28Mar Monday in the Third Week of Lent

2 Kings 5:1ff. Naaman, commander of the Syrian army, takes the prophet’s advice and is cured of his leprosy.

Luke 4:24ff. The townspeople of Nazareth turn against Jesus, a classic proof of the dictum that “no prophet is accepted in his own home town.”

Believing in Miracles

At its heart biblical faith includes a belief in miracles. God could and did intervene in human affairs so that dramatic changes and wondrous transformations happened. While miracles took the people by surprise, nonetheless these same people should have been prepared, at least partially, for God’s action. By pondering their own sacred traditions, they should have spotted signals of great things to come.

In the days of the prophet Elisha an Israelite slave girl, forced to live among the pagan Arameans, remembered her religious heritage better than the king of Israel. The great acts of God accomplished through Moses, Joshua, Samuel and other religious or civil leaders were reminders of what God could always accomplish. The only condition expected of the people was faith.

Faith put every human resource to work and yet realized at the same time that its hopes and ideals reached beyond these human means and relied upon God. Faith, therefore, was practical and kind enough to muster one’s ability and energy for the good of others; it was also humble enough to admit that still more had to be done. A person of faith combined exceptional energy for others, abounding hopes for life, and humble reliance upon God.

Such a person was the Hebrew servant girl in the foreign city of Damascus. Instead of hating her slave master who kept her from her own family, she was concerned about his incurable skin disease. She excelled with hopes for the happiness of others, and she trusted God’s power and good judgment. By contrast, the king of Israel who even enjoyed the benefits of his people’s freedom from Egypt and foreign slavery did not believe that God could still liberate the needy and the oppressed. He was so taken up with his own royal status and privileges that he suspected the king of Aram to be “only looking for a quarrel with me!” How limited the hopes and possibilities of a selfish, faithless person. Even in kingly freedom they are more fearful than a slave girl in a foreign household!

Jesus, too, was like a slave in a foreign land, who brought freedom to others. Our Saviour remembered the sacred traditions of his people, and knew his Bible very well. At Nazareth “he unrolled the scroll [of Isaiah] and found the passage . . . “The spirit of the Lord is upon me … to bring glad tidings to the poor, . . . liberty to captives … sight to the blind … (Is 61:1) Though he would not perform miracles for public esteem or for royal status, neither to heal himself nor to gain prominence “in his native place,” Jesus acted out of compassion. Genuine concern reaches through all barriers and acts at once for all races and nationalities, for widows at Zarephath and lepers of Syria. The people at Nazareth should also have known their Bible and have caught the signals. Selfishness, however, filled them with indignation against Jesus and they expelled him.

Faith in miracles is central to the Bible. Such faith requires compassion and hope at the heart of each believer. For God miraculously to reach beyond the laws of nature we must love beyond all restrictions. Send out your light and your fidelity; they shall lead me on – and bring me to your holy mountain, to your dwelling place.

First Reading: 2 Kings 5:1-15

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favour with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. And the king of Aram said, “Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.”

He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “A I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage. But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clen’?” So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel; please accept a present from your servant.”

Gospel: Luke 4:24-30

And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.