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“Give Me a Double Share of Your Spirit”

by | Jul 22, 2021 | Formation, Reflections

“Give Me a Double Share of Your Spirit”

Formative Lessons from Elijah- Elisha Bond

Introduction

Prophet Elijah and Elisha remain a great model of Master- Disciple Relationship in the Book of Kings and the whole of the Old Testament. Jesus, the master par excellence, and his disciples form another group of Master – Disciple relationships in the Bible. In both these examples, the disciple carries on with the ministry of the master after the departure of the master. In its strictest and form, Christ is the Master par excellence of all the seminarians under formation. However, there is a ministry of formation and formators who accompanies and enables them to hear this call from Christ the master as Eli dis for Samuel, Elijah for Elisha, and John the Baptist for Andrew, the Apostle. The following is a short reflection on the formator seminarian relationship derived from the reading of the departure scene of Elijah from the book of 2 Kings.

Though the passage speaks about the request of the disciple from the master to inherit a double share of his spirit, I would like to look it from the side of Elijah the master for the need of imparting a double share of the Spirit to his disciple Elisha.

Farewell of Elijah- Double Share and Mantle

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you? “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. (2 Kings 2, 9)

It’s a striking narration of the departure of Elijah the master. Before the departure, the master has a word with the disciple asking him, what he desires to have from his master. The answer of the disciple is “a double share of the spirit” of the master. A double portion.—the expression used in Deuteronomy 21:7 of the share of the firstborn son, who by the Mosaic Law inherited two parts of his father’s property. Elisha asks to be treated as the firstborn among “the sons of the prophets,” and so to receive twice as great a share of “the spirit and power” of his master as any of the rest. “Let me be the firstborn among thy spiritual sons;” “Make me thy true spiritual heir;” not “Give me twice as great a share of the spirit of prophecy as thou possesses thyself,” as many have wrongly interpreted.[1] Here the firstborn motif may not acquire its meaning in its complete sense but as narrated above the wish of the disciple is to make him a true spiritual heir of his master. And reading the rest of the passages in the 2 kings we deal with a great number of materials as we see Elisha as a true spiritual heir of his master. Though Elisha desired no more, yet God gave him more than he desired or expected, and he seems to have had a greater portion of the gifts of God’s Spirit than even Elijah had.[2]

The second way of looking at the matter under discussion is the subject that had been filling both their hearts, is the approaching separation. The master would help in whatever way he could the disciple who has been chosen to fill his place, and the question tests the character of Elisha. It shows that he felt that he must act with the same undaunted courage and boldness and that he knew the needs of the times.[3] Thus this is a way of looking at the matter from the viewpoint of the disciple that the disciple needs to be a courageous and undaunted follower of his master. Whereby we need to imply that the master was able to make a clear and inerasable memory and impression in the mind of the disciple as a true servant of YHWH. Elijah was to Israel, by his counsels, reproofs, and prayers, better than the strongest force of chariot and horse, and kept off the judgments of God.[4]Seeing the courage and boldness of the master, the disciple cannot but ask for a double share of his spirit because of the impelling fire that is within him to be a real witness of YHWH.

We can also look at the matter from the viewpoint of time. Let your spirit have double force in me, because of these dangerous times: or let me have twice as much as the rest of the prophets: or if your spirit were to be divided into three parts, let me have two.[5] The turbulent times are yet to come and if the disciple is to go on with the life committed to his master he needs a double share in the spirit of his master. It was not a request from a spirit of vanity and ambition to be greater than his master, but from an eagerness to promote the glory of God, and the interest of religion, to reclaim the Israelites from their idolatry, and establish the true religion, which he might observe Elijah was not able to do with that measure of grace and gifts he had.[6] The master himself had to exile due to the impending dangers and so the disciple’s life would be in danger if he has to reinforce the True religion and morality in the time to come.

So what we were trying to expound was the meaning of the request by Elisha to his master Elijah” the double share” with the viewpoint of the master, disciple, and the time. The real meaning of the request of the disciple was that he becomes a true spiritual heir, a courageous witness in the turbulent times ahead, after the example of his master.

