In Sunday’s Gospel, the Samaritan townspeople are not welcoming Jesus as he makes his way to Jerusalem. This prompts James and John to make a wild suggestion: command fire from heaven to come down and consume them!
Perhaps James and John were still mulling over their earlier experience with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. There they had overheard Jesus in conversation with Moses and Elijah, discussing his Passover, which would take place in Jerusalem.
Both of these great figures had amazing fire stories in their repertoire. Elijah’s story is particularly relevant to what may have been teasing the disciples’ imagination.
In 1 Kings 18 he challenged 450 prophets of Baal to a contest. They would each choose a bull and prepare a sacrifice, but would not light the fire. The prophets of Baal danced around their sacrifice and prayed for hours, but there was not even a spark from the sky to ignite their sacrifice. When Elijah took his turn, he drenched his altar with water to make combustion virtually impossible. Then he calmly gathered the people around him and offered a solemn prayer to the God of his ancestors. A blaze erupted that consumed even the stones.
When prompted by his disciples, Jesus emphatically rejected any such spectacular plan for himself. The fire for his sacrifice was already burning in the determination of his heart — spectacular in a whole new way.
— Fr. Corbin Eddy
1 Kings 19:16B, 19-21
Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
Galatians 5:1, 13-18