So she said to her husband, “I know that Elisha is a holy man of God. Since he visits us often, let us arrange a little room on the roof and furnish it for him… Sometime later Elisha arrived and stayed in the room overnight. (2 Kg 4:9-11)
For those of us who remember when Steven Booth first arrived at the parish as a young man seeking counsel about the call to the priesthood… this is a glorious time! Steven Booth was ordained “Father Steven Booth” on June 13th 2020, the memorial of St. Anthony of Padua.
In the rite of ordination the bishop asked the director of vocations if Steven was deemed “worthy” to enter the priesthood. It was affirmed that this was the case. To be deemed worthy to be a priest is no small matter. God is the first one to do the deeming. This is because God is the only one who can do the redeeming. However, we the parish church also play a part in assuring the worthiness of the priest candidate. We accomplish this through our close association with the candidate over many years determining if he understands and believes the teachings of the Church, has a heart of charity, and draws ever closer to the image of Christ through prayer and study. Those deemed worthy should be graciously received into the priesthood. Those deemed unworthy; those who are a danger to the flock in any way should be escorted out of the seminary.
In our gospel quotation above, Elisha the holy man was cared for by “a woman of influence” (2 Kg 4:8). Elisha would dine with her when he was passing by her home. The woman even asked her husband to make a simple shelter for Elisha. This Shunammite woman deemed a spiritual worthiness in Elisha and desired to be in his company. She offered him material support for he had given up house and home and property and goods to follow the Lord. Yet she did not give him too much too often lest she tempt him with worldliness. In the gospel today, Jesus also does not speak of treating those that follow the Lord with an overabundance. A “cup of cold water” is all that is necessary (Mt 10:42). This meager gift may not seem much however Jesus uses this image not only to speak about the one who gives but also about the one who receives, for “the little one” of God should seek only to be refreshed and never to be exalted (Mt 23:12).
For this 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time we place on our bulletin cover a drawing of brown ink on paper by the Dutch artist Samuel van Hoogstraten entitled Elisha and the Shunammite Woman (1650 –courtesy Harvard Art Museum). Hoogstraten received his early training in the school of Rembrandt and he became a skilled painter of the Dutch Golden Age. The work we use today may not be a magnificent work, yet it is a lovely drawing of the meeting of Elisha with the woman guided by Elisha’s aide, Gehazi.
What event does this image depict. Is it the first meeting of the lady and the prophet? Is it when Elisha offers her a gift? Is it when Elisha tells her she will bear a son? Or is it just after Elisha raises her child from the dead? We cannot say for sure. What we can say exactly is that the image portrays the devoted association of lady and prophet. She honors him for his service and office, while he places his staff of office at her service. Their pious and proper affection is deemed worthy of each other, and of God.
-Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services