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In our Gospel passage for this 13th Sunday in ordinary times, year C (Luke 9:51-62), we read about the rejection of Jesus by the Samaritans who refused him passage through their town because of his destination— Jerusalem. Imagine being refused entry into a place because of your gender, orientation, race, color, ethnicity, etc. That was what happened here. For over 700 years Jews and Samaritans have been hostile to one another. During the Assyrian conquest of the Northern Kingdom, to which Samaria belonged to at the time, the Samaritans intermarried with Assyrians, resulting into mixed races; disavowed by pure Jews. Samaritans became ethnically different from the Jews and developed separate temples, rituals, traditions, and places of worship and rejected that Jerusalem was the only true place of worship. A shorter way to Jerusalem from Galilee was to pass through Samaria but Samaritans will not permit Jews to pass through their town, en route to Jerusalem.

What is important to note in this encounter is that while Jesus was unaffected by this rejection, His disciples couldn’t tolerate it. James and John took it personal and, filled with fury, were determined to strike back. They ask Jesus, whom they had seen exercise all kinds of power, if they should call down fire from heaven and kill off all these Samaritans and teach them a hard lesson. But Christ was shocked at their reaction, rebuked them, and disassociated Himself from this resort to violence. There were other routes to Jerusalem, although a little longer, but Jesus was willing to travel the extra mile to reject hate and violence.

Many a time, we often tend to believe that what we believe in, the stands we have taken, the causes we have chosen to pursue, the belief systems we hold, should in some way be generalized and so, we quickly become intolerant of those who disagree with us; we condemn them, tag them with names, and if our wills were to be done, call down fire from heaven to burn them up. But that is not the way of Christ nor should it be the way of a disciple of Jesus. Christ knew to simply move on through the next village. Trying to hold people to our standards of conduct and belief systems is a recipe for madness, disappointment, and grief. Let us learn “To Be and Let Be” and “To Live and Let Live” for it is the only way to co-exist in harmony and to reject bigotry, hatred, and strife. “You are who you are” and “I am who I am” by the grace of God.

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