Monday, 8 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John of God, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scripture in which we heard about the healing of the Syrian general Naaman by the prophet Elisha through the power of God, and how the same healing was mentioned by the Lord as He spoke to the people of His own hometown in Nazareth, as He was not trusted and believed by the latter.

In our first reading, Naaman the Syrian was the trusted general and right hand man of the Aramean king, the rival kingdom of Israel, who unfortunately had contracted leprosy, a disease that was much dreaded at that time. Those who contracted leprosy would end up losing their limbs and might even end up in death, as the disease would keep on spreading through the body and inflict more damage unless the person was able to fight off the infection, which was actually quite rare given the then relatively primitive form of healthcare.

That was why the Aramean king was desperate to find cure for Naaman, and hearing that the famous prophet Elisha and his miracles in Israel, the king endeavoured to send Naaman to his rival king and enemy, to seek for healing. Naturally the king of Israel, who was no friend of Elisha, refused to help, and Naaman had to go and visit Elisha on his own.

When he found the prophet Elisha, he was told to go and immerse himself seven times in the River Jordan and he would be healed. Naaman was angry that the prophet did not come and do as what he had expected, that Elisha would touch him and make him whole again in body and healed from his leprosy. He found that the task of immersing himself in the River Jordan to be ridiculous, and that the rivers of his own homeland were no less great.

However, as we heard, Naaman’s servant begged him to listen to reason and just do as the prophet had asked him, as it was just something very simple to be done, to immerse himself seven times in the River Jordan. And almost immediately after Naaman did so, he was healed and was perfectly healthy again. Naaman obeyed and swallowed his pride, and he was healed by God.

This is what the Lord referred to when His own people rejected Him and refused to listen to Him, as He stated how during the time of Elisha, it was the pagans like Naaman who came to be healed by God and who was the one that eventually became a believer, while the Israelites of Elisha’s time remained distant and in open rebellion against God and His ways.

What is the significance of these readings, brothers and sisters in Christ? First of all, we are all called to seek God’s forgiveness and mercy, to be healed of our sins, for indeed our sins are just like leprosy, eating and gnawing at us, the ‘leprosy’ of our souls. And unlike the physical leprosy of the body that can still be healed by medicine and worldly means, the only cure for sin is God’s forgiveness and grace.

God alone can heal us from our sins, and through His forgiveness we are made whole once again. However, it requires from us the desire to be forgiven, and for us to humble ourselves like what Naaman had done. More often than not, it is our pride and ego, our stubbornness and desire that become major obstacles preventing us from gaining forgiveness and mercy from God.

As Naaman’s servant pointed out, it was actually not a difficult thing that the prophet Elisha had asked of Naaman to do in order to be healed, and thus, it is the same for all of us as well. God has abundantly made available His forgiveness and mercy, constantly seeking for us and wanting all of us to be reconciled to Him. However, it is we ourselves who have delayed, postponed, refused to commit to the Lord and was ambivalent in our attitude towards Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this cannot be the case anymore. We must not allow our pride and ego from undermining our path towards reconciliation with God. In this season of Lent, that is why we are all called to embrace God’s ever generous mercy and compassion, and seek to be healed just as God has healed Naaman from his leprosy, that we too can be healed from the sins we have with us.

Today, let us all follow the good examples set by St. John of God, one of our holy predecessors in faith. St. John of God was a soldier and later on farmer, who grew dissatisfied with the way he led his life, as he struggled spiritually with all the hardships he saw in all those whom he encountered. In the end, this led to him going through a period of conversion and became a dedicated servant to the Lord and His people as a religious brother, serving the poor and the sick in particular.

St. John of God was thereafter renowned for his care for the sick and the poor, and he inspired many others to follow his examples, in being charitable and generous in giving, in obeying the Lord’s commandments and being righteous and good in his deeds, and this is what all of us as Christians can also be inspired to do as well. It is by following these faithful examples as shown by St. John of God that we can draw closer to God and find healing and justification through Him.

May the Lord be with us always and may He guide us all through life, and may He help us to remain humble and to desire His forgiveness and mercy so that we may find healing and reconciliation through our humility and sincere desire to seek Him for forgiveness and grace, that we may once again be living worthily in His presence, free from sin and from its corrupting influence and power so that in the end, we may enter into the eternal glory of heaven. Amen.

Monday, 8 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John of God, Religious (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, 8 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John of God, Religious (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, 8 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John of God, Religious (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.