Calling Fire from Heaven

Today’s gospel is a good lesson in what to do with outrage.

After the Samaritans would not welcome them, James and John’s first reaction was to ask Jesus if they could “call down fire from heaven to consume them.” That’s their response to the injustice of not being welcomed there.

How often have we felt like that? How cool would it be if I could “call down fire” every time I was offended, or horrified, or outraged? What would the world look like if this were possible? I’m sure the entire world would be burning right now!

Certainly, we see many occasions for outrage. However, doesn’t it seem these days that our first reaction to anything is to get angry and growl about who’s hurt, who’s offended, who’s indignant? We immediately take sides – often aligned with our social or political leanings – and we bluster and try to call down the fire.

Yesterday, we saw a very good reason to be outraged. Almost 60 souls murdered and over 500 maimed. We should be angry at such senseless violence. But almost as soon as we unite in prayer and sadness, we will also begin to bicker about what should’ve been done, what should be done, and who is still to blame. We would like to see our fire called down and called down soon.

Just last week, we were fuming over the behavior of grown men at a football game. A football game!

Suddenly, kneeling, standing, or sitting doesn’t seem so important – when we stare at the horrific images of mothers crying for their children, and simple Americans bewildered at what just happened.

Jesus’ response to James and John is so gentle – so simple. How beautiful is our Lord’s method of teaching! He doesn’t call for fire; He doesn’t become angry too. Rather, He simply takes them and moves on to another place.

In other words, at a time like this – when we are ready to call down fire – Jesus says to us, “Enough. Go do good somewhere.”

Sure, there is reason for outrage. But if we as Christians simply resort to anger and a call for fire, sooner or later, we will all be burned.

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