24th March. Monday in Week 3 of Lent
24th March. Monday in Week 3 of Lent
1) 2 Kings 5:1-15
(Naaman, a Syrian army commander, takes the prophet’s advice and is cured of his leprosy.)
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, “Am 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
(The people of Nazareth turn against Jesus, a classic proof of the dictum that “no prophet is accepted in his own home town.”)
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.
Believing in miracles still.
Biblical faith includes a belief in miracles. God can and dies intervene in human affairs so that dramatic and wonderful things can happen. In the days of the prophet Elisha a Jewish slave girl, forced to live among the pagan Arameans, knew this part of her religious heritage better than did the king of Israel. Instead of hating her master for keeping her in service, she advised him how his skin disease might be cured by a man of God. In wharp contrast, the king of Israel did not believe that the living God could still help the needy and the oppressed. He was so taken up with his thoughts of status and power-play that he suspected the king of Aram to be only looking for a quarrel! How limited the hopes and possibilities of a selfish, unbelieving person. Even in wealth and prosperity they are more fearful than a slave girl in a foreign household!
Jesus clearly believed in miracles. 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,… sight to the blind … (Is 61:1) True, he would not perform miracles to win public esteem, but only out of compassion. The people at Nazareth should also have caught the signals, but selfishness filled them with indignation against Jesus and they expelled him.
Miracles can be important for prompting us to faith; they are part of what inspires confidence and compassion in our hearts. For God miraculously to reach into our lives we must love and trust Him. “Send out your light and your truth, o Lord, and bring us to your holy mountain, to your dwelling place.”