Life is sacred for it can only be created and redeemed by God Himself. In the first reading of today and following, this truth was clearly buttressed. The miracle of God through the prophet Elisha will best be understood when we read the entire fourth chapter of the second book of the Kings. It contains four miracles of Elisha. Each of them is about the gift of life. The first was about a widow whose small jar of oil was multiplied so that she could make money from it to pay her debts and free her sons. The first reading of today is the first part of the second miracle. The second part of the miracle was the restoration to life when the boy died. The third was about the Poisoned Broth whose deadly content was neutralized. The fourth was the multiplication of Loaves. A common denominator of each of these four miracles is that they were brought about by acts of kindness to the Prophets of God. Consequently, today’s liturgy reveals to us that we can attracts God’s blessings on ourselves not only when we pray for it but also by taking care of His ministers.
The scripture is filled with examples of people who assisted in the proclamation of the gospel. Acts like these never escapes God’s notice and reward. All of us are called to evangelize in our very condition of life. However, while God calls some into an active ministry, he calls others to provide for the welfare of the ministers. When we reflectively read the first and the gospel readings, we come to understand how to go about caring for God’s ministers. First, the woman of Shunem recognized that Elisha was a prophet of God. She also observed that each day, he passes by her house doing his work. She must have imagined the sacrifices Elisha was making to fulfill this God-given task. She must have also reasoned that if Elisha is made more comfortable, he will be more resourceful.
Thus, she dared to help. She may not be able to do what Elisha was doing but she could contribute to the productivity of Elisha. This is a clear case of a cheerful giver. She was not asked to help, she was not threatened to help, she was not deceived to help; she saw the need to help and she did helped. God loves a cheerful giver. In the gospel, Jesus says that whoever receives a prophet or gives him a cup of water because he is a prophet, will receive a prophet’s reward. The prophet has no other reward other than the reward of God himself. The phrase “because he is a prophet” signifies something that is done to make the prophet more comfortable so that he may be more resourceful. It is the right of the people to be ministered to by their Priests. Likewise, it is the obligation of the people to minister to the needs of their priests.
The sixth commandment of the Church asks that we contribute to the support of our pastors. When the Lord was sending out the seventy two disciples, he ordered them not to take anything for the journey not because their needs will not arise but because the people are expected to provide for the disciples’ need. If the disciples were to cater for their needs themselves, their attention will be greatly divided. When a prophet’s attention is divided, the flock will be poorly fed spiritually. Often times, we see people boast of the number of priests they are familiar with, of the number of priests’ contacts they have in their phones. But the question is can they equally boast of the number of priests they contribute to their welfare? Like the woman in today’s first reading, let us learn to take out time to observe our priests and see what they may be in need of. When they do not meet your expectations, or when they disappoint/annoy us, our first reaction should be to consider if they are fine.
Priests are humans too. Again, let your gifts to them be as free as possible; it should not be a bait to selfishly get their attention. Also, we contribute to the support of our priests not only by offering what is needed but also by not offering what is not needed. It is sad to say that some persons see their priests as candidates for exploitation, blackmail and topic for gossips. The mistake of a priests seem to get more attention than his good works. His good of today is forgotten tomorrow but his mistake of yesterday is forever remembered. Our priests who reconcile us to God also need our forgiveness and fraternal correction.
Beloved, the woman in today’s first reading was blessed because she brought joy to Elisha. If the joy of a priest is able to bring about blessings, so also is the persecution of a priest able to attract sorrow. The Lord warns in Ps.105:15 – “touch not my anointed and do my prophets no harm” for through their instrumentality, we experience the newness of life which St. Paul talked about in the second reading. You cannot destroy a ladder and still expect it to take you up. God Bless You!
• Rev. Fr. EvaristusOkeke is a priest of the Archdiocese of Benin City