Monday, March 23, 2009

Elisha and the Shunammite Woman

There once was a wealthy couple who had no children. Holy Scripture doesn’t tell us very much about these two, except to say that they practiced the virtue of hospitality to such a degree that they created a rooftop sanctuary for the prophet Elisha. Any time he passed through the neighborhood, he was welcome to stay with them. And so he did.

One day, Elisha asked his servant to find out from the couple what he, Elisha, could do for them. Could he put in a good word with the king? Could he ask for a favor from the commander of the army? Their answer was no, there was nothing that they needed.

But Elisha would not let the topic rest. Certainly, there must be something. The servant said to Elisha, they have no son and her husband is getting on in years. Elisha told the servant to call the wife to the door.

This time next year, you will have a baby boy. That is all Elisha said.

The woman wasn’t pleased, not because she didn’t want a child, but because she wanted one more than anything and had lost hope that such a joy would ever be hers. “Please, my lord, you are a man of God; do not deceive your servant.”

The following year, she gave birth to a son.

Now, if we took the time to stop at this point, assuming that this woman prefigures Israel and the Blessed Mother, what event might we expect to happen next?

Maybe you have guessed it.

When the boy was older, he went into his father’s field. One day, the boy complained of a terrible headache. One of his father’s servants carried the boy to his mother. The mother held him in her lap until noon, the hour of his death.

Immediately, she took a donkey and went in search of the prophet.

When she found Elisha, she fell at his feet and poured out her heart, “Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not beg you not to deceive me?”

All Elisha said was, “The Lord hid it from me and did not let me know.” But now that he knew, Elisha sent his servant ahead of him, and Elisha and the mother journeyed together to her home. When Elisha reached the house, he closed the door and prayed. Then he stretched over the boy and prayed. The cold and lifeless body grew warm. He rose and paced the floor and prayed.

And the boy’s life was restored to him.

Perhaps there is no greater example of human hospitality than when Our Lady gave her fiat. Certainly, there is no greater suffering than the piercing of her heart as her she watched her son die a most painful and humiliating death on a cross. And there was no greater joy than seeing that son rise again. To hold him in her arms once again. To hold his face in her hands. To sit at his side and hear him speak, to say the word mother and to be given the chance to respond, yes my son.

What does a Shunammite woman have in common with the Blessed Mother. Quite a bit. And yet, these women of the Old Covenant are mere glimpses of what God was planning for the woman who would one day be the Mother of His Own Son.


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