Elijah and Bl. John of Parma

Homily for Saturday of the 10th Week in Ordinary Time

In the first reading, we hear a rather familiar episode in the life of Elijah as he passes the mantle of his prophetic vocation on to Elisha. Elisha was a good man and a faithful Israelite, but Elijah called him to be even more. The finality with which Elisha accepts the vocation of prophet is demonstrated by his acts of offering his oxen as a sacrifice and feeding their flesh to his neighbors. It is the Hebrew version of selling all that he has and giving it to the poor.

Coincidentally, we celebrate the memorial of Bl. John of Parma today, the seventh general minister of the Franciscan Order. He too was a good man and a teacher of philosophy, but he heard a call from God to be more.  After his initial formation he was ordained and went on to be a theology professor.

He was elected General Minister at the General Chapter of 1247. Blessed John of Parma was known for his attempts to bring back the earlier spirit of the Order after the death of Saint Francis of Assisi.  He made it is aim to visit each friary then in existence, traveling on foot with a companion. Sometimes he was not recognized by the friars which gave him the opportunity to witness their lifestyle and their spirit without their trying to impress him.

John was also responsible for winning back the schismatic Greeks, but their reconciliation with the Church did not survive. When he returned from Constantinople, he asked that someone else take his place as General Minister which led to the election of St. Bonaventure of Bagnoreggio. John took up a life of prayer in the hermitage at Greccio.

Many years later, when John learned that the Greeks who had been reconciled with the Church for a time had relapsed into schism, he received permission to return to the East to try to reconcile the Greeks once more. On his way to Constantinople, he fell ill and died.

Both Elisha and St. John of Parma remind us of our call to holiness and of our mission of reconciliation. Each day that we celebrate the Eucharist, we remember that Jesus won our reconciliation with the Father through his death and resurrection. It is an integral part of the vocation of anyone who participates in the Eucharist.

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator


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