Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all called to heed the messages which the Lord through His Church wants us all to listen to and understand as we are reminded to entrust ourselves to Him and to have faith in Him, the One and only One Who is our Hope and Redemption. Through the Lord alone we can find the path to eternal life and freedom from suffering and sin, and that is what the Lord wants us all to know through our reading passages this Sunday, as we heard of the miraculous healing of people suffering from leprosy.
In our first reading today, taken from the Second Book of Kings of Israel and Judah, we heard of the story of Naaman the Syrian, the great general and champion of the King of Aram, the northern neighbour and enemy of the Israelites, who unfortunately suffered from leprosy, which was then a dreaded disease that was considered unclean and the sufferer often shunned by the community due to its hideous appearance and not only that, but the leprosy itself also gradually spread and eventually could lead to death unless it was treated. Some types of leprosy also had no cure at all, and thus its sufferer had to endure a lifetime of suffering and rejection by the community.
The King of Aram sought the help of the King of Israel back then, as he heard how the prophet Elisha in Israel was well-known for his miracles and powers, and how he had healed people who came to him, and thus, it was hoped that Naaman himself could also be healed from his leprosy condition. Naaman travelled all the way to Israel and sought for Elisha, and prior to what we heard in today’s first reading, when the prophet Elisha told him to immerse himself in the River Jordan seven times, Naaman initially refused to do so in pride, but eventually was convinced by his servant to obey the instructions of Elisha, and that brought him to be healed from his leprosy.
Naaman was very grateful for the healing, and he offered to give generously to Elisha, who refused it, saying that he only did as was asked of him by God, and instead therefore, Naaman promised to carry the soil from the land where he was healed, in order to built an Altar to God, committing himself therefore to worship the one and only true God, the God of Israel. It is here that we must take note that there is an irony there considering how the prophet Elisha himself was considered rather as a pariah in Israel, and if we read on the earlier passage before today’s part, we can see the reluctance on the side of the King of Israel and his officials in helping Naaman to find the prophet Elisha.
The prophet Elisha had been labouring for years, continuing the good works started by his predecessor Elijah, calling on the people of the northern kingdom of Israel to return to God and abandon their sinful and wicked ways, without much success, and there we ourselves heard how it was a Syrian, an Aramaean, the great general of the kingdom that was a bitter rival of the Israelites who actually submitted himself to the Lord and His prophet, and glorified the Lord, promising to honour Him and building an Altar to Him, thanking God for all that had been done to him, when the very people of God in Israel refused to do so, for such a long time.
We heard something similar in our Gospel passage this Sunday as well, when we heard of the Lord Jesus being approached by ten lepers during His journey through Samaria and Galilee, coincidentally the very same place where the prophet Elisha was ministering to, in the northern kingdom of Israel. The ten lepers asked the Lord to heal them of their leprosy, and the Lord instructed the ten men to go and show themselves to the priest, much as how Elisha instructed Naaman to immerse himself seven times in the River Jordan. The ten men went as they were commanded, and as they did so, they were healed from their leprosy, and as we heard, when they realised this, they all were exuberant and joyful, and went on their way except for one of them, a Samaritan, who went back and seek the Lord to thank Him.
Like Naaman the Syrian, the Samaritan man was also considered as a foreigner by the Jewish people, the descendants of the people of God, the Israelites. The Samaritans were often ostracised and being prejudiced against, and they were deemed as godless pagans and people who were unworthy of God, His grace and salvation. They were often shunned and rejected by the Jewish people, and it was considered taboo and unclean for someone of Jewish descent to speak to the Samaritans, as what the Gospels themselves told us in other occasions as well. Yet, as the Lord showed us, only the Samaritan man returned to give thanks to God while the other people did not make the same effort to show their gratitude to God.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us are henceforth reminded of several important things that we need to take note of. Firstly, the leprosy itself, which was and is still a disease that can spread from person to person, and which ostracised the people who suffered from it from the community. Now, sin is sometimes referred to as the leprosy of the soul and just as leprosy, it can spread and afflict more and more parts of our being. And sin is even more dangerous than leprosy because while leprosy only afflicts our physical bodies and will not harm our souls, minds and hearts and our whole beings, sin afflicts and corrupts everything, and sin can lead us to everlasting death, from which there can be no escape.
Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because sin leads us to disobedience against God and it can draw us further and further away from His path, and we may end up falling more and more towards eternal damnation in hell, separated and cast away from God, all because of our own conscious and deliberate rejection of God and His ways, and because the allure and the power of sin can be so great and difficult for us to free ourselves from, unless we make the conscious effort to seek the Lord out to help us, just as Naaman and the ten lepers sought for help from Elisha and the Lord Jesus respectively. And we must know that only God alone can forgive us from our sins, and He alone can heal us from this most terrible affliction.
Then this Sunday, we are also reminded to be thankful to God for all that He had done for us, just as how Naaman and the Samaritan man thanked the Lord for all that had been done to them. Often times, we do not even remember God and ignored Him all throughout and remembering Him only when we have the need for Him. That is what many of us often did, that we only remember the Lord when we want Him to do something for us, to help us and to grant us our petitions and wishes, and otherwise, in good times, we ignore Him and forget about Him. The Lord has done so many things for us, giving us life, providing for us, protecting from harm’s path and helping us when we fall astray. Yet, we often ignore all these or did not realise them because we are often too preoccupied with ourselves and our many attachments in life. And God is also often not a priority in our lives.
We have to remember all that God has so lovingly done upon us, and St. Paul in his Epistle to St. Timothy in our second reading today had made clear how through Christ, all of us have been brought to freedom, liberated from the tyranny and chains of sin and evil, and through Him and His willingness to bear the burdens of our sins upon His Cross, we have been made sharers of His death, in dying to our past life of sinfulness and evil, and thereafter, sharing in His glorious Resurrection by which He had conquered death. All of us have received this assurance of eternal life and glory through Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, Who has come upon us and bestowed on us such great joy and hope.
That is why today we are all reminded to be vigilant against sin and to come and seek the Lord with renewed vigour so that each and every one of us may draw ever closer to God. And not only that, but each one of us as members of the Church should also help one another, caring for each other without prejudice and bias, just as what the readings have reminded us earlier today. The Samaritans and Naaman were both belonging to the group of those whom the people of God in the past often looked down upon and were biased upon, and yet, ironically, it was them who gave thanks to God and remembered to show their gratitude to Him.
This is why each one of us must not have that pride and ego or self-righteous attitude in us, which can often end up in being elitists and in trying to exclude others whom we think and consider to be less worthy than we are. Brothers and sisters in Christ, each one of us are sinners, and it is by the grace of God that we have been made worthy, and we should not make any judgment on others, especially when we do so with the intention to glorify ourselves and to discredit others whom we disagree or dislike, because of our preexisting biases or prejudices. Instead, we should help one another and inspire each other in our way of life, so that we may help to bring ourselves ever closer to God in all the things we say and do.
Let us all as members of God’s Church, as fellow Christians, do our very best to do God’s will and to seek His forgiveness and mercy for our many sins. Let us all draw ever closer to Him, by spending more time with Him through prayer, and by dedicating our efforts and attention to Him. May the Lord continue to guide us and bless us in all things so that we may always ever be close to Him and so that our entire existence may be filled with God’s grace and blessings, and we too may be inspiration and hope for one another in our journey together towards God. Amen.