Sunday, 9 October 2016 : 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day of the Lord we heard about the wondrous healing of the servant and general of the kingdom of Aram or Syria, Naaman, who lived during the time of the division among the people of God, comprising of the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. At that time, the prophet Elisha also did his many works among the people, calling the people to repentance and to abandon their sinfulness, but often without much success.

It was then that at that time, Naaman, who had tried to find a cure for his leprosy without much success, looked towards the land of Israel, for the news and words about the prophet Elisha and his miracles had reached even the ears of the king and people of Aram, and thus Naaman set forth for the land of Israel in order to find the prophet and get him to cure him from his afflictions.

And when Naaman had found the prophet Elisha, he was told by the prophet to bathe in the river Jordan seven times, but the general in his pride initially refused to obey the instructions of the prophet, thinking that it was such a menial thing to do, even though he had travelled a long way so that the prophet might heal him by the means of miracles and wonders.

But in the end, after he had been persuaded by his retainers, he relented and obeyed the prophet’s commands, and even as he bathed in the river as he was told to do, he was healed from his leprosy, and his skin became as good and smooth as that of a baby. And realising that he had been healed, the general Naaman hurried to find the prophet and thanked him profusely for having exercised such a miraculous sign to him.

And Naaman wanted to reward the prophet for what he had done, but the prophet refused it, and instead, Naaman who insisted that the gifts he brought were not wasted, then offered it to the One Who made it all possible, that is to YHVH, the One and only True God, the God of Elisha, the God of Israel, and the God of Naaman. It was God Who had healed Naaman from his sickness, and he had been made whole and perfectly healthy again.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as I have pointed out earlier on, the prophet Elisha and his predecessor Elijah did not have much success in their works among the people of God, and they were often rejected, ridiculed, harassed, and even threatened with death by all those who refused to reject and cast aside their sinful ways, such as the worship of Baal and the other pagan gods, as well as their debauched lifestyle.

Meanwhile, Naaman the Syrian sought for healing in the Lord and he found it, and while the people of God refused to accept the rich offerings of God’s grace and mercy, which He had made clear and offered through His many prophets, this foreigner would come and thank the Lord for all that He had done for him. This despite the Israelites’ attitude over the ages and times that they were the chosen people of God and others were treated as pagans and damned before God.

The reality is very clear, that while the people of Israel at that time had no leprosy on them, and that their bodies are clean and without blemish, but the same could not be said of their inner beings. They had sinned and committed wickedness before God and men alike, and therefore sin had corrupted their hearts, minds and souls. Yes, they were sick with leprosy, that is sin, the leprosy of the soul.

Naaman might have been inflicted with the leprosy of the flesh, but eventually his faith and obedience to God, his gratitude and thankfulness to the Lord had saved him and God had made him whole, not just from the leprosy of his flesh, but also from the leprosy of his soul. Certainly, even though it was not specifically mentioned in the Scriptures, God would have forgiven Naaman’s sins as well, and if he continued to live in grace after that, he would be counted among those who have been saved from the world.

The same point is also reiterated in the Gospel today, where we heard how God healed ten lepers who came to Him, begging that He showed mercy to them and desired for Him to heal them from their afflictions. He did not heal them straight away, just as Elisha once did with Naaman, but instead sent them away to see the priests that they would be healed.

And on their way, the ten lepers were healed from their leprosy, and when they all realised it, they were all rejoicing and were very happy about it, but only one of the ten healed lepers realised entirely what had happened, and went back to Jesus to thank Him and indeed, worshipped Him as his Lord and Saviour. The other nine lepers were too happy that their leprosy had been healed that they forgot entirely about the One Who had made it all possible.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the lesson which all of us can learn from these Scripture readings, from the examples of Naaman and also from the ten lepers healed by Jesus is that firstly, we should not be discriminatory in how we look on others, and especially not in terms of how and who should be saved in this world. God does not look upon our backgrounds, races, or other identities, and neither is He biased against anybody. To Him, all of us mankind, be it great and powerful or weak, rich or poor, famous or unknown, each and every one of us are equal in His sight.

The people of Israel often looked down on their pagan neighbours, thinking that these had no place in God’s kingdom and that they were hopeless cases unworthy of salvation. However, from all that we have heard in the Scriptures certainly and completely refuted this claim. God had made it clear that all has a chance to attain His salvation, and all that is important is that those who desire to find Him must repent and change their ways.

And then, secondly, sin as I mentioned is like leprosy, but unlike the leprosy of the flesh and body, it is the leprosy of the soul, that is our inner being. Sin corrupts all things, and it corrupts our hearts and minds as well. And eventually, it will also corrupt our physical bodies as well, for if the heart and soul is corrupt, these will show in the physical appearances and actions as well.

The danger for many of us is that, because sin can cause us to grow and become ignorant of it, as we are desensitised to our own sins, then we tend to ignore our wrongdoings and even perhaps embrace them as something we like and want to do. This is what led many to their downfall and ultimate fate, that is condemnation and eternal suffering in hell.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listen to the readings today and reflect on them, let us all think about how we as Christians can resist the temptations of sin and the temptations of worldly pleasures. These things, these temptations will always be there, and indeed, they will always threaten us all. But are we doing anything about it? Or do we just let these come and corrupt us all body and soul?

Let us all ponder on this even as we continue and go back to our own daily lives. Let us all seek to be ever more righteous, just and be more devoted to God and His ways, following the path of sin no more. Let us all stop the corruption that sin has caused in us, and seek to purge these corruptions from us, by leaning ever closer and devote ourselves ever more to the Lord. It is in God alone that we will find our succour and salvation.

May God help us in this endeavour, and may He forgive us all our sins, and heal us from all of our afflictions, just as He had healed Naaman and the lepers, that we may be freed from sickness, both of the body and of the soul. Amen.

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