It is generally easy to be generous with people we love. In fact, since generosity is not strictly speaking an obligation it would only make sense that we reserve our generosity for certain people and certain circumstances. When Ahab comes asking Naboth for his vineyard, pretty much none of the requisite conditions for generosity are met: King Ahab is not poor and does not need the vineyard, there is no friendship between him and Naboth, and Ahab has blatant disregard for the divine significance of ancestral heritage. Indeed, it is for that last reason that Naboth refuses to give up his land to the king. It is Naboth’s piece of the land promised by God to Israel. Naboth has a strong sense of satisfaction with what the Lord has provided him, he needs nothing further. The soil of Naboth’s vineyard nourished vines that produced delicious grapes because Naboth treated it as a special gift from God passed on to him from his ancestors. Ahab wanted the soil and disregarded what God’s intended purpose was for that soil. Ahab forgot that it is God who gives the growth and causes fruit to ripen for the harvest.
Saturday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Elisha’s initiation into the prophetic way of life sends a powerful message about the first criteria for bearing credible witness. When Elisha asks Elijah if he can return to bid farewell to his kin, Elijah gives the cryptic response, “Go, return, for what have I done to you?” On the one hand, Elijah seems to say that Elisha is free to do as he pleases – on the other hand Elijah seems to caution him to consider what it means to be placed under the prophet’s mantle. It’s as though Elijah is saying, “Why do you look to me, a mere man, to instruct you according to the yoke that now we both bear? We are driven by another! Of myself, I have done nothing to you – it is Yahweh Himself who has placed a grave responsibility on your shoulders. If you would return to your family I would not stop you, for surely you would not return to them unless Yahweh Himself sends you.” Elisha’s farewell to his parents is prophetic indeed. He sacrifices both his wealth and his means to procure it in one act as his oxen become nourishment for the people. The renouncement and detachment of the prophet bring true nourishment to the people by exposing the Word of God to their minds and hearts.