In our first reading today, Elisha’s interaction with the woman in Shunem seems to make sense. At first reading, the only thing that really stands out is the fact that Elisha has such great power to bring something about (the birth of her child), but he certainly didn’t bring this about, he simply prophesied that it would happen. What is really remarkable, once we get down to the core of it, is that the friendship between Elisha and this unnamed woman seems so normal to us.
A woman does something nice for someone out of appreciation (inviting Elisha to stay with her family), and this continues on for some time. She and her husband even go to a bit of effort to make a comfortable place for Elisha to stay, even though they don’t have enough room. Elisha is a gracious guest, and eventually wonders what he might do to show his appreciation, which brings about the prophecy of her child being born.
So what is strange about this? Nothing, and you shouldn’t think so. You should be inspired by it, but it should make perfect sense to you. But let us remember that this passage is showing us a principle that is quite common, and sadly taken for granted. The very idea that the woman would want to show Elisha appreciation is remarkable, and Elisha certainly has the same instinct to show his appreciation to her as well.
It will always mean more to show, to demonstrate, to illustrate an idea to someone. It is why we always want an example to be sure we understand what someone means. And it is why a gift means so much more than words. There is something written on our souls, part of God’s image imprinted on us, that will always crave this demonstration to one another of all our ideas and emotions. We will always crave the expression of something above all.
Our God does this unceasingly in our lives. He does this because He knows what we need, knows our hearts. All God wants in return is for us to live out this expression of love in our own lives. Then we might understand the gift we have received: our lives, created in God’s image, meant to be returned as our gift back to God.