Preparing for Sunday anticipating this day.Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Second Kings 5:14-17
Psalms 98:1, 2-3, 3-4
Second Timothy 2:8-13
To understand more fully today’s First Reading we have to read all of the chapter which leads up to Naaman’s plunging himself seven times into the Jordan. Naaman has leprosy and is also the commander of the army of a “foreign” king. Naaman’s wife has a little girl-servant who was taken from Israel in a military raid. She tells her mistress that Naaman would be cured if he were to visit the ”prophet of Samaria.”
Naaman’s King sends a letter asking the King of Israel for healing of Naaman’s leprosy. Elisha hears that the King of Israel is disturbed by the letter’s request and so begs the king to send Naaman to Elisha’s own house. Naaman arrives and decides to leave in disgust when Elisha tells him to bathe seven times in the Jordan to receive healing. His servants convince him to do what the prophet asks even though it is not as difficult as he might have thought. So he trusts the prophet and the God of Israel. It is here then that our reading begins.
Upon his being healed, Naaman offers a gift to Elisha, but Elisha refuses. Naaman then requests that he be allowed to take some soil from Israel upon which to make an altar of sacrifice to the one and only God of all the earth, the God of Israel. He cannot stay in that land as a foreigner, but he can take the land back with him to continue the relationship with the God Who healed him.
The Gospel is the familiar story of the ten lepers who are cured and only one, a foreigner, returns to Jesus to give Him praise. They had made their request to Jesus from a distance and Jesus sent them to show themselves to the priests. Their obeying His order was as easy as bathing seven times in a river. Jesus is the new Jordan and plunging into Him in times of need seems easy. Having our human needs brings us to our knees or keeps us at a distance or increases that distance between God and us.
We, like Naaman and the grateful leper, are foreigners. We come from this world and from our own small lives. Here is the beauty of Jesus; he was continuing His journey towards Jerusalem. He was traveling through His homeland, but making all the world His homeland. The “New Jordan” was flowing towards the once-foreign, once alien world. The ultimate cleansing is to take place in Jerusalem as His blood and water and Spirit flow onto and over the earth.
All ten came to Jesus with a common need and some faith. Nine of them while going to show themselves to the priests were cured and kept right on going. The one returned and while beginning as a foreigner, represents us who believe we have been cleansed and called. The real leprosy is the alienation from God as our Homeland, our Source.
Last-Sunday’s Gospel pictured Jesus reminding the Apostles who they were. This story reminds them again, and us, that we have been saved by faith. We have been saved from being estranged from God. The Apostles are slowly coming to the realization that they are those who have been brought close and their lives are changed forever into those who live their praise rather than going on their ways.
My parents returning from their first trip to Ireland brought back a clump of bog-sod. When we unwrapped it with great care, we all stood in silence before its dirt and precious meaning. My dad had dug it himself and he began describing the field from which it had been taken. We children looked with reverence on the mess before us and with awe at the two who had actually been “back there.”
Naaman takes some sacred soil, because he knows he will never be “back there” again. We children doubted that we would ever go “back there” in our lives. Here is the beauty in Christ; the Sacred has made our human soil sacred. By faith in Him we stand, not at a distance, but embraced by His curing care. Because He has come so close to our shame, we need not travel “over there” or “back there.”
We stand in awe and reverence within Christ’s embrace of ourselves
who can feel so alienated from God’s love. In Him, the Christ, we
live the sacredness as a sacrament each one of us is. As we did when
children in front of our parents who brought us this sacred sod, you and
I smile up at the God Who gives us our sodliness as a sacred gift.
Our returning to Him with “give God thanks,” is a necessary prelude to
Jesus’ telling us, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”
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