Dimensions in formation from the Elijah- Elisha Cycle 2 Kings

The passage of the departure of Elijah and the consequent desire of Elisha teaches us some lessons as well. The aim of formation and formation ministry is not intending to create another image of the formator in the seminarians but to form a better person than the formator according to the demands of time, space, culture, and people.

Spiritual Generation and the desire to Give God

In the Elijah Elisha Cycle, the first meaning of the favour asked by Elisha is that let him be considered as the firstborn son of the Master. The aspect of spiritual generation is a necessity in this aspect.[7]. In this filial and fraternal relation, there is an impelling spirit within the formator to get the seminarians in his care,  to be fully formed into Christ. The model of St Paul also is very much relevant here. My little children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you (Gal 4, 19). Here the thrust is a filial urge that St Paul feels for the Galatians so that the formation of Galatians into Christ is a necessity that he feels within and considers it to be labor pain. Paul represents himself, not, as elsewhere (1 Corinthians 4:15Philemon 1:10), as a father, but in the special emotion of his love, as a mother who is in travail, and whose labour is not brought to an end (by the actual final birth) until nothing further is requisite for the full and mature formation of the child.[8] So filial pain born out of Love for the double share that the seminarians need to receive through the ministry of the formators and formation must become an impelling spirit in the ministry of formation. It must impel a formator to bring out the best in him to bring out the best in the seminarians under his care. An attitude below this line can sometimes be compared with hired labourers; hired labourers without commitment to the entrusted duty.

Looking at hard times

The time ahead for Elisha will not be smooth, if the master had to face the wrath of Ahab and Jezebel, there are impending dangers for the ministry of the disciple Elisha from the hands of Jehu, Jehoshaphat and also from Jezebel. Though little is mentioned about the political and religious hurdles that he had to face with them, he was a prophetic voice and figure in the whole of Isreal after the example of his master Elijah. Not only in Israel but also abroad that his name of being a man god spread to the vicinities of Israel as well. The healing of Naman remains an example of this.  Time always moves ahead. The society becomes more and more competitive and hurdle some as the days pass. So there is all the more necessity to implant a renewed spirit and vigour in the seminarians to face the challenges of the ‘Coming Times’.  The words of Fr. Robert P Maloney Would be “In regard to formation within the Congregation of the Mission itself, I urge you to offer our own young members, who are many, a formation program that is demanding, because our lifestyle is demanding, and at the same time exciting, because our charism is strikingly relevant. Teach them a way of loving that is on the one hand disciplined, and on the other hand liberating”.[9]Here an aspect of double share in the formation is also needed, whether it is academic, intellectual, spiritual, communitarian, and apostolic and Vincentian dimensions of the formation always there is and there will be the necessity to imbue the double share for the seminarians. Because the time that they need to witness the gospel will be more exasperating and demanding. If we want to move with the pace of time and demands of a growing, developing, ‘expanding yet shrinking’ world we need to have a competitive disciplined[10], integrally formed seminarians. A laxity I this regard from the part of formator, will become a crime against the congregation, church, and society at large

