In Chapter 4 of the Second Book of Kings, verses 1-7, buy we read the account of a woman who lost her husband. Greatly worried about both her current situation and the future of her children she dared to approach the prophet Elisha and tell him her story. She explained to Elisha that she was particularly worried about her children; worried that she might lose them as payment for her debts; that they might be sold as slaves. The prophet listened to her and asked, “What can I do for you?”
When there was no response, he persisted: “Tell me.” But the woman was so worried and so overcome with her problems that she didn’t know what to answer. The prophet of God then asked the woman another question: “Woman, what do you have in your house?” Distracted by her problems, beside herself with her worries, upset with her situation, she answered: “I don’t have anything.” Her worries had blinded her. The tensions did not allow her to see nor to reason. Then, perhaps in a moment of lucidity, she told the prophet (and I am going to say this in my own words, not as it is written in Scripture): “A little bit of oil but who cares about that. A little bit of oil, which is not enough. A little bit of oil and if I use it, it will be finished and that will increase my problems or perhaps, it is spoiled and I will have to throw it away.”
Elisha, the prophet, answered her with a charge which she probably couldn’t have imagined: “Go and ask your neighbors to provide you with vessels, empty vessels, all the ones you can find.” Imagine that you are in this same situation. I believe that she would have asked the same question we would ask: “For what?” But she did as she was directed, and the vessels began to arrive at the house. And from that little bit of oil, the vessels started to fill, one by one. The prophet told her to go out and sell the oil in order to cover her needs. This is a story of provision. This is one of Elisha’s miracles, according to the narrative in the Second Book of Kings. You might be asking yourselves, what does this have to do with revival? Well, we are going to do a comparison between our Diocese as it was five years ago, as it is today, as it will be in the future, and our text. The woman found herself in poverty, since she had lost everything, her source of income, everything. Our Diocese lost practically everything when we made the radical decision to realign, so we might remain faithful. The woman found herself in poverty, despair and confusion. Our Diocese also found itself in poverty, despair and confusion over the past. The widow was left in a state of danger, even to the point of losing her children. Our Diocese was also in danger, in danger of losing everything; buildings, property, money. Even some congregations were lost when they left the Diocese after the realignment.
The prophet asked the woman: “what do you have in your house?” The woman answered: “nothing”. We have also answered: “we have nothing.” Because, perhaps, some have felt deprived and have not realized that God provides. The widow suddenly remembered that she had a little bit of oil, so insignificant she had forgotten. Her answer: “I don’t have anything”, blinded her. Our biggest sin is when we say: “I don’t have. We can’t. There is nothing.” The woman was looking for solutions outside of her house. How many times do we look for solutions outside of our surroundings because we don’t want to go through the trouble of discerning what we have in our own house? What she needed and what we need to move forward is in our midst. We have the gift of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, Holy Scriptures, and the means of grace, that is, the Sacraments. We have the oil, which is the force, the life, the graces, the presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst. Like the widow, many times we don’t realize the richness of our own house, because of spiritual blindness. The comfort in which many live their ministries and the coldness of the interior life have blurred the knowledge and vision amongst us. In the account of the widow, we notice something very important. When the widow complains to the prophet, she interceded for her future. She became an intercessor. Where do we see this? We see it at the end of the first verse when she intercedes for her children, her future. We must be like the widow. We must become intercessors for the future of our Diocese. We must defend the future. We need to prepare the Diocese for the future. We need to sincerely ask ourselves if we are truly concerned about the future of our Diocese.
The prophet did not resolve the problem, perhaps, in the way the widow imagined. He put her to work. “Go! Go to your neighborhood and bring empty vessels. Empty ones, and fill them with life and send them back to the neighborhood. With this, the prophet teaches us that this Diocese will not progress when we are gifted with things, when our needs are covered, when we have millions in donations, while we remain seated complaining, while we retain the “we can’t” mentality, when we think only in the present. Today the prophet invites us as a Diocese, to go outside and search for the empty vessels and to give them what we have in our house. We can only do this when we realize that we need revival, that we are broken, that we must accept our spiritual need. The revival begins in our heart, in a radical change of our relationship with God and by change in our bad habits. The widow went into her house and closed the door. We need to close our doors to laziness, lack of interest, and complacency; to the “I can’t do anything” attitude, to the “we cannot invest” mentality. We cannot leave the mess for the ones coming after us to fix. We must close the doors to selfishness, and allow the Holy Spirit to renew and transform us.
The Holy Scriptures are full of revival. Psalm 119 has always impressed me. When I read it, I feel that I have a lot of room for growth. When I read it, I know that this psalmist surely had a grasp on spiritual living. Look at what we find in the 176 verses of this psalm. We see that that the psalmist consistently calls out to God to be revived. Psalm 119:25: “My soul cleaves to the dust, revive me according to Thy Word.” Psalm 119: 37 “Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity and revive me in Thy ways.” Psalm 119: 40 “Behold I long for Thy precepts. Revive me through your righteousness.” Psalm 119: 50: “This is my comfort in my affliction that Thy Word has revived me.” Psalm 119: 88: “Revive me according to Thy loving kindness, so that I may keep the testimony of Thy mouth.” Psalm 119: 93: “I will never forget Thy precepts, for by them Thou hast revived me.” Psalm 119: 107: “I am exceedingly afflicted; revive me, O Lord, according to Thy word.” Psalm 119: 149: “Hear my voice according to Thy loving kindness; revive me, O Lord, according to Thine ordinances.” Psalm 119:154: “Plead my cause and redeem me, revive me according to Thy Word.” Psalm 119: 156: “Great are Thy mercies, O Lord; revive me according to Thine ordinances.” Psalm 119: 159: “Consider how I love Thy precepts; revive me, O Lord, according to Thy loving kindness.”
We all need to listen, and to hear God’s word as He challenges the very way we think, approach things and make decisions. Only if we dare to expose our thoughts to God’s word will we grow in our love for God and experience revival. A bike without air in its tires can’t go anywhere. A river bed without water is dry. A car without gas can’t start. A plant without water will die. If our diocese recognizes the abundant resources we have from God and moves forward relying on Him, Revival will take place and His Kingdom will indeed be at hand.