SEPTEMBER 27TH 2022
MEMORIAL OF SAINT VINCENT DE PAUL, Priest
Job 3: 1 - 3, 11 - 17, 20 - 23
Gospel Luke 9:51-56.
Somebody had said: “Don’t be a victim, be a victor.”Louis L’Amour also added, “Victory is won not in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground and later win a little more.”
Jesus in today’s gospel like the prophets, is heading towards Jerusalem, but makes a side trip to a Samaritan village, the hated enemies of the Jewish people because the Jews and Samaritans had been divided for centuries. Jewish pilgrims who passed through Samaritan territory were often assaulted. And so He sends ahead some messengers so that they have a place to stay but the people there won’t receive him because He was on His way to Jerusalem.
“Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” These were the words of the brothers James and John, when the people of this village did not receive them well. They really deserve the nickname Christ gave them: “sons of thunder” because they seem to have had very strong and fiery temperaments. They wanted quick results and they believe in the use of force or threats. They want to curse those who did not welcome Him. Cursing is never good. St. Paul tells us: ‘Bless and do not curse.” These brothers forget the lesson that Jesus has taught them: “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart,” (Matt 11:29). That is why Jesus’ reaction is drastically different, even opposed to that suggestion. He rebukes these violence, hatred and reaction and so they go on their way: the way of the cross, of forgiveness, mercy, non-violent response to rejection and set on what is important. He tells them that “the Son of Man did not come to destroy people’s lives but to save them.”
In our apostolic work, we may come across resistance and opposition. The reaction of a good Christian is not to get angry with those people who opposed and resisted but to be more patient with them. The task of a disciple of Jesus is not to destroy but to build up. We must temper our tendency to return evil for evil.
The key to ending our tendency to return evil for evil is forgiveness and surrender to a higher power who is God. When we learn to accept others as they are without making judgments or taking their inventory, we can live and let live. We can come to understand that others acted as they did, not to hurt us, but because it filled their needs.
Another one that we need so much today is tolerance also. But are we not often tolerant for the wrong thing or for the wrong motive? Christian love seeks the highest good of neighbor and enemy. When Abraham Lincoln was criticized for his courtesy and tolerance towards his enemies, rather than destroying them, he responded: “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”
And so do we love those who cross us and do we seek to return evil with good?
Let us seek the intercession of St Vincent de Paul, the Patron Saint of Catholic Charities, on his Feast Day giving heed to his words: “If Christ is the centre of your lives, no words are necessary. Your mere presence will touch hearts!”