Monday, July 3, 2017

Homily for 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for the
13th Sunday of Ordinary Time
June 27, 1999
2 Kings 4: 8-16
Don Bosco Tech, Paterson, N.J.

If you've missed your humble bloggers homilies, you may observe from the preceding posts that he's been on the road.  (And there's more to come from his "road trip.")  Even now that he's somewhat settled in his new home in Maryland, he has no Sunday Mass assignments.  Here's one from the archive for this past Sunday's (July 2) readings.

“Elisha asked, ‘Can something be done for her?’” (2 Kings 4: 14).

It seems that in the exercise of his prophetic ministry Elisha—the disciple and successor of Elijah—travelled around Israel.  In case you’re wondering (I was), Shunem is in the territory of the tribe of Issachar, in what we now call southern Galilee.  Don Bosco used to do a lot of travelling, either to raise money for the support of the many Salesian apostolic ministries or to win the Church’s approval of our Society.  2 Kings, however, doesn’t tell us why Elisha moved around.

Richard Gunther -
2 Kings does tell us that the Shunemite woman recognized Elisha as a holy man, a man of God.  That is why she and her husband invited him to dine with them and eagerly offered him a place to stay—much as the wealthy people of Italy and France vied with each other to host Don Bosco or just to offer him their carriages.  [example of competition to have him ride in carriages]

The Elisha reading was chosen for today’s Mass because it gives a concrete illustration of Jesus’ teaching in the gospel:  “Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward,” and so on (Matt 10:41-42).  In the OT, without a concept of the afterlife, a reward had to be concrete; and so Elisha promises the childless couple a son—the boy whom in a later episode he will resuscitate from apparent death (2 Kings 4:18-37).

When Jesus speaks of a reward for receiving a prophet, a holy person, a disciple, it’s in the context of receiving, in turn, his apostles.  Receiving apostles, prophets, saints, and disciples is receiving him whom they represent:  Jesus, and ultimately, the Father.  The reward we’re promised for such welcoming of the Father and the Father’s Word is not resuscitation but resurrection; not revival but immortality.

When doctors and others urged Don Bosco to take better care of himself, not to work so hard and so long, to take some rest, he would respond, we’re told, by quipping, “I’ll rest about a mile above the moon.”  (That, of course, was before space shuttles and space stations taught us that there’s no rest even a mile beyond the moon.)  When young Salesians complained that they were overworked, he would counsel patience—long term:  “A little piece of heaven will set everything right.”
Art by Nino Musio
In the words of the leaders of the American civil rights movement in the ’50s and ’60s, Don Bosco had his eyes on the prize:  heaven, eternal life.  It is for this prize, this reward, that we receive the word of God and those who bring it to us.  It is for this prize, this reward, that we ourselves become messengers of the Good News, “signs and bearers of God’s love for the young.”  It is for this prize, this reward, that we choose Christ above all other human beings, take up our crosses, and follow him (Matt 10:37-38).

The Shunemite woman and her husband didn’t ask for a reward from Elisha in return for their hospitality—tho later she does plead with him for her son’s life.  Jesus tells us we aren’t to look for rewards in this life but in the life to come (cf. Matt 6:1-6).  We can expect blessings from our beneficent Father—but we can’t know what form those blessings will take, just as we didn’t know how our pursuit of Jesus Christ would evolve within the Salesian Society over these many years, or within your marriage.  Nor can we guess what our heavenly reward, our little piece of paradise, will be like:  “Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9).  Like the centurion in yesterday’s gospel (Matt 8:5-13), whose faith was explicit; like the Shunemite woman, whose faith was implicit; like our father Don Bosco—we trust that God will do something for us:  “There is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age:  houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands…, and eternal life in the age to come” (Mark 10:29-30).

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