Lectio Divina: Luke 9:51-56
1) Opening prayer
You show Your almighty power
in Your mercy and forgiveness.
Continue to fill us with Your gifts of love.
Help us to hurry towards the eternal life You promise
and come to share in the joys of Your kingdom.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Luke 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.
• The Gospel today narrates and tells us how Jesus decides to go to Jerusalem. It also describes the first difficulties which He finds along this road. He presents us the beginning of the long and hard way along the periphery toward the capital city. Jesus leaves Galilee and goes toward Jerusalem. Not all can understand Him. Many abandon Him because the demands are enormous. Today, the same thing happens. Along the way in our community there are misunderstandings and abandonment.
• “Jesus decides to go to Jerusalem”. This decision marks the hard and long way of Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem, from the periphery to the capital city. This journey occupies more than one third part of the Gospel of Luke (Lk 9:51 to 19:28). This is a sign that the journey to Jerusalem was of great importance in the life of Jesus. The long walk is also the symbol of the journey that the community is making. They seek to go through a difficult passage from the Jewish world toward the world of the Greek culture. This also symbolizes the tension between the new and the ancient which was closing more and more in on itself. It also symbolizes the conversion which each one of us has to undergo in trying to follow Jesus. During the journey, the disciples try to follow Jesus, without returning back; but they do not always succeed. Jesus dedicates much time to instructing those who follow Him closely. We have a concrete example of this instruction in today’s Gospel. At the beginning of the journey, Jesus leaves Galilee and takes the disciples with Him to the territory of the Samaritans. He tries to form them so that they will be ready to understand the openness to the new, toward the other, toward what is different.
• Luke 9:51: Jesus decides to go to Jerusalem. The Greek text literally says “Now it happened that as the time drew near for Him to be taken up, He resolutely turned His face towards Jerusalem”. The expression “assumption” or “being snatched” recalls the prophet Elijah snatched to heaven (2 Kings 2:9-11). The expression “turned His face” recalls the Servant of Yahweh, who said, “I have set my face like flint and I know I shall not be put to shame” (Isa 50:7). It also recalls an order which the prophet Ezekiel received from God: “Turn your face toward Jerusalem!” (Ezek 21:7). To face something is to address it. One can meet someone face-to-face, which implies a gravity to the meeting. It is an expression that means there is seriousness, and not just a casual stroll. In using these expressions Luke suggests that while they were walking toward Jerusalem, the most open opposition to Jesus began with the official expectations and ideology of the Temple of Jerusalem. Those expectations wanted a glorious and nationalistic Messiah. Jesus wants to be a Servant Messiah. During the long journey, this opposition will increase and will finally end in the arrest of Jesus. The snatching of Jesus is His death on the cross, followed by His resurrection.
• Luke 9:52-53: The mission in Samaria failed. During the journey, the horizon of the mission is extended. After the beginning, Jesus goes beyond the frontiers of the territory and of race. He sends His disciples to go and prepare for His arrival in a town of Samaria, but the mission, together with the Samaritans, fails. Luke says that the Samaritans did not receive Jesus because He was going to Jerusalem. But if the disciples had said to the Samaritans, “Jesus is going to Jerusalem to criticize the project of the Temple and to demand a greater openness”, Jesus would have been accepted, because the Samaritans were of the same opinion. The failure of the mission is probably due to the disciples. They did not understand why Jesus “turned His face toward Jerusalem”. The official propaganda of the glorious and nationalistic Messiah prevented them from seeing this. The disciples did not understand the openness of Jesus and therefore the mission failed!
• Luke 9:54-55: Jesus does not accept the request of vengeance. James and John do not want to take home this defeat. They do not accept that someone is not in agreement with their ideas. They want to imitate Elijah and use fire for revenge (2 Kings 1:10). Jesus rejects the proposal. He does not want the fire. Some bibles add, “You do not know what spirit is moving you!” This means that the reaction of the disciples was not according to the Spirit of Jesus. When Peter suggests to Jesus not to follow the path of the Servant Messiah, Jesus turns to Peter calling him Satan (Mk 8: 33). Satan is the evil spirit who wants to change the course of Jesus’ mission. The message of Luke for the communities: those who want to hinder the mission among the pagans are moved by an evil spirit!
• In the ten chapters which describe the journey up to Jerusalem (Lk 9:51 to 19:28), Luke constantly reminds us that Jesus is on the way toward Jerusalem (Lk 9:51,53,57; 10:1,38; 11:1; 13:22,33; 14:25; 17:11; 18:31; 18:37; 19:1,11,28). He rarely says where Jesus passed. Only at the beginning of the journey (Lk 9:51), in the middle (Lk 17: 11), and at the end (Lk 18:35; 19:1), is something known about the place where Jesus was passing. This refers to the communities of Luke and for all of us. The only thing that is sure is that we have to continue to walk. We cannot stop. The place where we have to pass by is not always clear and definite. What is sure is the objective: Jerusalem.
4) Personal questions
• What are the problems which you have to face in your life because of the decision which you have made to follow Jesus?
• What can we learn from the pedagogy of Jesus with His disciples who wanted to take revenge on the Samaritans?
• How often do we ask for revenge or “getting even” in prayer - in not so many words, but in intent, in an Old Testament way of viewing God, rather than always in a humble and forgiving way in response to challenge or adversity? We see this lack of understanding today from those that preach “pray and you will get your way (and your opponents will lose).”
5) Concluding Prayer
All the kings of the earth give thanks to You, Yahweh,
when they hear the promises You make;
they sing of Yahweh’s ways,
‘Great is the glory of Yahweh!’ (Ps 138:4-5)