Grace to you!
Yesterday we reflected on the blessings of hospitality using Abraham as an example. Our reflection today is centered on the story of the woman of Shunem, whose exceptional hospitality to Elisha the prophet has an important place in the ministry of the prophet Elisha. Because of the woman’s hospitality, she and her husband were blessed with a son at old age through the intercession of Elisha (see I kgs 4:8-37).
The prophetic ministry is a sacred mission. The prophet, far from being a soothsayer, is the one who forth-tells the will of God for God’s people. He is the ambassador and announcer of the Word of God.
Many times the prophetic ministry demands the prophet to make tough decisions. It also entails a lot of sacrifices. The Apostles of Jesus themselves were chosen and commissioned to become prophets; and we saw how they moved from place to place telling forth the Good News of salvation.
Because of the nature of their vocation, the prophet, for the most part, is sustained by other people’s generosity.
During the mission of the twelve apostles, who are the first prophets called and commissioned by the Lord, the Lord Jesus himself instructed them to be detached from worldly concerns so as to be attached to the primary goal of the vocation, namely proclaiming the Good News (Mt 10:9-10).
But if the prophet isn’t sustained, worries for the future could be a stumbling block to his single-mindedness in regard to the Gospel. Hence, the Lord gave the teaching about generosity to the prophet or disciple who is called to preach as part of the entire teaching on the commissioning of the twelve.
In the Old Testament, a good example of how this is exemplified is in the story of the woman of Shunem. Her generosity to Prophet Elisha is commendable.
In turn, Prophet Elisha became her unique intercessor. Observe that in that story (read it in 2 Kgs 4-8-11, 14-16), it was the prophet, not the woman, who was keen to reward the woman for her hospitality. The work of the prophet as an ambassador is also to be an intercessor for others.
The ambassador relates to the president what the hosting country or jurisdiction needs or brings to the table. In a similar way, the prophet, while announcing the word of God to people, is also a mouthpiece to God of the needs of His people.
The Lord tells us in Matthew 10:40-41, that anyone who welcomes a prophet will receive the prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes a believer because he or she is a believer will receive the believer’s reward.
Since the reward of the prophet is grace and salvation in Christ, those who welcome and support a prophet because the person is a prophet will receive grace and salvation too. The Lord promised similar blessings for those who welcome a righteous person because the person is righteous, and a believer because he or she is a believer.
This shows that over and above the natural blessings that flow from hospitality to anyone else, there is an additional heavenly reward for generosity to those who are called to be ministers of the word and the sacraments.
By supporting the clergy, whose primary task includes proclaiming God’s word, we are contributing to the work of evangelisation. As the Church teaches, there are three levels of involvement in the missionary work of spreading the Good News. There are those who are missionaries by praying for missionaries (prophets) in the trenches. There are those who are missionaries by giving financial and other support for the missionaries to carry out their work. Finally, there are missionary preachers themselves who are in the trenches preaching and doing works of mercy.
Each of these three groups receive the prophet’s reward. Like the Shunemite woman, they are indeed blessed. Hope you are one of these groups.
Praying that God will inspire us to continue to support those who are ministers of the word and the sacrament. Amen.
[13th Sunday Ordinary Time: 2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16A; Rom 6:3-4, 8-11; Mt 10:37-42]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.