Elisha and the 12th Man (6/26/16)
Jun 29, 2016
In the 1980's, the impact of the Seattle fans on the success of the Seahawks Football team was so great, that Seahawk's President Mike MCormack retired the number 12 jersey on December 15th 1984 as a tribute to the best and most loyal fans in the NFL.
There are 11 players who take the field, but the 12th man are the fans in the stand whose thunderous loud enthusiasm rattles the nerves of opposing teams while energizing the spirits of the home-team to play above and beyond their typical abilities so as to win the game.
In today's first reading it is significant that Elijah has a team of 12 oxen and that he is following specifically the 12th one. With this team of oxen in place, not only is Elisha able to plough his field, in doing so he is able to provide food and sustenance for his family and also provide for himself a way of life that will provide food for others in his town. Of course the number 12 is very biblically significant.
Originally there were twelve tribes of Israel who would provide the foundation for the ministry of Jesus Christ who would choose 12 Apostles whose loyalty and world-wide evangelization would be the rock foundation of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church which provides for all of us the great nourishment of our faith: the bread of life and the chalice of salvation.
While plowing, Elijah the mighty prophet approaches Elisha and throws his cloak over him: this gesture indicates an anointing of Elisha's Spirit with the power of God, so that like Elijah and later the Apostles of Christ he may boldly and confidently go forth to preach the word of God to the people. Anointings then are more than having oil poured upon one's head.
To be anointed is to be filled with the living Spirit of another who is then able to breathe more life and strength into our own Spirits. And this is precisely what occurred to us at our baptism. When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit descended from the Heavens and like that cloak of Elijah, anointed, covered and filled the humanity of Christ with His Divine Power and Presence.
This moment anticipated and made possible that similar anointing we experienced at our baptism when anointed. our spirits were locked in a wonderful embrace of cleansing joy and love who is the Holy Spirit.
Attending any sporting event where the stands are packed with roaring fans, we know that to be described as having spirit means that one has tremendous enthusiasm and uses this energy to inspire and motivate others to perform beyond the best of their abilities.
To be spirited means to encourage another. No one likes to be booed, heckled, taunted, or mocked by those who one expects the most support from. Saint Paul refers to this form of communication as biting which poison and depress one's spirit with the awful power of its negativity.
To live by the Spirit that Paul insists on is to love, serve and encourage others. Elisha for example is called away from his family who have provided him with a firm faith and love foundation as families are supposed to do. He is now ready to go forth into the world and make his 12th man impact by serving the Lord by way of serving others who now make up his extended family.
This passage should remind us of the Genesis passage where we hear that a man must leave his mother and father and cling to his wife. However, the success of this cleaving as in the success of a prophet is how well one communicates. Arguing and bickering and biting does not a strong marriage make.
Jesus is the Word of God and God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn* the world, but that the world might be saved through him. God did not want to destroy us in our sinfulness but rather raise us up in the glory of Jesus' love. To lift our spirits high, to energize and encourage them by way of mercy and peace.
The significance of the Resurrection is not a one day of the year celebration or a wait until the end of the world moment, but an every day experience and empowerment.
For no sooner is Jesus risen from the dead that appearing to His Apostles He breathes on them, communicating to them the Holy Spirit saying Receive the Holy Spirit. What Jesus communicates is more than mere words...it is a power, a presence a divine person who we know to be the Holy Spirit.
And filled with this strength, like Elijah, Elisha and the Apostles we may go forth into the world as Heaven's Good News Ambassadors encouraging other to love, hope, believe and enjoy life more deeply.
Criticizing, condemning, nitpicking are not ideal forms of communication especially among spouses who must maintain that Sacramental spirit of their Holy Matrimonial Union by constantly re-incorporating into their lives together that Spirit of serving, giving and sacrifice which is the nature of God's Spirit.
To live by the Spirit is to live by the love and life of Christ who the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit gives to us in bodily form. As significant as the number 12 is to the Seahawk's Franchise so much more is the number 12 important to us as Christians as in the Catholic Church. When Judas hanged himself there were only 11 Apostles...no doubt still a solid team of evangelizers in place.
We know that to have people in place to motivate, encourage and support us beginning with family and friends has a tremendous impact on our attitudes toward life, God and others. And we know how life and light draining the condition and disease of depression is especially with no one by our side walking through this valley of the shadow of doubt.
In a very real way then especially by way of baptism and more so Confirmation, we are the Church's 12th Man or Woman who are entrusted with the life of Christ, especially by way of the Holy Eucharist.
During Mass it is the Holy Spirit who descends from Heaven upon the gifts of bread and wine who prepares them to be transformed into the Body and Blood, Spirit of Jesus Christ for our reception and consumption.
This power, presence and gift of love who is the Holy Spirit empowers us to better communicate the love who is Jesus Christ to others who because of the baptism we share in common are every bit a son and daughter of God the Father as we are and every bit our brother and sister as our siblings we were raised with.
And families like teams support and encourage each other not tear them down or rip each other apart by way of unkindness, indifference and selfishness. With our Spirits cloaked, covered and embraced with the Holy Spirit we belong to the best family of all with God as our Father and the Church as our Mother.