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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

2 Kings 2,1-18

This is what happened when Yahweh took Elijah up to heaven in the whirlwind: Elijah and Elisha set out from Gilgal,

and Elijah said to Elisha, 'You stay here, for Yahweh is only sending me to Bethel.' But Elisha replied, 'As Yahweh lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you!' and they went down to Bethel.

The brotherhood of prophets living at Bethel came out to meet Elisha and said, 'Do you know that Yahweh will carry your lord and master away today?' 'Yes, I know,' he said, 'be quiet.'

Elijah said, 'Elisha, you stay here, Yahweh is only sending me to Jericho.' But he replied, 'As Yahweh lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you!' and they went on to Jericho.

The brotherhood of prophets living at Jericho went up to Elisha and said, 'Do you know that Yahweh will carry your lord and master away today?' 'Yes, I know,' he said, 'be quiet.'

Elijah said, 'Elisha, you stay here, Yahweh is only sending me to the Jordan.' But he replied, 'As Yahweh lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you!' And they went on together.

Fifty of the brotherhood of prophets followed them, halting some distance away as the two of them stood beside the Jordan.

Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water; and the water divided to left and right, and the two of them crossed over dry-shod.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, 'Make your request. What can I do for you before I am snatched away from you?' Elisha answered, 'Let me inherit a double share of your spirit.'

'Your request is difficult,' Elijah said. 'If you see me while I am being snatched away from you, it will be as you ask; if not, it will not be so.'

Now as they walked on, talking as they went, a chariot of fire appeared and horses of fire coming between the two of them; and Elijah went up to heaven in the whirlwind.

Elisha saw it, and shouted, 'My father! My father! Chariot of Israel and its chargers!' Then he lost sight of him, and taking hold of his own clothes he tore them in half.

He picked up Elijah's cloak which had fallen, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.

He took Elijah's cloak and struck the water. 'Where is Yahweh, the God of Elijah?' he cried. As he struck the water it divided to right and left, and Elisha crossed over.

The brotherhood of prophets saw him in the distance, and said, 'The spirit of Elijah has come to rest on Elisha'; they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.

'Look,' they said, 'your servants have fifty strong men with them, let them go and look for your master; the Spirit of Yahweh may have taken him up and thrown him down on a mountain or into a valley.' 'Send no one,' he replied.

But they so shamed him with their insistence that he consented. So they sent fifty men who searched for three days without finding him.

They then came back to Elisha who had stayed in Jericho; he said, 'Didn't I tell you not to go?'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This passage opens the "cycle" of Elisha, a man already spoken of in the First Book of Kings when Elijah throws his mantle over him and calls him to follow him (1 Kings 19:19). Now, however, Elijah is crossing the Jordan on the way to his "promised land," that is, heaven. While he and Elisha are walking, a chariot of fire drawn by two horses - also made of fire - comes between them. In order to emphasize the strength of the prophetic word, the author of the Book of Sirach will say: "Then Elijah arose, a prophet like fire, and his word burned like a torch" (48:1). Elijah is taken up into heaven, and while Elisha cries out to his teacher, he sees him vanish into the sky. This account of the disappearance of Elijah, described with images typical of a theophany, represents the religious experience of Elijah’s death and the transfer of the prophetic mission to Elisha. By taking up his teacher’s mantle, Elisha becomes his official successor. The author writes: "He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan." The disciple must return to the Jordan to drink anew from the wellspring of the Word in order to transmit it in turn to the Lord’s people. Like every prophet and indeed like every disciple, Elisha is not called to propose his own doctrines and thoughts, but to continue his teacher’s mission. Elisha had asked Elijah: "Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit" ("double" is the literal translation, others translate the expression as "two- thirds"). Indeed, the rabbinic tradition comments that Elijah performed eight miracles while Elisha performed sixteen. The disciple accepts the inheritance that Elijah passes on to him through his mantle and so his doing becomes effective. That rolled-up mantle has the power to divide waters of the Jordan in two to allow the prophet to cross the river. It is a clear analogy of Moses’ staff, which divided the Red Sea (Ex 14:16), and a confirmation of the parallels between Moses and Elijah. Like Moses, Elijah had encountered the Lord on Mount Horeb, and like Moses he dies outside the promised land, across the Jordan River. Furthermore, as with Moses, no one knows where Elijah is buried, as confirmed after the fifty strong men complete their search (v. 15-18). The reference to the crossing of the Red Sea and of the Jordan is clear in the names of the places mentioned that are common to the first crossing of the Jordan (Gilgal, Jericho, Bethel). The same kind of parallelism drawn between Moses and Elijah is also established between Elijah and Elisha.
The analogies between the situations that Elisha is called to face and those faced by his teacher (the destruction of Ahab’s dynasty, the war against Baal, the Aramean threat, and the contrast between a faithful and an unfaithful Israel) indicate the continuity of the prophetic mission in the face of the permanence of sin and the infidelity of God’s people. Every generation needs the word of God to be announced to it. The "spirit of the Lord," (v. 16) that the Hebrews had forgotten reappears with the prophets who speak out against the monarchy (1 Kings 22:24). The continuity of prophecy underlines the faithfulness of God, who never stops accompanying and speaking to his people in order to keep them from straying from the way of salvation. For his part, the prophet is called to live on the Word of God alone and to announce it with courage and generosity. It is always the same, even if it is proclaimed in a new way. We could say that we have to accept Elijah’s "mantel" too, that is, we have to accept the spirit of prophecy and live it out in our time. One prophet follows another, but the "spirit" is always the same. And the presence of the "company of prophets" indicates the community of brothers and sisters who accompany the prophetic mission.

Memory of the Poor