12 March. Monday of Week 3 of Lent
2 Kings 5:1ff. Naaman the Syrian takes the prophet’s advice and is cured of his leprosy.
Luke 4:24ff. The townspeople of Nazareth turn against Jesus; no prophet is accepted in his own home town.
Believing in Miracles
At the heart of biblical faith is a belief in miracles – that the living God can and does intervene in the world, since the loving, creative power did not cease with the act of setting this world in motion. Not only in nature but in human affairs too, God causes amazing things to happen. In the days of the prophet Elisha an Israelite slave girl, forced to live among foreign pagans, remembered her religious heritage better than did the king of Israel. The acts of God in the past, through the likes of Moses, Joshua and Samuel, served as reminders of what God can still do, provided only that a person has faith. Such a person was the slave-girl in Damascus. Far from hating her master, she was concerned about his ugly skin disease and trusted in God’s power to cure him. By contrast, the king of Israel did not believe that God could save a person in their need. Absorbed in his own royal status, he suspected the neighbouring king of only looking for a quarrel! How limited the hopes of a person with no real faith.
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 Isaiah scroll and found the exact passage he needed, to describe his life’s project “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, to bring glad tidings to the poor, liberty to captives and sight to the blind.” Though he would not perform miracles in his native place for public esteem or for status, Jesus acted out of compassion. Genuine concern breaks through all barriers and reaches out to people of all races and nationalities. The people at Nazareth should have known their Bible and have caught the signals, but filled with selfish indignation they expelled Jesus from their town.
Faith in God’s power to heal is central to the Bible. Such faith requires compassion and hope at the heart of each believer. 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 Aramaeans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she was in service to 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?”
Naaman 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.