Prejudice and Rejection

Luke 9:51-56
Zec 8:20-23 / Psa 87

As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
(Luke 9:51)

When will all the world’s conflicts cease?
What keeps us from attaining peace?
One solution we may have missed
Is destroying our prejudice.

As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And He sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for Him; but the people there did not welcome Him, because He was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then He and His disciples went to another village. (Luke 9:51-56)

Reflection

For hundreds of years a wide gap of prejudice separated the Samaritans from all the Jewish tribes in Israel. When the Assyrians conquered and exiled the Jews to Babylon in the 8th century BC, the Samaritans were the only ones left in Israel, and intermarried with other non-Jewish tribes that settled there. After the exile, when Cyrus, the king of Persia allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem in 538 BC to rebuild their city and temple, they refused to let the Samaritans’ help in rebuilding their temple, so this tribe of “half-Jews” segregated themselves from the Jews and built their own temple in Mount Grizim near Shehem. From then on prejudice against the Samaritans had kept them apart from almost all Jewish customs and practices. It was therefore “customary” that a Samaritan village would not welcome our Lord, knowing that His party were all Jews headed for Jerusalem. However, it was not the Samaritans who rejected Jesus and His disciples, but the disciples themselves who rejected this tribe, especially James and John who wanted to destroy the whole Samaritan village by calling down fire from heaven. Our Lord rebuked them and rejected their preposterous suggestion. To correct this prejudice that most of the Jews had against the Samaritans, Jesus used a Samaritan as His example of how a true follower of God must treat those who are helpless and in need of mercy.

The disciples were all excited to reach Jerusalem, thinking that Jesus would finally establish His earthly kingdom there. But our Lord knew the terrible pain and rejection that awaited Him in Jerusalem– not only the rejection of the Jewish people and their leaders, but His very own disciples who had been with Him for three years—how they would deny and betray Him, and abandon Him at the very end of His life when He needed them.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus has taught us that to be His disciples we need to be able to relate to other people who do not share our faith or Christian culture with a humble and forgiving attitude even when we feel that we have been rejected and insulted. We have heard about the persecution of Christians by Hindu extremists in some parts of India, but we have not learned of any retaliation against their persecutors. Those suffering missionaries are the modern martyrs of the Church, because they are following our Lord’s path to Calvary. On His way to Jerusalem, Jesus knew the harsh rejection, insults and torture that awaited Him, and yet, He set His face like flint, and proceeded to accomplish His mission there in total submission, and with a forgiving heart. Like the missionaries and the Christian faithful in India, may we likewise take up our cross in the practice of our faith.

Lord, forgive us whenever we do foolish things in the name of being “right.” We are sorry for feeling righteous, unaware that it leads to arrogance. Help us to be more forgiving and considerate of those who differ in our beliefs as Jesus has taught us today. Amen.

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