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Homily for the thirteenth Sunday, A

29 Jun 2017, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

Traveling in our generation is made much easier and exciting even though many of the roads are not wonderful. I believe it is far better than the days of Elisha; they never thought of or even imagined traveling by air as we do today. They had to travel long distances either on foot or on camel’s back; their journeys involved climbing mountains, going down the valise, and crossing seas and rivers. They mostly depended on strangers for survival, just as Jesus had to “beg” a Samaritan woman for a drink.

In our first reading this morning, we see the prophet Elisha on a journey to Shunem, and in Shunem, he met a woman of rank who offered him some food. Since then, Elisha broke his journey at this woman’s house for a meal whenever he passed that way. One day, this woman said to her husband, Look, I am sure the man who is constantly passing our way must be a holy man of God. Let us build him a small room on the roof, put him a bed in it, and a table and chair and lamp; whenever he comes to us, he can rest there. The woman’s husband must have agreed with the wife because the small room was built, and we see Elisha and his servant retired to the upper room. In that room, Elisha wondered what he could do for the woman as a reward for her hospitality; he asked his servant what he could do for her, and the servant suggested that since the woman has no son, she could be granted the fruit of the womb. Elisha then sent for the woman and made a prophetic utterance to her, This time next year, you will hold a son in your arms.

The Shunammite woman was rich but had no child; she may have silently suffered the pains of childlessness, she may have asked so many questions and prayed about her condition, but did not get discouraged. She did not allow her condition to lead her astray, to make her walk away from God as some have done today. They walked away from God because they found themselves in difficult situations; they turn their backs against God and begin to put their hands into all kinds of evil things, searching for solutions. But the Shunammite woman remained steadfast even in her pains and was able to recognize the power of God’s presence; she recognized a holy man of God and welcomed him into her home. Her hospitality was rewarded, that is what Jesus decreed in our gospel passage this morning; Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have a prophet’s reward, and anyone who welcomes a holy man because he is a holy man will have a holy man’s reward. The Shunammite woman welcomed a prophet, a holy man of God, and she was rewarded accordingly. She built a place for the man of God to stay, but that place became the place where what will be done for her was thought of. Elisha never thought of what to do for her when he passed their way, but the woman built a place for Elisha to think of what to do for her; she built a place where the solution to her problem will be found.

In whatever situation we find ourselves, all we need to do is to open the door to our hearts for the Lord. First of all, the Shunammite woman opened the door to her heart for God before she was able to open the door to her house for the prophet. The door to her house was not the first thing she opened, and the small room upstairs was not the first thing she built for the prophet of God. She first opened her heart and built her faith in God. That was what happened to Lydia; she, first of all, opened her heart to the word of God as Paul spoke to them and then was able to invite Paul and his companions to her house (Acts. 16:11-15). the Shunammite woman did not ask the prophet for a favor; she only opened her heart and house to God.

No one ever received Christ into his or her life and regretted it; he comes in to help bear the burdens of life. He says Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. This cross sometimes can become very heavy and frustrating; unless we allow Jesus to walk with us, it may crush us. The Shunammite woman was rich, but her own cross was barrenness; she did not allow this cross to become a source of distraction to her; it did not weaken her faith in God. It may have been a heavy cross on her, but when she opened her heart and her house to God, she received mercy, and her burden was made light.

Many of us may be materially comfortable, we may have our children and other good things of life, but the cross may come in another way or form. In whatever way it comes, let us know that he who has asked us to carry our crosses and follow him will not leave us alone; we must not let the cross be a source of distraction but a constant reminder of our need of God.