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What James and John “calling down fire” might teach us

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Fr. Luigi Maria Epicoco - published on 09/27/22

When Christians, even when moved by religious convictions, choose the path of violence in any of its forms (verbal, written, physical), they must feel the same reaction towards themselves that Jesus has towards James and John.

Today’s readings can be found here. Read Fr. Epicoco’s brief reflections on the daily Mass readings, Monday through Saturday, here. For Sunday Mass reading commentary from Fr. Rytel-Andrianik, see here.

We should be impressed by the unexpected violence that emerges from the words of James and John when, along with Jesus, they see themselves rejected by a village of Samaritans:

“When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?’”

How could a balanced man like James and a contemplative like John say something so extreme?

I believe the Gospel brings all this back to help us understand that no matter how deep and serious our faith experiences may be, we are never safe from fundamentalist and violent religious interpretations and attitudes.

When Christians, even when moved by religious convictions, choose the path of violence in any of its forms (verbal, written, physical), they must not only remember that this is wrong and is a total counter-witness to the gospel, but they must feel the same reaction towards themselves that Jesus has towards James and John: “Jesus turned and rebuked them.”

Today the gospel questions us about the attitude with which we believe. Too many times out of religious zeal we choose violent language on social media, or we give resentment-laden responses to those who challenge us, or in some cases we turn the cross of Christ into a weapon to be hurled at someone.

Jesus was not like that, and asks us not to be like that. We are called to be believers, not crusaders.

~

Father Luigi Maria Epicoco is a priest of the Aquila Diocese and teaches Philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University and at the ISSR ‘Fides et ratio,’ Aquila. He dedicates himself to preaching, especially for the formation of laity and religious, giving conferences, retreats and days of recollection. He has authored numerous books and articles. Since 2021, he has served as the Ecclesiastical Assistant in the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and columnist for the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

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DiscipleshipGospelSpiritual Life
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