We do not have any access to her name, but we know that she has a husband, and they are financially well to do. How do we that? The first reading tells us that they have a home of their own, and in that home, upstairs, they are able to provide a permanent guest room for the prophet Elisha. A room that has a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp to make any guest as comfortable as possible. This couple lives in Shunem, a town built on a side of a beautiful mountain. The land supports the growth of various kinds of crops and plants. Because of the cost of buying a plot of land or a home there, only the financially well to do live there.
The prophet Elisha does not live there. Where will he get the money to rent or buy a home there? However, he can pass through Shunem while carrying out his prophetic ministry. He runs into this woman who invites him for a meal. She does not stop there. Good people hardly exhaust their goodness. The more they do good things, the more they think of what next to do. After giving the prophet food to eat, she goes on to seek the approval of her husband to offer Elisha a permanent guest room in their home.
What is her motive? What does she want to get from this prophet that she is being so nice to him? How easy is it for her to have this prophet in her home? She is so wealthy. Her home must be very neat. The prophet walks a long distance in a dusty terrain. By the time he arrives, he must be sweating profusely, and probably with no pleasant smell. His old sandals and his long robes must have gathered a lot of dust. His dusty feet certainly has nothing to write home about. What about the woman’s rich neighbors, what are they saying about this man, who looks un-kept, and does not in any way look like the wealthy people who live there? They must be complaining his presence reduces the aesthetics and the market value of their neighborhood.
What does she hope to get in return from this prophet? Nothing. She is just being good for the sake of goodness. She does not ask for any favor. Because goodness begets goodness, Elisha asks her to know how he can help. But she is just being good for goodness sake, no ulterior motive, so she says, “Nothing, I am fine.” Nevertheless, since goodness attracts goodness, Elisha turns to his servant, Gehazi, “What can we do for her?” It seems the servant has been looking for an opportunity to help her; without wasting time, he quickly diagnoses her real need, he says, “She has no son.” When you are good for goodness sake, you easily forget your needs, you spend more time thinking of how to help others, but goodness attracts goodness, and no good deed goes unrewarded. Elisha then invites her and tells her, “This time next year, you will be carrying your own son.”
The story began with the woman seeing herself as the helper. She was happy to help, unknown to her that she was going to receive the greatest help of her life. She had stopped longing for a child. She felt that train already left the station; but goodness attracts goodness, for no good deed will ever go unrewarded. Jesus confirms the same in the gospel passage where he says anyone who gives as little as a cup of water to any of the followers of Jesus because they are his followers will certainly receive their reward. My dearly beloved in Christ, goodness attracts goodness. It pays to be good, not because we are expecting anything in return, but just for the sake of goodness. Experience shows that even when we don’t get the reward for our goodness in the same place we have planted, God has his way of making sure we are rewarded. May God forgive us for the times we neglected our responsibilities to one another, and may we never lose the reward for all our good deeds, through Christ our Lord. Amen.