Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The parents are teachers for the sons
Elijah set out, and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat, as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen; he was following the twelfth. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak over him. Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please, let me kiss my father and mother good-bye, and I will follow you.” “Go back!” Elijah answered. “Have I done anything to you?” Elisha left him and, taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to his people to eat. Then he left and followed Elijah as his attendant. 1 Kgs 19,19-2
The windows of our house in Castiglioncello are protected by nice handmade iron gratings, to impede that, when we are not there during the winter, some robbers can pay a visit there. The iron gratings have been built by the uncle Elio, the brother of the grandfather Renzo, who, when he was a boy, has learned to work as a blacksmith in the smithy of Aronne, who, in turn, learned that trade from his father. By the past time the arts and the trades were acquired in this way, by going to work in the shop of a good artisan. The same thing happened – and it happens still now – for the religious apprenticeship: the teachers are surrounded by beginners who, while taking care of the services for them, acquire the truths of the faith and the way to live and to announce it. In the today passage the prophet Elijah, under the command of the Lord, calls Elisha, another future prophet and teacher, to become his disciple. The mode of the call is in line with the use practiced by those times in the land of the Mesopotamia: when a person of high level wanted to incorporate in his personal sphere another person of lower level, was placing over him – or he was throwing over him, as the today passage narrates – his mantel. From that moment the two persons were feeling to be liked as if they had formalized a contract. By our days, without throwing any mantel, it is the task of the Christian parents to establish an apprenticeship relation with the sons, to have them growing in the faith and to transmit to them the truths of the Gospel, to the purpose that in the future they have the same behaviour when married and having their family. The parents, however, because of lack of preparation and of awareness of having received from the Lord this mandate, not always are able to do it in a careful and systematic mode. The priests and the catechists of the parish can overcome this lack, but they cannot be in the place of that example which can be given only by the parents. To pray together in the family, to live with honesty and joy the daily events, to establish in the family a mood of love and cooperation and to be always open to the needs of the neighbour, are experiences which can be acquired only within the family. Jesus Christ has taught the truths of the Gospel to the men whom he has called to teach and he has made them participating to the miracles, in particular to the daily miracle of the providence. But, mostly, he has loved them, he has given to them the example of the pray, of the fidelity to the project of life which the Father has entrusted to them and of the opening to the needs and to the poorness of the people which he was meeting along the roads of the Palestine. This is the apprenticeship.