Two things immediately strike me about today’s gospel;
The first is; did James and John really think that they had the power to “call down fire from heaven?” I mean, I get it, right before today’s reading Jesus called a demon out of a child with a word. So, maybe they thought that if He could do that perhaps they could call down fire with a similar word.
My guess is that they were going to be disappointed. Now, depending on the translation that you read they are quoted as saying that with Jesus’ permission they could do this as Elijah did”. In second Kings Ahaziah sent Elijah to “a captain with his company of fifty men. So, the captain went up to Elijah, who was sitting on top of a hill, and said to him, “Man of God, the king declares, ‘Come down!’” Elijah answered the captain, “If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.” And fire came down from heaven and consumed the captain and his fifty men.
Maybe a slightly different spin but an important distinction. Here again they saw this amazing miracle that Jesus had just done, and they thought “wouldn’t it be cool if we could do what Elijah did. After all we are both “Men of God” …. Why not?”
When you break this down the first thing that struck me as being funny might not actually be that strange. If we had been in the same situation we would see the amazing power of the Son of Man, we would have seen an insult to that person and we would have said, “hey Jesus, can you give us the power to teach them a lesson?”
And that brings me to the second thing. Doesn’t it seem to be a bit extreme to call down “fire from heaven” because the Samaritan village would not put them up for the night? Yes, the Israelites and the Samaritans did not get along, or even like each other but to “call down fire”? And to ask the Son of God for the power to do that? Again, perhaps not their best idea.
“Hey Jesus, those guys were being real jerks, can you give us the power to lay waste to their village, their community, their families?” Can’t you just see Jesus roll His eyes and shake His head? Under His breadth He probably mutters something like, “you have got to be kidding me”. And then, “no, James and John, you can not rain fire down from heaven on that Samaritan village.”
And let’s not be too hard on James and John, has there ever been a situation where we might not have wished the best on someone that had done something that upset up? Or even worse, have we ever been guilty of the “Oh, woe is me” prayers found in the first reading?
Why is light given to the toilers,
and life to the bitter in spirit?
They wait for death and it comes not;
they search for it rather than for hidden treasures,
Rejoice in it exultingly,
and are glad when they reach the grave:
Perhaps we should look at today’s readings as the perfect example of how not to pray. In the first reading we are presented with Job who is so dejected by what has happened to him that we hear a prayer of “why and I even alive” and in Luke we hear a prayer of “Bless us O’ Lord just not them.”
There is no wonder that in Matthew 6 Jesus feels compelled to teach us how to pray.
He starts by reminding us that we are all His children, equally loved and equally cared for. Then He goes on to tell us that what we need will be provided for because He is our God and His Kingdom will come.
For our responsorial psalm we prayed: Let my prayer come before you, Lord.
And how did He answer us? Simple …
The Son of Man came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.
LK 9:51 – 56
When the days for Jesus to be taken up were fulfilled,
he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem,
and he sent messengers ahead of him.
On the way they entered a Samaritan village
to prepare for his reception there,
but they would not welcome him
because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.
When the disciples James and John saw this they asked,
“Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven
to consume them?”
Jesus turned and rebuked them,
and they journeyed to another village.
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