TWENTY-EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The readings from this reflection: 2Kings 5:14-17; Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4; 2Timothy 2:8-13; Luke 17:11-19
It is an exciting story in the fifth chapter of Second Kings: the healing of leper Naaman. Naaman, the commander of the army of the king of Aram, was sent to prophet Elisha—who started his ministry with “double portion anointing” (2 Kg. 2, 9.15).
Though the biblical meaning of the name Naaman is “pleasant,” his response to the prophet’s message was not pleasant and so he resisted the prophecy. The problem with this commander was, he had already planned how God should act and intervene in his life. So the first lesson we learn from this is, never approach God with our own plans. God has his own plans for us and he will meet us where we are.
Naaman yielded to the reasoning of his servants, because those servants spoke some sense into him. Let us keep in mind that wisdom comes not only from people of high profile, but also from those whom we consider as illiterate or ordinary people.
“Elisha sent him the message: Go and wash seven times in Jordan …” Simple acts with faith and obedience to God’s will produce great results. “Naaman went down and plunged into Jordan seven times at the word of Elisha, the man of God.” The result was astounding, even beyond his wildest dreams: “His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean of his leprosy.” In my experience, I have witnessed that traditional and simple prayers have brought great results; confession, with a true contrite heart, led to the healing of mind and body; prayer of praising and thanksgiving, gave peace of mind. Despite being an outstanding warrior and commander of the army, Naaman was a leper. No matter how powerful, influential, and wealthy we are, keep in mind we are vulnerable. We receive heavenly blessings when we humble ourselves and obey the Lord.
Naaman asked the prophet’s permission to “have two mule-loads of earth.” It was a thoughtful reminder of the ‘holy ground’ where he felt and experienced the Holy and Mighty One of Israel. He wanted to cherish that experience for the rest of his life. We have to go out of the church not with the weight of the soil, but with the ‘light’ of Jesus having him in our heart. The healing led Naaman to a change in his belief; it convinced him that the God of Elisha, the prophet, is the true God. Certain experiences either good or bad happen in our lives, to deepen our faith in the Lord.
CLEANSING OF LEPERS
In today’s Gospel, too, we see healing of lepers. The cleansing of the lepers was an identifying marker of Messianic era: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: … the lepers are cleansed” (Luke 7, 22).
The healing of the lepers takes place step by step: crying out from a distance, believing in Jesus’ words, healing on their way to show themselves to the priests, returning to Jesus praising God, and prostrating at the feet of Jesus.
Those 10 lepers were people of simple faith: they simply believed in the words of Jesus who said, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” They did not have any demand that Jesus should touch them or show some signs contrary to Naaman the leper.
A traditional believer may take everything for granted and may be spiritually deaf. The Samaritan, an outsider, was more responsive. A longtime member of a parish may not be the most spiritually-mature and deep in faith.
The 10 lepers “raised their voices” and asked for Jesus’ mercy. Jesus responded. Only one “returned, glorifying God in a loud voice.” Our prayer of thanksgiving should be as loud as our clamoring requests.
We have to acknowledge everything that we receive from the Lord. Let us be like the Samaritan who returned to thank the Lord.
Father Thekkanath is the Pastor of St. John Parish, Leopold, MO, and St. Anthony Mission Church, in Glennon, MO