Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded of the story of one particular Naaman the Syrian, a general of the Aramean kingdom, the neighbouring kingdom of the northern kingdom of Israel, which occupied the region now known as Syria. Naaman came to the land of Israel because of the fame of Elisha, God’s prophet and servant who was renowned for his work and miraculous deeds, as he was suffering from the debilitating leprosy, widely considered as a cursed disease back then, and which had no cure.
In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Kings of Israel and Judah, we heard of that story in detail, telling us how Naaman came to seek Elisha and eventually found him after a long journey together with his servant. Elisha then told Naaman to wash himself seven times in the River Jordan, which was then immediately met with disbelief and scorn from Naaman. As a great general and favourite of the King of the Arameans, he was a proud man, and he told his servant angrily that he had expected that the servant of God, Elisha, ought to have done things to him and make him healed, and that there were other rivers in his own homeland that he could do what he was asked for, instead of the River Jordan.
Then the servant pointed out to Naaman that it would not do him wrong to actually listen to the prophet Elisha and follow his instructions, as after all, it was really a very simple thing to do. Elisha did not ask Naaman to do the impossible, but rather a very easy task of just immersing himself seven times in the waters of the River Jordan. Comparing that to the suffering and shame that he must have experienced from the debilitating and humiliating leprosy, washing up seven times in the River Jordan would have been comparatively much easier to be done.
Eventually Naaman obeyed, humbling himself and casting away his pride, doing what Elisha had told him to do. Naaman bathed in the Jordan just as Elisha told him to do and he became purified and clean, freed from the terror of his leprosy. Naaman was willing to let go of his ego and pride, and therefore was healed from his troubles and sickness. He gained consolation and healing because he was willing to listen to God speaking to him through the prophet Elisha, and he was made whole again, freed from the troubles of his leprosy. Had he remained proud and arrogant, he would have remained in his state of leprosy.
It was this story of the healing of Naaman that the Lord Jesus mentioned, together with the widow of Zarephath who took care of the prophet Elijah, Elisha’s predecessor, as He chastised the people of His own hometown of Nazareth for their lack of faith in Him. He has revealed the truth about Himself before them, and with the signs and wonders that He had performed in nearby places such as Capernaum, the Lord spoke the truth, on how God’s salvation has indeed come upon His people, the salvation that they have all long awaited for, as they beheld Him, the Son of God and the Messiah.
Just like how Naaman initially refused to listen to Elisha or follow his instructions due to his pride and ego, thus it was the same with the people as well. The people failed to listen to the Lord and His truth, due to their own arrogance and pride, steeped in their prejudices, thinking that it was impossible for the supposed Son of their own village carpenter, as St. Joseph was the Lord’s foster-father, to be One Who could perform such miracles and wonderful works. The Lord has done so much and did everything that had proven Him to be the One prophesied by the prophets and messengers of God, but in their stubbornness, the people continued to refuse to believe in Him.
That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to these words from the Scriptures today, we are all called to repent from our sins, to be open-minded and exclude from our hearts and minds all the taints of pride and ego, all the things that have often prevented us from returning to God and being reconciled with Him. It was our ego, just as Naaman had once experienced, that kept us away from being healed and made whole again by God, which in Naaman’s case was to be healed from his leprosy. And we all must know and realise that sin is just like leprosy, a corruption that attacks not just our body but worse still, the soul and our whole being.
As long as we allow our pride and arrogance to get the better of us, we will always find it difficult for us to return towards the Lord or to walk in His presence. Our pride and arrogance, our hubris and arrogance are our stumbling block that we have to remove from within us that we do not end up falling deeper and deeper into the traps of sin. Like what Naaman’s servant reminded him, actually what we have to do to follow the Lord are not impossible to be done, as we need to reject the path of sin and wickedness, and instead embracing the love of God and committing ourselves to His Law and truth.
Yet, it is our reluctance to do what we have to do, our lack of commitment and desire to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and our continued attachments to worldly ways and sin which had kept us away from being fully reconciled with God, and why we have not been able to return to the Lord’s embrace and the fullness of His love and grace. As long as we continue to harden our hearts and minds, and allow our pride and ego to influence our path and actions, then our path and outlook forward in life will likely be bleak. Many of us will remain separated from God and His love.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all make good use of the opportunities given to us especially during this time of Lent that we may find our path towards God and turn away from all of our past transgressions and wickedness, embracing instead the path of righteousness and virtue in life. May God be with us always and may He empower us all to live ever more faithfully in His presence, now and forevermore. Amen.