle and heading down to the river-trail. Two women were in front of me. They heard my bell tinkling and stepped aside. As I passed and greeted them the younger woman said: “yours is my favorite bell in Missoula. I love it!!”
I offer that little experience as a metaphor of what it is to be a Christian. The task entrusted to us in our baptism is to awaken our world to the possibilities of nonviolent living, gospel living. So I invite you to renew your own commitment to imitate the nonviolent Christ. Be nonviolent in attitude, word and deed. Then as you pedal along in your day-to-day living, those you pass on the road may step aside and say to themselves, “I want to be like that.” That is how the good news we call gospel is spread.