So how did the Holy Prophet Elisha ever get to be such a great man of God? The answer is found in 2 Kings 2 (4th Kingdoms 2 if you use the Septuagint). We find Elisha, a man of faith, as the apprentice for the Holy Prophet Elijah. One day, Elijah tells Elisha that he is going to Bethel and for him to stay in Gilgal. Elisha responds: “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” This scene is repeated as Elijah leaves for Jericho. It is repeated yet again as Elijah leaves Jericho for the Jordan. Elisha perseveres despite being told to stay each time and walking some 35+ miles.
It is only after they cross the Jordan that Elijah asks Elisha: “What can I do for you before I am taken away?” Elisha asks for a double portion of the Holy Spirit that is in Elijah. He is told that he has asked a difficult thing, but if he sees Elijah being taken away, it will be his. The fiery chariot takes Elijah away and Elisha receives that double portion. Elisha had faith, but his faith needed to be combined with perseverance, or he would not have received this double portion from the Lord.
In our Gospel reading this past Sunday from Mark 2, we find a paralytic and four of his friends that had great faith the Lord could heal him. When they hear that Jesus is teaching in a house in their town, they load the paralytic onto his mat and carry him to see Jesus. They arrive to find a huge obstacle in their way: the crowd in the house is so big, they have spilled outside and completely block the doorway. The paralytic and the four friends could have given up and hoped for another day to see Jesus. But they persevered and came up with another way. Cutting a hole in the roof, they lower the paralytic down to Jesus where he is healed. Wow, again we see that their great faith needed to be combined with perseverance. If they had given up because of the obstacle in their way, the paralytic would not have been healed.
We have completed two weeks of Great Lent. How have we done so far? Keep in mind, our fast is not simply about food. We are fasting with our eyes (what we look at), with our mouths (what we are saying), with our ears (what we are listening to), with our hands (no angry fists while driving), and with our feet (not going places that will lead us astray). Our ultimate fast in from sin! So how have we done so far on our journey to the empty tomb of our Lord?
Some of us haven’t gotten started yet. Some of us have done quite well. For most of us, it has likely been a journey with many obstacles that have caused us to miss the mark at times. We all entered Great Lent with faith in our Lord. But like the Holy Prophet Elisha and like the paralytic with his friends, we need to persevere in this journey.
May our Lord give us strength and determination to persevere each day. Let these words of James 1:2-4 encourage us:
“Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”