First Reading 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16
Stories from 1 and 2 Kings often describe events of great political unrest and religious chaos similar to our own era. As always, God is very present to His people through His Prophets and holy ones ‘’who truly have the Lord’s word in their mouth’’. In the First Reading today we meet the Prophet Elisha who casts a mantle of peace over the road from Mt. Carmel to Shunem and beyond, as he daily travels the inward and outward journeys of both a physical and spiritual nature. This same Elisha, who desired and received a double share of Elijah’s spirit, making him the acknowledged and authentic heir of Elijah, was in great demand at a time when followers of the Lord God began to dwindle due to the increasing influence of Kings who had changed their allegiance to heathen ‘’gods of silver and gold’’ and no longer led the People of Israel as Samuel and David led them in former days. Elisha had to fulfil the role of a leader who, enabled by the spirit, performed signs and wonders which convinced many people that, the Lord God of Israel, was the only true God. It is difficult not to think of St. Dominic when reading about Elisha, as Dominic also spent long hours walking the roads of Europe ‘’talking to God or of God’’ and often convincing his hearers of the truth of the Bible, through signs and wonders.
The woman of Shunem mentioned in today’s first reading knew nothing initially about Elisha’s background. She invited him into her home all the same. Maybe the spirit in her was attracted to the spirit in him or she sensed his tiredness and was moved with compassion for him. After this first visit she and her husband gave him an open invitation to call in for a meal when he passed that way. As time passed the woman draws her husband into another concern of hers for the ‘’ holy man of God’’. Both of them then get involved in building him a small room on the roof of their house, thus enabling him to stay overnight on his inward and outward journey.
As we all know, noticing someone’s need is only the first step. Being able to draw others in and realize a successful outcome is by far the most challenging. The love and attention to detail the couple brought to this extension of hospitality is remarkable. ‘’Let us build him a small room on the roof, and put him a bed in it, and a table and chair and lamp; whenever he comes to us he can rest there.’’ No mention of the monetary cost to themselves and no expectation of a reward. We can imagine how their generosity left them tired but satisfied, as outreach to others does most of the time. They gave much more than ‘’the cup of cold water’’ mentioned in today’s Gospel. They welcomed the stranger, the prophet and the holy man. It is not difficult to imagine that Matthew could have been thinking of them when he wrote these words (10: 40-42). And what a reward this couple did receive.
In the Jewish tradition being childless was regarded as a woman’s greatest misfortune. The day Elisha informs the woman from Shunem that she would hold a son in her arms within the year she received this news with disbelief saying, ‘’No, my lord, do not deceive your servant.’’ But the woman did conceive, and she gave birth to a son at the time Elisha said she would. We can learn more about this son of hers from the final 20 verses of Chapter 4 which are not included in today’s Liturgy. At the age of three the boy developed an illness and died. His mother’s response to his death reveals a different woman from the one we met when she first invited Elisha to her home and who responded with scepticism to the news that she would have a child. The actions she takes, on discovering that her son is really dead, makes it obvious to all that she believes with every fibre of her being that Elisha, and only Elisha, can bring this child of hers back to life and that he will do so. And he does. This woman had travelled from scepticism to a ‘’nothing is impossible with God’ attitude. This transformation might be a longer journey for most of us, but not for her, who could not imagine any other alternative.
Today’s Second Reading also focuses on death and resurrection.
‘’You have been taught that when we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death; in other words, when we were baptised we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.’’
We don’t have to die a physical death right now, but we have to die to selfishness or anything else that prevents us being faithful to Matthew 5:16 ‘’In the same way your light must shine in the sight of people, so that, seeing your good works, they may give the praise to your Father in Heaven.’’
It’s not a journey we take on our own. We walk with the Man who rules the Sea, we walk with the Man from Galilee, who gifts us with His Spirit to start the journey, who gifts us every step of ‘’the Way’’ as He did with the Prophets and He is there to welcome us at the journey’s end. All he is asking of us is to walk by His side and trust Him that ‘’All shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.’’
Sr. Caitriona Geraghty O.P.