Today's First Reading [2 Kgs. 5:14-17] from the Second Book of Kings spoke of the healing of Naaman, a foreigner in the land of Israel. Naaman, the 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." [2 Kgs. 5:1]
On one of their raid in the land of Israel, the Arameans had taken a young girl captive. [2 Kgs. 5:2] This young girl served Naaman's wife. She told her mistress that if Naaman was with the prophet who is in Samaria, he would be cured of his leprosy. [2 Kgs. 5:3] Hearing of this, Naaman repeated this comment to the king of Aram. Consequently, the king of Aram told Naaman to go and that he would provide him with a letter to the king of Israel. Naaman left, taking with him a number of gifts to present to the king of Israel. [2 Kgs. 5:3-5]
When the king of Israel read the letter, he got very upset and tore his clothes. The letter said, "I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy." [2 Kgs, 5:6] Somehow, the king of Aram believed that the king of Israel was a god. This greatly offended the king of Israel. Not understanding the true purpose for the letter, the king of Israel believed that the king of Aram was trying to pick a quarrel with him.
In the meantime, Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes. He sent a message to the king, asking him to let Naaman come to him so that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel. [2 Kgs. 5:8] Taking his horses and chariots, Naaman went to Elisha. After he had 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." [2 Kgs. 5:9-10]
What followed was most interesting! How Elisha had decided to proceed with the healing did not please Naaman at all. Naaman expected Elisha to come out of his house, to stand before him, to call on the name of the Lord God, to wave his hand over the spot of the leprosy and he would suddenly be healed. [2 Kgs. 5:11]
From the tone of Naaman's voice, it was obvious that he believed things should have gone according to his way because of his greatness. He was a very proud man! Over and above this, he resented being told to wash in the Jordan river when in his opinion, the Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, were better than all the waters of Israel. He questioned why he could not have washed himself in those rivers. Naaman turned and went away in a rage. [2 Kgs. 5:12]
After awhile, some of the servants approached Naaman and asked him, "If the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it?" [2 Kgs. 5:13] Therefore why not obey what Elisha asked of you that is so simple, to wash and be clean? And "so Naaman 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." [2 Kgs. 5:14] Naaman was made well by his faith in the Word of God that was spoken through the great prophet Elisha.
Following this, Naaman returned to Elisha, acknowledging that there is no greater God on earth except in Israel. And then he offered Elisha a present in thanksgiving but Elisha would not accept anything.
Consequently, Naaman asked permission to take two mule loads of soil from the land of Israel so he could take it back to Damascus and build an altar on it to worship in his city the true God. Having been touched by the grace of God, Naaman promised that he would never again make burnt offerings or sacrifices to any other gods except the true God of Israel.
From this reading, there are a few lessons to be learned. These are:
(1) When praying to God for a favour, we do not dictate to God how He should answer our prayers. For God knows what is best for the spiritual growth and personal sanctification of each and everyone of us. In God, we trust.
(2) In our personal daily relationship with God, there is no room for pride in obedience. Before Naaman could be healed, he had to humble himself. "For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." [Lk. 14:14] When Naaman humbled himself, the glory of God was manifested through him.
(3) When Elisha refused to accept any gifts from Naaman in thanksgiving, he was practicing what the Lord Jesus preached eight centuries later. "Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment." [Mt. 10:8]
Today's Second Reading from the Second Letter of Paul to Timothy begins by saying, "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David." [2 Tim. 2:8] The reason as to why St. Paul said that Jesus was a descendant of David, it was to emphasize the Messianic Kingship of Christ. [Rom. 1:3]
Paul continued by saying, ".. I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained." [2 Tim. 2:9] Through these words, Paul was telling those who would read his letter that although he is a prisoner, he can still preach the Word of God. The Good News can be delivered within the prison and to those outside from within the prison.
Not only has Paul's suffering encouraged him even more to persevere in preaching the Word of God, it has also motivated others to also do so. We read of this is the Letter of Paul to the Philippians. "I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the Gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear." [Phil 1:12- 14]
Because of this marvellous end result, St. Paul was even more determined to persevere for the sake of those who have been called and who have answered their calling from God, so that they may also persevere to the end and obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. [2 Tim. 2:10]
Not only was the sufferings of Paul of value to those who had already become Christians, it was also of value to those who had not yet converted. [Col. 1:24; 2 Cor. 1:5-6]
Today's Second Reading concluded by saying, "The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful - for he cannot deny himself." [2 Tim. 2:11-13]
This statement of Paul is a paraphrase of the Words of Jesus that are found in the Gospel of Matthew. "Everyone therefore who acknowledges Me before others, I also will acknowledge before My Father in Heaven; but whoever denies Me before others, I also will deny before My Father in Heaven." [Mt. 10:32-3]
In this part of his letter to Timothy, St. Paul was reminding the Christians that following the receiving of the Sacrament of Baptism, part of the Christian life experience includes physical sufferings and the dangers that are associated with spreading the Word of God. [1 Cor. 15:31; 2 Cor. 4:8-11]
Having died with Christ, our lives are hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life is revealed, then we also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore, we are called to put to death whatever is earthly in us, fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed which is idolatry. [Col. 3:3-5] Like Paul, we must want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the sharing of His sufferings by becoming like Jesus in His death. [Phil. 3:10] In the end, it shall be seen that what is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body." [1 Cor. 15:42-44].
Our perseverance in the living faith, in whatever the Lord God permits to come our way for our sanctification, will be our assurance of salvation. Our perseverance is one of the many ways of saying thanks to God for what He has given us. Because we believed, we obey Jesus. Because we obey Jesus in complete submission, we endure the trials that cross our daily path. Because we endure, in the end, our faith shall make us well." [Lk. 17:19]
During today's reading from Chapter 17 of the Gospel of Luke, [Lk. 17:11-19] we heard that Jesus healed ten lepers, nine being Jewish, the tenth being a Samaritan. It is interesting to note here that while the Jewish people normally did not mix with the Samaritans, misery so loves company that this group of lepers consisted of both Jews and a Samaritan. As we heard, out of those ten, the one who was a foreigner, was the only one who returned and thanked Jesus. Only ten percent of those who were healed showed gratitude. How offended the Lord Jesus must have been!
As a general rule, when a Jewish leper was healed, he had to go to the local priest to confirm that he was now clean and permitted to mix among the general public. For the Samaritan, more was demanded. Most likely, he had to go to his own priest near Mount Gerizim. This demand of Jesus required a greater act of obedience because of the travelling involved. While the demand was greater upon the Samaritan, he was the only one to show gratitude for the gift of healing that he received.
Today's readings provide us with an opportunity to reflect upon our own disposition during prayer. Do we beg God for a special favour but forget to show gratitude by giving thanks when our favour is obtained? Do we persevere in our prayers as Paul persevered in his sufferings? If praying while in a state of mortal sin and told by the priest to go and clean ourselves through the Sacrament of Confession so our prayer will be pleasing to the eyes of God, do we grumble, hesitate or even hardened our hearts?
Today's readings provide us with answers as to why some prayers are not answered. They teach us that we are healed when we show gratitude to God for the abundance of blessings that He has bestowed upon us from the moment that we were created.
This week, let us reflect upon the richness of the Word of God that we have heard today. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to always remind us to be most grateful to the Lord Jesus for His love, His grace, His mercy and His salvation. Let us all support one another to ensure that each and everyone of us will persevere until the end. Then we will hear the Words of Jesus in our hearts, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well." [Lk. 17:19]