The first reading tells us about the famed blessing of Jerusalem. People from all over would seek out a Jew, any Jew, who would guide them to the place where the harvest is plentiful and all are happy and healthy. They are eager to leave everything behind, to trust someone they don’t know, and follow that stranger’s lead to a foreign place - all for the sake of making it to the Promised Land.
Jerusalem is of course a symbol of Heaven. God gives us an open invitation to eternal life and joy. It only makes sense that we, like the people in the first reading, would leave everything behind to go there. But for some reason, things often don’t end up happening that way.
The Gospel sheds some light on why. In the New Testament, the deal is sweetened even further for the people outside of Jerusalem. The messengers come to tell the Samaritans that Goodness in the flesh would like to come right to their doorsteps - they don’t even have to leave their homes. It is an amazing offer that one would have to be insane to refuse! And yet they do.
Why? “Because his face was set toward Jerusalem”. The Samaritans long had bad blood with Jews. Were the Samaritans in the reading too prideful to accept a Jew? Were they unforgiving of some previous ill done by this people? Were they jealous that Jerusalem got to be the Promised Land? Whatever the reason, we can imagine that some sin kept them from being open to receiving Jesus in their homes and hearts.
And this is where we get to admit how similar we can be to the Samaritans. Jesus is standing at the door of our hearts, eager to sweep us off our feet and tell us how much he loves us! But we often refuse to open the door. Gossiping about others, being stingy with our money, violating our chastity...these are all ways that we tell Him that he is not welcome.
But God honors our freedom to reject Him. When the disciples report that the Samaritans will not accept Jesus, they ask if He wants them to bring fire down upon the sinners. But Jesus rebukes the disciples for even thinking that way. God has given every human free will, and Jesus lovingly respects that, even when we use that free will to deny him.
This is important to remember when we are evangelizing. There are going to be many, many people who, like the Samaritans, are blinded by their sin and cannot see the Good News that is being offered to them. This does not give us license to disparage or harm them. If Jesus does not take revenge on us when we close our hearts to him, then we cannot treat others badly for doing likewise. Instead, we must pray for them to turn away from their pride, materialism, hedonism (whatever is keeping them from seeing) and to open their eyes to the amazing love in front of them.
Dear Jesus, help me to examine my life and to become aware of the ways I shut you out. Help me be mindful of my choices in word, thought, and action which either accept or reject you and to see the joy that comes with welcoming you into my life. Please also soften the hearts of others and inspire them to open up their lives to your healing and goodness.