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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

2 Kings 4,8-37

One day as Elisha was on his way to Shunem, a woman of rank who lived there pressed him to stay and eat there. After this he always broke his journey for a meal when he passed that way.

She 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 walled room, and put him a bed in it, and a table and chair and lamp; whenever he comes to us he can rest there.'

One day when he came, he retired to the upper room and lay down.

He said to his servant Gehazi, 'Call our Shunammite.' He called her and when she appeared, Elisha said,

'Tell her this: "Look, you have gone to all this trouble for us, what can we do for you? Is there anything you would like said for you to the king or to the commander of the army?" ' But she replied, 'I live with my own people about me.'

'What can I do for you then?' he asked. Gehazi replied, 'Well, she has no son and her husband is old.'

Elisha said, 'Call her.' The servant called her and she stood at the door.

'This time next year', he said, 'you will hold a son in your arms.' But she said, 'No, my lord, do not deceive your servant.'

But the woman did conceive, and she gave birth to a son at the time that Elisha had said she would.

The child grew up; one day he went to his father who was with the reapers,

and exclaimed to his father, 'Oh, my head! My head!' The father told a servant to carry him to his mother.

He lifted him up and took him to his mother, and the boy lay on her lap until midday, when he died.

She went upstairs, laid him on the bed of the man of God, shut the door on him and went out.

She called her husband and said, 'Send me one of the servants with a donkey. I must hurry to the man of God and back.'

'Why go to him today?' he asked. 'It is not New Moon or Sabbath.' But she replied, 'Never mind.'

She had the donkey saddled and said to her servant, 'Lead on, go! Do not draw rein until I give the order.'

She set off and made her way to the man of God at Mount Carmel. When the man of God saw her in the distance, he said to his servant Gehazi, 'Look, here comes our Shunammite!

Now run and meet her and ask her, "Are you well? Is your husband well? Your child well?" ' 'Yes,' she replied.

When she came to the man of God there on the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi stepped forward to push her away, but the man of God said, 'Leave her; there is bitterness in her soul and Yahweh has hidden it from me, he has not told me.'

She said, 'Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say: Don't deceive me?'

Elisha said to Gehazi, 'Hitch up your clothes, take my staff in your hand and go. If you meet anyone, do not greet him; if anyone greets you, do not answer him. You are to stretch out my staff over the child.'

But the child's mother said, 'As Yahweh lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.' Then he stood up and followed her.

Gehazi had gone ahead of them and had stretched out the staff over the child, but there was no sound or response. He went back to meet Elisha and told him. 'The child has not woken up,' he said.

Elisha then went to the house, and there on his bed lay the child, dead.

He went in and shut the door on the two of them and prayed to Yahweh.

Then he climbed on to the bed and stretched himself on top of the child, putting his mouth on his mouth, his eyes to his eyes, and his hands on his hands, and as he lowered himself on to him, the child's flesh grew warm.

Then he got up and walked to and fro inside the house, and then climbed on to the bed again and lowered himself on to the child seven times in all; then the child sneezed and opened his eyes.

He then summoned Gehazi. 'Call our Shunammite,' he said. He called her. When she came to him, he said, 'Pick up your son.'

She went in and, falling at his feet, prostrated herself on the floor and then picked up her son and went out.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

In the village of Shunem, in the northern region of Galilee, there lives a couple who are so generous in welcoming the prophet Elisha into their house that they prepare a room just for him where he can rest every time he passes by. Elisha is struck by their completely gratuitous generosity. When he asks the woman what he can give her in return, she says that she does not want anything for herself. "I live among my own people." It is an answer that reveals a great and generous spirit. It is still rare to hear someone give an answer like this today; instead we all rush to hoard things for ourselves. The woman’s answer approaches the kind of gratuity that flows through the pages of the gospel. And it is Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, who suggests to the prophet that he repay her with the birth of a son. This is the sort of invocation that believers make for those who are in need. Elisha promises the woman that she will have a son, notwithstanding her great age. The miracle occurs and the couple experiences the joy of a child. But after he is grown, the boy dies of sunstroke during the harvest. After this tragedy, the woman runs to ask the prophet for help without telling her husband. And she goes all the way to Mount Carmel where Elisha is living. It is the mountain where Elijah had challenged the prophets of Baal and confirmed the supremacy of the God of Israel. As soon as the woman reaches the prophet she throws herself at his feet and reveals her pain, saying: "Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say, ‘Do not mislead me?’" Elisha would like to send his servant Gehazi with his staff - the sign of his prophetic authority, like Aaron’s rod - and have him lay it on the boy’s face. But the woman insists and he himself is forced to go with her. When he reaches the house where the child is lying, Elisha repeats the same gestures Elijah performed over the son of the widow of Zarephath: he stretches out over the boy’s body, covering it completely and almost infusing it with his own spirit, and brings the boy back to life. This story tells of the extraordinary attention that was paid to the young boy who had been torn from life, and it suggests how important it still is today to take care of the many young people who are swallowed up by evil and robbed of the life that the Lord came to give. The interweaving of unceasing concern, insistent prayer, physical closeness, and loving attention trace out the path that we still need to follow today to help young people rise to new life.

Memory of the Saints and the Prophets