Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Endings Become Beginnings

By Colleen O’Sullivan

When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask for whatever I may do for you, before I am taken from you.”  Elisha answered, “May I receive a double portion of your spirit.”  “You have asked something that is not easy,” Elijah replied.  “Still, if you see me taken up from you, your wish will be granted; otherwise not.”  As they walked on conversing, a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.   When Elisha saw it happen he cried out, “My father!  My father!  Israel’s chariots and drivers!”  But when he could no longer see him, Elisha gripped his own garment and tore it in two.  (2 Kings 2:9-12)

Some journeys end so that others may begin.
(Kevin O’Brien, SJ, “For Reflection,”  Ignatian Prayer Adventure, Week 8, Day 7)

Having accompanied his beloved spiritual father as far as he can on that final journey, Elisha is on his own now, standing there all alone on the far side of the Jordan River.  We can imagine the desolation he is feeling.  He even rips his clothing in anguish and grief. 

None of us have ever witnessed anyone being taken up to heaven, let alone by a fiery chariot and horses but most of us have been right where Elisha is.  We know the anticipatory grief as a beloved friend or family member prepares to leave us, the finality of the funeral service, the emptiness once the formalities have been observed. 

Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story.  Elisha picks up Elijah’s fallen cloak, rolls it up and strikes the water with it as he had seen his mentor do.  Immediately, the younger man senses the presence of the Lord.  The waters part, just as they had for Elijah and, with this, Elisha knows that he has inherited Elijah’s prophetic powers and spirit.  He has now become the instrument of God for God’s people.  Where Elijah’s journey ended, Elisha’s is now beginning.  What an inheritance he has received!

Death is never the end of the story when we’re talking about those who have served as our spiritual guides.  My maternal grandmother was my first “spiritual director.”  I often wish I had asked her who passed the faith on to her.  Gram was born in the late 1800’s.  Her father was married three times, and all three wives died, one from disease and the other two in childbirth, not an unusual turn of events in those days.  Altogether, there were 13 children left behind when he, too, died. My grandmother became an orphan at the age of four.  The children were parceled out to various relatives, and my grandmother went to live with an aunt who greatly resented having another mouth to feed and treated her as a servant.  Gram could have grown up an embittered woman, but instead she became a loving person of great faith.  Jesus was her Savior and friend, and she introduced him to me when I was very young.  My grandmother left me many years before she died, disappearing into the misty realm of dementia, but her legacy to me lives on.  Thanks to Gram, God is in my heart.  Jesus is the foundation and underpinning of my life.  No matter what may befall me, no one can ever take that away.  Gram knew how to make friends, how to be a friend, and how to bring her friends to Christ, and she’d never heard of Cursillo!

From whom have you received a spiritual bequest?  When you pray today, give thanks for that person’s involvement in your life.

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