Monday, 5 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scripture reading with the story of the healing of Naaman the Syrian, who was the trusted army general and servant of the Aramean king during the time of the prophet Elisha at the northern kingdom of Israel. Naaman was searching for a way to be cured from his illness, as he suffered from terrible leprosy on his skin.

Naaman came to Israel seeking for help, as he heard that the prophet Elisha had the miraculous powers in healing many people who came to him, as God worked His wonders through His servant. In the end, as we heard from the Scripture passage, Naaman met up with the prophet Elisha, who simply asked him to go for a dip in the river Jordan seven times, and he would be healed.

Initially, Naaman refused to do so, thinking that such a menial task would not be something that could have cured him. He has expected that the prophet would place his hands on him, touched him or performed some wonders before his eyes, and he would be cured as how the other pagan priests and magicians at that time performed their supposed miracle works and wonders.

But eventually, Naaman listened to the prophet and humbled himself, doing what he was asked to do, and he was cured from all of his physical and bodily complaints. He believed in God from then on, and went home praising God for all that He had done for him. This amazing story of Naaman’s healing and conversion is something that we should take note of, as a parallel to our own conversion and healing.

Let us look at the Gospel passage today, in which we heard how the Lord Jesus was rejected in His own village in Nazareth. He has preached to them and even performed miracles before them, but the people hardened their hearts and refused to believe in Him. Why is that so? That is because Jesus hailed from that very village, where all the people likely had known Him in person since when He was very young, after He returned to Nazareth with His foster father St. Joseph and His mother Mary.

That is why they likely assumed that they knew Who He was, the mere Son of a lowly carpenter of the village. At that time, being a carpenter was truly a lowly and undesirable occupation to have, having to work very hard and yet gaining very little, and only contempt and ridicule from others who used his service. And this prejudice continued on to apply to the Lord Himself, Who was likely also a carpenter like His foster father St. Joseph.

We see here the irony of their actions, those who were at Nazareth who were in fact belonging to God’s own people, the descendants of Israel. While Naaman, the Syrian pagan and non-Israelite came to believe in God despite his earlier reservations and doubts, but he believed nonetheless, as compared to the Israelites who hardened their hearts and refused to believe, just as what happened to the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law, the Sadducees and their followers.

The essence of today’s Scripture readings is that all of us must not harden our hearts and refuse God’s generous offer of mercy. Otherwise we will gain nothing for ourselves, and no healing will come to us. Naaman at first also hardened his heart, but he relented in the end, and humbly submitted to God’s will as spoken through His prophet Elisha, and he received grace and healing from his illnesses.

Similarly, all of us are sick, sick in the heart, mind, body and soul. We may seem to be physically perfect and not sick, but in reality due to our sins, born of our disobedience to the Lord, have made us to be sick. Sin is a very dangerous sickness that will destroy everything. Unlike any other earthly illnesses and diseases that can be cured, the disease of the soul, that is sin, cannot be cured by any worldly means, save that of by the Lord.

It is God alone Who can forgive our sins, and He does so, through none other than His own Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave us His life through the cross. Through that cross which He bore on the way to Calvary, and as He was raised up high for our salvation, all of us who believe in Him will receive the grace and forgiveness from our sins. This is what we need to realise, and which we need to take action on, especially at this good time of Lent.

Let us all open our hearts, our minds and our whole being to receive the Lord into our being. Let Him transform us, our hearts, minds, bodies and souls, that we may be turned from sickly beings of darkness, into purified beings of light, worthy to be called His children. May the Lord bless us all, and may He forgive us our sins, that we may draw ever closer to Him and receive His eternal grace and blessings. Amen.

Monday, 5 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 4 : 24-30

At that time, Jesus said to the people of Nazareth, “No prophet is honoured in his own country. Truly, I say to you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens withheld rain for three years and six months and a great famine came over the whole land. Yet, Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow of Zarephath, in the country of Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha, the prophet; and no one was healed except Naaman, the Syrian.”

On hearing these words, the whole assembly became indignant. They rose up and brought Him out of the town, to the edge of the hill on which Nazareth is built, intending to throw Him down the cliff. But He passed through their midst and went His way.

Monday, 5 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 41 : 2, 3 and Psalm 42 : 3, 4

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for You, o God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I go and see the face of God?

Send forth Your light and Your truth; let them be my guide, let them take me to Your holy mountain, to the place where You reside.

Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my gladness and delight. I will praise You with the lyre and harp, o God, my God.

Monday, 5 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

2 Kings 5 : 1-15a

Naaman was the army commander of the king of Aram. This man was highly regarded and enjoyed the king’s favour, for YHVH had helped him lead the army of the Arameans to victory. But this valiant man was sick with leprosy.

One day some Aramean soldiers raided the land of Israel and took a young girl captive who became a servant to the wife of Naaman. She said to her mistress, “If my master would only present himself to the prophet in Samaria, he would surely cure him of his leprosy.”

Naaman went to tell the king what the young Israelite maidservant had said. The king of Aram said to him, “Go to the prophet, and I shall also send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman went and took with him ten silver talents, six thousand gold pieces and ten festal garments.

On his arrival, he delivered the letter to the king of Israel. It said, “I present my servant Naaman to you that you may heal him of his leprosy. When the king read the letter, he tore his clothes to show his indignation, “I am not God to give life or death. And the king of Aram sends me this man to be healed! You see, he is just looking for an excuse for war.”

Elisha, the man of God, came to know that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, so he sent this message to him : “Why have you torn your clothes? Let the man come to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and stopped before the house of Elisha. Elisha then sent a messenger to tell him, “Go to the river Jordan and wash seven times, and your flesh shall be as it was before, and you shall be cleansed.”

Naaman was angry, so he went away. He thought, “On my arrival, he should have personally come out, and then paused and called on the Name of YHVH, his God. And he should have touched with his hand the infected part, and I would have been healed. Are the rivers of Damascus, Abana and Pharpar not better than all the rivers of the land of Israel? Could I not wash there to be healed?”

His servants approached him and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had ordered you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? But how much easier when he said : ‘Take a bath and you will be cleansed.’” So Naaman went down to the Jordan where he washed himself seven times as Elisha had ordered. His skin became soft like that of a child and he was cleansed.

Then Naaman returned to the man of God with all his men.