28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
2 Kings 5:14-17
Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4 (see 2b)
2 Timothy 2:8-13
October 13, 2019
As our first reading begins today, Naaman is “plunged into the Jordan seven times.” This might remind us of how Jesus was baptized in the Jordan river. Following the plunging, we are told that Naaman was cleaned of his leprosy.
Naaman was not a Jew. He was the commander of the army of Aram. He was highly respected. Yet, he was a leper. He went to great lengths to be cured but had been unsuccessful. When he heard of a prophet in Israel (Elisha) who could do miracles, he went to him. Elisha told him to wash in the Jordan river seven times. At first Naaman refused thinking the waters of the Jordan were no better than the waters of his own country but, at the urging of his servants, he did as Elisha directed.
When he obeyed, he was cleansed of his leprosy.
We should not see this as simply a physical cure. Yes, the leprosy was gone but not only was Naaman physically cured, he was spiritually transformed. His own words, “Now I know there is no God in all the earth except in Israel” show this. His commitment to the one true God is pledged when he says, “I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except to the Lord.”
Thus, Naaman begins a new life in true faith from being plunged in the waters of the Jordan just as we begin new life in the waters of baptism.
Naaman experienced a profound spiritual transformation at the Jordan but it was only a beginning. It began a spiritual journey for him that would continue until he passed from this world to the next.
Back at the end of June, we heard from the ninth chapter of Luke’s Gospel (13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C) how Jesus began his journey to Jerusalem. He literally began a physical journey to Jerusalem but it serves as a metaphor for the spiritual journey we begin in baptism.
Today’s gospel starts with the words, “As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem.” I want to emphasis “continued” because that is exactly we what we are all called to do. To follow Jesus is not simply a matter of baptism. It is a spiritual journey that continues in the Sacrament of Confirmation as the second Sacrament of Initiation. We are continually strengthened in the third Sacrament of Initiation, the Eucharist. Baptism and Confirmation are received only once in a lifetime for they leave an inedible mark on us, forever marking us as children of God.
The Eucharist, the very Body and Blood of Christ, can be received over and over as we come humbly to God, professing that we need Jesus.
Think of the ten lepers who come to Jesus and call out, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us.” They call him “master” but this should not be seen simply as a master who is in charge in earthly terms. They have heard of the miracles He has done and see him as having mastery in healing. They believe that Jesus can heal them so they call out for help, “Have pity of us!”
Without first healing them, He tells them, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” That was what lepers did after they were healed but these lepers were not yet healed. Yet, they went as Jesus directed. They must have done this in faith. In faith, they were healed.
In healing Naaman, in healing the ten lepers, “The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.” How God healed them, we do not know. That’s what makes it “revelation.” If we knew how God did this in medical terms, it would be “knowledge.” But these healings went beyond human knowledge. God used these healings to reveal himself, to reveal how He can help us when we surrender ourselves to him.
I would imagine that most, if not all of us, have asked God for healing either for ourselves or for others. I suspect most of our prayers for healing are for physical healing. Is that the healing we most need?
What about what is in our hearts?
Naaman was cleaned of his leprosy and became a believer. Ten lepers were cleansed. One returned, “realizing he had been healed,” glorified God, and “fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.” He realized the significance of his healing. He realized Jesus as the source of his healing and gave thanks with an “attitude of gratitude.”
I have been a priest for a little over twelve years now. I won’t begin to know how many people I have anointed in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. It would be many. Of course, some of them were expected to die and did. Of those who lived, I never saw anyone receive an immediate physical healing. Conversing with them, what I have heard is them speak of receiving a sense of peace in the anointing, a sense of knowing God is with them. There is the grace of the Sacrament. There is spiritually healing.
The same is true for Baptism and Confirmation. We don’t see a physical change but the Holy Spirit is upon them. Likewise, in receiving the Eucharist, the very Body and Blood of Jesus, we are transformed not physically but spiritually when we open ourselves to what we receive.
May we always live in gratitude for what God gives us in the sacraments.