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June 16, 2020
June 18, 2020

Homily for Wednesday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time, 17 June 2020, Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

Last June 5, I gave you a homily about MENTORING. And so I entitle this homily today “Mentoring, Part Two”. The first one last June 5 was about the mentoring that Timothy received from St. Paul. Today we reflect on the mentoring that Elisha got from the prophet Elijah in the first reading, and that which the disciples received from Jesus in the Gospel reading.
Let’s start with Elijah on Elisha. Elijah, the teacher is about to be taken up to heaven by a whirlwind, and Elisha, the disciple knows about it. But he does not yet feel confident to be left on his own. He probably thought of himself as just one of the many disciples of the great Elijah, who were organized into a prophetic guild. Aware that Elijah was actually preparing for his succession by him, Elisha is overcome by anxiety and a feeling of inadquacy. He probably did not feel big enough to fit into the large shoes of the legendary Elijah.
The scene that precedes Elijah’s parting is actually a bit comic. Elijah, who has been stubbornly followed by his prodigy, Elisha, from Gilgal, to Bethel, to Jericho and now to Jordan, in order to cross the river, very casually rolls up his mantle and strikes the water so that it splits up. Before Elijah leaves, he gives his student a chance to make a wish. Perhaps because Elisha felt like a miserable dwarf before a giant, he asked to be given a double portion of his teacher’s spirit. His teacher tells him he could get his wish, but only if he could keep his eyes fixed on Elijah until the very moment he is taken up by a whrilwind.
Elisha does as he is instructed; he keeps his eyes on his master until Elijah is fetched by a chariot of fire and brought to heaven, and his master’s cloak falls on him. He walks back to the river bank, rolls the cloak of Elijah and strikes the water once, calling on the name of the God of Elijah, asking where he is now. Nothing happens. He strikes it again, and now the water divides and he crosses over. It means his wish is already granted; he has already received a double portion of Elijah’s spirit.
Now we move to the Gospel, unlike Elijah who mentors Elisha in three different places, Jesus here is mentoring his disciples on three different things: on almsgiving, praying and fasting. In all three instances, the point is basically the same: whether it involves almsgiving, or praying or fasting, the disciples have to make sure they do not do it to be noticed or to call attention to themselves. They were expected to fix their eyes only on the Father and never allow themselves to be distracted.
I am sure, like Elisha, the disciples too felt very inadequate and incapable of meeting up to Jesus’ criteria. There are many other scenes like these. Remember when the disciples tried to imitate Jesus and perform an exorcism on an epileptic boy and did not succeed? Or when Jesus was saying goodbye and the disciples were troubled? Remember how Thomas reacted and said they did not know the way to where he was going? Or Philip who requested that Jesus show them the Father? Or remember Peter when he saw Jesus walking on water and he asked Jesus to bid him walk also on the water towards him, only to find himself sinking when he felt the waves and the wind and was overcome by fear?
I remember once, watching on tv a documentary of a circus performer, teaching his son how to do tightrope walking. He positioned the boy on one end of the line while he mentored him from the other end. He said, “Listen, my boy, don’t forget this. Look at me and keep your eyes fixed on my eyes. As you walk, don’t allow yourself to be distracted. Don’t look up, don’t look down, just look at me here and then keep going straight ahead. No need to even look at the line. Let your feet feel the line.”
In his lessons on discipleship, Jesus once used the image of the farmer who must keep his hand on the plow and not keep looking back.
At the story of the Ascension, Luke tells us the disciples kept their gaze on Jesus until he disappeared. Unlike Elisha, they got, not just a double portion but a sevenfold portion of Jesus’ spirit on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on them. And that is the reason why the master who was taken up to heaven two thousand years ago, continues to live on in us his disciples up to now. But please, let us not waste the power of his Spirit parting rivers. Remember, Jesus our master promised us in John 14:12, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me WILL DO THE WORKS THAT I DO, AND WILL DO GREATER ONES THAN THESE, because I am going to the Father.”


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