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Elijah went over to Elisha and threw his cloak over him. Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you.” Elijah answered, “Go back! Have I done anything to you?” Elisha left him, and taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to his people to eat. Then Elisha left and followed Elijah as his attendant.
God tells Elijah to call Elisha as his apprentice. Elijah anoints Elisha in a unique way, by placing his mantle – or cloak – around him.
This is definitely not as dramatic or exotic as the calling of the other prophets. There are no dramatic visions, as Ezekiel had, no cherubim and seraphim like Isaiah had, and no burning bush.
Elisha is uniquely called into apprenticeship and he will exhibit no prophetic ministry until after Elijah is taken up into heaven. Elisha’s call is much like that of Jesus’ disciples – to come and serve, to come and learn.
Elisha, plowing in the fields seems to understand the significance of Elijah’s call and anointing, but also questions. His internal questions are not recounted. Rather, they are made evident in the fact he wanted to go back to his parents to wish the goodbye. He wanted to take his time. Elijah is not amused.
There is no going back. Elisha cannot go back to his former way of life. Elijah prompts Elisha to think about this: “Go back, for what have I done to you?”
Indeed, what has any man or woman done to or for one who is called to follow God’s will? Recognize that God told Elijah what he was to do. God chose Elisha. Elijah was just an instrument to convey God’s message. He didn’t do anything – God did. Think about that Elisha!
Elisha had to provide a real answer to God’s call. What claim does this call make on his life? What ties must he leave behind? When Elisha slaughters the oxen that had previously provided his livelihood, he makes a powerful statement of vocational commitment. He lives his call by offering his life to God and his livelihood for his people.
Jesus isn’t as subtle as Elijah was. No sarcasm in Him. To those who felt the call to follow Him He says, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
As we close out this month of special prayer for priestly and diaconal vocations let us keep Jesus’ call before us. He has called each of us. We are His choice. No man or woman has called us to faith – God has. That call is so powerful and it frees us. Let us set our eyes forward and burn away anything that holds us back.