This is a second extract from Archbishop Wester’s pastoral letter on nuclear weapons. He is Scriptural and concretely contemporary, challenging us to think, pray and act.
It is interesting to note that shortly after Jesus commanded His disciples to love their enemies, according to Luke’s account (9:54-55), they asked if they could kill their enemies. They wanted to call down hellfire from heaven on their enemies, as Elijah did. This passage is particularly important for us here in New Mexico . . .
One Samaritan village refused to welcome Jesus because He was heading toward Jerusalem where their enemies, the Judeans, lived. When James and John heard this, they asked Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” (Luke 9:54). Jesus had just commanded them to practice universal love and creative nonviolence, to love even their enemies, yet here they were—ready to kill their enemies. They preferred the teachings of the prophet Elijah, who called down fire from heaven and killed his enemies.
Luke says simply, “Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village,” (9:55).
Jesus rebuked the disciples because they wanted to call down fire from heaven. He absolutely forbids even the thought of it. He rejects violence of all kinds, including retaliation and warfare. He will not tolerate it among His followers. Jesus wants us to be as nonviolent and loving as He is, come what may. We are not allowed to kill people.
Two thousand years later, here in New Mexico, we not only want to call down hellfire from heaven, but we have also actually built the most destructive weapons in history to do it, and then we used them to kill hundreds of thousands of sisters and brothers in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since then, we have built tens of thousands of more nuclear weapons that can destroy the entire human race. We have surpassed James and John, who wanted to call down hellfire from heaven. We have done this and continue to prepare to do this.