Pope Francis once famously said that the Christian life is not a holiday spa. He was of course referring to the necessary toughness that we must all cultivate as we all, in our own respective way, follow behind Jesus on the road of discipleship. In this weekend’s Gospel, Saint Luke gives us a teaching from Jesus about the challenges of the Christian life, under the powerful metaphor of the ‘journey’.
St Luke begins his teaching with a striking image: “As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem…” In other translations the phrase resolutely took the road is rendered as ‘set his face.’ Jesus is determined from this point on to accomplish the Father’s plan in spite of all opposition.
He encounters a Samaritan village and their opposition is rooted in national prejudice. The Jews and the Samaritans were closely related, but the Samaritans, descended from foreigners and remnant Jews at the time of the Babylonian deportation, had a rival temple on Mount Gerizim. It is striking that at this point, Jesus’ response to the enmity of these Samaritan villagers was non-retaliation.
Here then is a little lesson for us. As Pope Francis says, we are not on holiday. In life’s journey we will make enemies. Not everyone is happy to see us. Nonetheless two attitudes are to be avoided by Christians today: First, there is self pity “Oh why do they hate us so?” and secondly, vengeance – wishing evil on all who oppose us. Jesus keeps his ‘eyes on the prize’ and does not allow himself to be distracted by useless battles. In our journey of life, we should learn to do the same.