Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of Elisha, the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean of his leprosy.
Naaman returned with his whole retinue to the man of God. On his arrival he stood before Elisha and said, "Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel. Please accept a gift from your servant."
Elisha replied, "As the Lord lives whom I serve, I will not take it"; and despite Naaman's urging, he still refused. Naaman said: "If you will not accept, please let me, your servant, have two mule-loads of earth, for I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except to the Lord."(P) The word of the Lord.
Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done wondrous deeds; his right hand has won victory for him, his holy arm. (R)
The Lord has made his salvation known: in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice. He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness toward the house of Israel. (R)
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God. Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands: break into song; sing praise. (R)
Beloved: Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David: such is my gospel, for which I am suffering, even to the point of chains, like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained.
Therefore, I bear with everything for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, together with eternal glory. This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us. If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.(P) The word of the Lord.
As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices saying, "Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!" And when he saw them, he said, "Go show yourselves to the priests." As they were going they were cleaned. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, "Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?" Then he said to him, "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
Today's first reading from the second Book of Kings of the Old Testament narrates one of the most amazing stories, Book of Kings (5:14-17). It speaks about God's work of healing. To understand the narrative, let us momentarily look at its background. A man named "Naaman", which in Hebrew literally means "be pleasant" or "be delightful", lived in Aram, a region in the North East of ancient Israel, which now is known as Syria. Naaman was a brave and courageous commander of the army of Aram. He was greatly admired and respected by the King and the people of Aram because of his many successes on the battlefield, particularly his victory against the nation of Israel. In fact, unknown to Naaman and others, it was the Lord, the "God of the Israelites", who gave him the victory as a way to punish the Israelites for their evil ways.
Despite his strength, success, power and popularity, Naaman was as susceptible to injury, diseases, and death as everyone else. He was afflicted with leprosy, which was, in ancient times, feared as a highly contagious and incurable disease. In fact, many cultures, including the Israelites, Canaanites, Egyptians, Moabites, Arameans, and others believed that the disease was a curse or punishment from gods for sin. Consequently, they considered the infected people ritually unclean and barred them from temple worship and its related rituals, as well as social and cultural interaction with the rest of the community.
But Naaman was too great and powerful to be isolated from those he loved or to be shunned by others. Ironically, Naaman's only hope of healing was in Israel, his enemy nation. It so happened that a young Jewish girl who had been taken captive and forced into slavery in the household of Naaman, despite her plight, saw her master's pitiful condition and boldly recommended that Naaman go and see a prophet named, Elisha, who lived in Samaria, the ancient capital of the northern Kingdom of Israel.
Hearing the girl's suggestion, Naaman asked the King of Aram for permission to travel to Israel and seek out healing. The king, who had great admiration for the commander of his army, not only granted Naaman's wish but also wrote a letter of introduction to Jehoram, the King of Israel at that time, asking him to cure Naaman of his leprosy. But, when Jehoram read the letter he panicked for he himself had no God-given power to heal Naaman; besides, the letter did not state the name of the prophet. So, he suspected the request of healing as a provocation for more war.
When the prophet Elisha learned of the distress of Jehoram, he sent a message to the king advising that he tell Naaman to come to see him. In fact, Elisha at first gave a gentle rebuke to the king of Israel by saying, "Why have you torn your clothes", 2 Kings (5:8). In the Bible, there are many examples of the tearing of clothes as an expression of despair, dismay, grief, bitterness, or anger.
Naaman then went with his horses, chariots, and servants and waited at the door of Elisha's house. But Elisha did not personally come out to meet Naaman. Instead, he sent a servant out to tell Naaman to go and dip himself in the Jordan River seven times to be healed. When Naaman heard this message, communicated to him by a servant, he became furious and upset probably for three reasons:
Today's passage narrates what happened after that, 2 Kings (5:14-17). Naaman relented, went to the river, immersed seven times, as the prophet had instructed him, and his flesh was restored like that of a little child, and he became clean. In the Bible, the number seven carries the meaning of fullness or completeness or perfection or wholeness, both physical and spiritual. Thus, Naaman who had dipped himself seven times in the water, was completely and wholly healed both physically and spiritually.
After his leprosy was cured, Naaman returned to the house of Elisha with all his company and publicly acknowledged the supremacy of the God of Israel and asked the prophet to accept a present from him as a token of his gratitude. In the context, Naaman did the right thing by going back to the prophet and offering a gift, just as the healed Samaritan leper returned to Jesus to thank Him, according to Luke's gospel today. But Elisha refused to accept the gift by saying, "As the Lord lives whom I serve, I will not take it", Luke (5:16). That's to say that God's gifts are free and cannot be bought. Since nothing can match God's goodness, the prophet did not want to take payment for a blessing that God had bestowed in mercy upon Naaman.
However, before finally leaving for his country, Naaman made a strange request to Elisha. He asked Elisha to permit him to take with him "some soil as much as two mules can carry, for from then on, he would not offer any burnt offering or sacrifice to any other gods but to the God of Israel", Luke (5:17). That is, Naaman wanted the prophet Elisha and others to know that by taking some dirt back home with him from the land of Israel, which is Yahweh's territory, his allegiance lay with the God of Elisha and Israel. We really do not know what happened to Naaman after all this. But we certainly know that he called himself "servant", believed in the one true God, and received mercy and physical healing. For his new-found faith and condition, he took two loads of soil back home from Israel so that God would have a place to dwell in his home.
What is the message for us?
We may not have leprosy or any serious or incurable physical illness, but we could be suffering quietly within ourselves a psychological, mental, emotional and spiritual pain. It can be a painful feeling or incurable in the sense of shame or guilt or humiliation or embarrassment about some action we have done and which have led to physical and social isolation and loneliness. It can be a sin that spoils all our happiness and peace on earth; that takes away the excitement of Christian life; that deprives us of the relationship with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life which God promised at our baptism.
But whatever the circumstance may be, we can rely on healing stories, such as the healing of Naaman, to comfort our souls and guide us towards recovery. Because God has not gone back on His promises. Our Lord Jesus Christ is still our healer; He heals both body and soul. "He alone forgives all our sins; it is He alone who heals all our infirmities", Psalm (103:3).
God Bless You!