Grace to you!
Today's reflection centers on the story of the woman of Shunem. Her exceptional hospitality to Elisha, the prophet, has a unique place in the prophetic ministry. Because of the woman's generosity, she and her husband were blessed with a son at old age through Elisha's intercession (see 2 kgs 4:8-37).
The prophetic ministry is a sacred mission. The prophet, far from being a soothsayer, is the one who forth-tells God's will for God's people. Notice I didn't say "foretell" as soothsayers do. I said forthtell because it is a declaration of the will of God concerning his people. The prophet is the ambassador and announcer of the Word of God. What distinguishes the prophet is not their ability to see visions or see the future. Instead, it is the calling to speak the mind of God concerning the past, the current, and the future. It is to be at the service of the Divine Word. And you know God's will is often challenging to the ways of humans.
Many times the prophetic ministry demands the prophet to make tough decisions. It also entails a lot of sacrifices. The Lord's apostles themselves were chosen and commissioned to become prophets. We saw how they moved from place to place, telling forth the Good News of salvation. They suffered. Yet the joy of the Lord filled their hearts.
Because of the nature of their vocation, the prophet, for the most part, is sustained by other people’s generosity.
During the twelve apostles' mission, who were the first prophets called and commissioned by the Lord, the Lord Jesus himself instructed them to be detached from worldly concerns. Such a detachment will enable them to be attached to the vocation's primary goal, namely proclaiming the Good News (Mt 10:9-10). Those on the trenches, preaching God's word, know that attachment to material things can corrupt the prophetic ministry's purity.
But if the prophet isn't sustained, worries for the future could be a stumbling block to the single-mindedness and devotion to the Gospel required of the prophetic ministry too. Hence, the Lord taught about generosity to the prophet or any disciple called to preach. The Lord's instructions in this matter were part of the entire teaching on the apostle's commissioning.
The wisdom of the Church is evident in the Mass readings of this day, in bringing this teaching alongside this old testament example—the woman of Shunem (read it in 2 Kgs 4-8-11, 14-16). Her generosity to Prophet Elisha is commendable.
In turn, Prophet Elisha became her unique intercessor. Observe that in that story, 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. Thus, while announcing the word of God to people, the prophet is also a mouthpiece of the people to God. The prophet becomes an intercessor, pleading to God for those who heed the prophetic voice. A community without a prophetic voice is in a terrible situation. Moses was, after all, to the point when he prayed, "How I wish all were prophets" (Num 11:29).
The Lord tells us in Matthew 10:40-41 that anyone who welcomes a prophet will receive the prophet's reward. Also, anyone who welcomes a believer because he or she is a believer will receive the believer's reward.
In our Catholic Christian view, the reward of the prophet is grace and salvation in Christ. Thus, those who welcome and support a prophet because the person is a prophet will also receive grace and salvation. "Welcoming" the prophet means not just giving them food or drink. It implies heeding God's message, which they proclaim, provided it is God's Word and not theirs. The Lord promised similar blessings to those who welcome the righteous because they are righteous and the believer because they are believers.
It shows in addition to the natural blessings that flow from hospitality to anyone else; there is an extra heavenly reward. It goes to those who are generous ministers of or to the Word and the sacraments.
By supporting the clergy, whose primary task includes proclaiming God's Word, we contribute to the work of evangelization. As we know from our basic Church teachings, there are three levels of involvement in the missionary work of spreading the Good News. Some are missionaries by praying for missionaries (prophets) in the trenches. Some 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 the works of mercy. These levels are not exclusive. Rather, they are suitable for proper classification.
Each of these three groups receives the prophet's reward. Like the Shunammite woman, they are blessed indeed. I hope you belong to at least one of these groups.
I am praying that God will inspire us to continue to support those who are ministers of the Word and the sacrament. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[13th Sunday Ordinary Time A: 2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16A; Rom 6:3-4, 8-11; Mt 10:37-42]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.