Rejected and mistreated, with vengeance we wound one another, day after day.
In today’s reading, perhaps we hear an echo of our own suffering in the request of the humiliated James and John. We identify with these disciples because we long for justice, of course; but also because we have all felt the sting of rejection and we know the intoxicating pull of vengeance.
Yet Jesus rebukes this instinct for vengeance. Perhaps this rebuke reflected Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman, whom he met at Jacob’s well (John 4:1-26). That is to say, perhaps the very desire for vengeance was radically inconsistent with the reason Jesus set his face to Jerusalem—to inaugurate a new era when all humanity will be free to worship the Father in spirit and in truth, together.
It is easy to identify with the frustrated disciples and their experience of rejection. However, if we are honest, the ebb and flow of life just as often places us in the position of the Samaritan villagers. Excluded and rejected by the Jews, it is hardly a surprise that these particular Samaritans were not eager to receive a Jewish rabbi on his journey to Jerusalem. Rejection followed rejection, in a cycle of wounds and fractured fellowship.
Today, like the Samaritan villagers, we are personally addressed and invited to participate in Christ’s redemptive and reconciling work. Too often, however, we reject the invitation, because the pain of old wounds and ongoing injustice echoes in our humiliated hearts.
Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem. In doing so, he had no interest in nursing old grudges and tired prejudice. Rather, his concern was the restoration of broken fellowship. Perhaps the healing of our individual wounds of rejection begins with a confession of the way we have rejected and mistreated others. It is a call to conversion, where the truthful memory of our wounds and the wounds we’ve inflicted can be transformed into works of mercy—and thereby redeemed.
Miguel J. Romero
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Institute for Church Life
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