What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly - that is the first law of nature. ~Voltaire
Gospel Text: (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.
Have you ever noticed how strong a reaction—even a prejudice—people have to something as simple as a name?
Most prejudices are sewn deeply into the fabric of people’s lives and cultures. Sometimes, we don’t even know we have them until something or someone makes us confront our assumptions. That’s what happened in today’s Gospel. James and John wanted to bring fire down upon an entire town of Samaritans just because they didn’t show Jesus the hospitality that they thought he deserved. But Jesus’ rebuke brought them to their senses.
So why did they hate the Samaritans so much?
For centuries, the people of Samaria were of the same stock as the people of Jerusalem. But then in 721 b.c., the Assyrian army overran Samaria and exiled most of its inhabitants. The Assyrians then forced people from different lands to immigrate to Samaria and intermingle with the Jews who had been left behind. As a result, the Samaritans of Jesus’ day were considered foreigners whose mixture of pagan religion and Judaism was a great offense.
You can imagine how uncomfortable the disciples must have felt when Jesus made Samaritans heroes in his parables—and even more so when the deacon Philip began baptizing Samaritans and welcoming them into the Church (Acts 8:4-8).
But the apostles did let go of their prejudices—and so should we. They saw in the Samaritans’ conversion a fulfillment of today’s first reading: that people from every nation will be drawn to them and say, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you” (Zechariah 8:23).
God wants to make us just as magnetic as the apostles were by the example of our lives. He wants to draw to us all kinds of people who are hungry for the word of God. May we all be ready to welcome them!