The face of the Congregation 

In the context of the communion of the universal Church, I cannot fail to urge the Church in Asia to send forth missionaries, even though she needs labourers in the vineyard.[11] These are the words of Saint John Paul II to the church in Asia.  With regard to the Congregation, in the context of the personnel within the congregation, the many provinces in the northern hemisphere are configuring themselves for stable and effective personal management, mission, and administration. However, at the same time, the provinces in the southern hemisphere are bifurcated for the same purpose. There was the beginning of new provinces in Asia and Africa when there was re-configuring of the provinces in Europe. So this gives a sign that the face of the Congregation sometime from now,  may shift from the northern hemisphere to south. Realizing this fact there is the need to create a more culture of vocations s always directed by the superior general and also a need to form them with suitable Vincentian commitment and identity, being proud of the heritage of St. Vincent De Paul. For this purpose, there is always an impending and impelling need to form the seminarians with ‘Double-share’ of the spirit yet with an international dimension of the congregation. For this aspect as well, the academic brilliance, spiritual depth, and true knowledge of the Vincentian spirit and heritage, and the great legacy of the congregation must become part of the formation and formative curriculum. A negligence of this citing too much of legalism, may make the seminarians devoid of Vincentian charism, culture, heritage and legacy. And thereby a future generation who does not understand the “Vincentianness” of one’s vocation and ministry.  The challenges of the Provinces of India, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines are typical and plural; and yet, the formation of candidates and ongoing formation seem to remain the most challenging tasks to accomplish. Formation for the mission that includes Vincentian virtues, mastering foreign languages, as well as openness to intercultural or interreligious dialogue is a very delicate duty. The international collaboration of these provinces to pursuing this formation could contribute to guaranteeing a brighter future on the continuous journey of the Congregation.[12]  A motivation given in pursuit of identifying the uniqueness of Vincentian vocation that one has attained and the demands of it, must surely make a seminarian afire with the zeal of St Vincent. But even for this a renewed attempt of Imparting the double share is a must. The regular thought patter, ‘I did not learn or do it, so you too need not’, only can blow off the zeal of the seminarians under our care.   A failure I this aspect from the part of the formators is yet again is a sign of ingratitude towards the congregation, whose great legacy we share.

Voice of the charism of St. Vincent DePaul

The seminarians under formation and for that matter the confreres still young are the witnesses of the Vincentian charism in this century. The attributive characteristics of the Vincentian charism can be as describes in loose and pragmatic way as following.  Innovative, diverse, risk talking, connected to the community, pragmatic, value-centered.[13] It was innovative in the 17th century and is still innovative indifferent parts of the globe, it has got diverse dimensions of ministry and mission all for the good of the neighbour. The charism always needs courageous men who can take risks in the ministry, and it is not a charism devoid of world or away from society but clearly, within the society and community.  Above all it is a value-centered, commitment to a noble cause, deep affection for the love of god and poor urges the ministries of the congregation. Given these dimensions of the congregation charism, yet more there is an urgency of seminarians empowered with a Double-share of the Spirit to continue the ministry of the poor.

Conclusion

Formation is a ministry that may seem very easy from outside, but very fragile, demanding and needs so much of attention and care. Of course we can’t expect every formator to be hundred percent exemplary because the lenses through which one looks at each other may differ and can create different judgments. However a deep desire with in the formator to bring out the best in the seminarians during the time of formation and the based on the conviction gathered from the time of formation, to motivate him,  to carry on with the best in the person in his ministry is never to be forgotten. Every attempt is to be made to clothe the seminarians with this awareness. A negligence in this regard, forgetting the responsibility or fearing the consequences can bring us accountable before God and one’s own conscience.  Let us leave that mantel as left by Elijah that which the disciples carry through in life.

[1] Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers

[2] Benson commentary

[3] Cambridge Bible for schools and colleges

[4] Mathew Henry’s concise commentary.

[5] Geneva study bible.

[6] Gills exposition of the entire bible.

[7] This view can be contested from some other viewpoints of formation. But as for me without this point, the instructions and corrections can become sometimes less- human and lording over. A fraternal spirit is a good dimension in which a clear understanding is made between formators and seminarians. It is also good to remember that companionship is an aspect in the accompaniment of the seminarians under formation it, is not the sole aspect. There are also other dimensions from which the formation is to be looked up. If not it becomes definitive spoil of the whole process and orientation of formation.

[8] Meyers NT Commentary

[9] Robert P Maloney CM, Fly! − Looking back and looking forward in 2004 − Report of the Superior General to the 40th General Assembly on the State of the C.M. Vincentiana,.IV. 2004.

[10] By discipline I do not mean always YES seminarians before formators. .  But people who are able to train one’s mind or body or of controlling behaviour in an area of activity where this is necessary(Oxford Dictionary)

[11] Ecclesia in Asia, 44

[12] Armada Riyanto CM, Vincentiana, Missionary Charism of Vincent De Paul in the Asian Context, Vincentina 2017 – I

[13] This identification is done not forgetting the Christ-centeredness and Poor oriented dimensions of the charism but to explain the charism in a pragmatic approach.


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