Together in Spirit

Browsing From the Desk of Fr. Mike

A Story about Expectation & Gratitude

The first reading of today’s Mass needs a bit of introduction. We are getting the end of the story, but the ending does not give the fullness of the encounter. Naaman is the army commander of the king of Aram. He had leprosy, which is an affliction that could happen to anyone. By the time of this story people had figured out that leprosy is a disease that could be “caught” by being around someone who had it.  Naaman was seeking a cure, but there was nothing that made a difference. In a raid of Israel the Arameans captured a little girl who became the servant of Naaman’s wife. This girl told her master that there was a prophet in Samaria who would cure her husband if he presented himself to the prophet. Naaman told the king of Aram about this, and the king sent him to the king of Israel with a letter asking that the king of Israel cure his servant Naaman. The king, upon receiving this letter tore his garment and complained that the king of Aram was just picking a fight with him, expecting him to do the impossible.  Elisha, the prophet of Samaria hears the king’s complaint and sends word to have Naaman come to him. With great expectation Naaman arrives taking along ten silver talents, six thousand gold pieces, and ten festal garments. He is expecting great things from this prophet. Elisha tells him to go to the Jordan river and wash himself seven times and his skin will be clear. Naaman becomes indignant. His servants encouraged him to do what the prophet asked, saying “if he had asked you to do something extraordinary you would do it. “  Naaman goes to the Jordan and plunges in seven times. His skin is cleansed.

It is here that we pick up the rest of the story in today’s readings. Naaman comes back to Elisha and wants to give him all of his gifts in thanksgiving for his healing. Elisha refuses and instead Naaman takes the two muleloads of dirt so that he can offer prayers and sacrifices to the God who resides in Israel (Samaria). The story goes on with Gehazi, the servant of Elisha deciding that Elisha was too easy on him, so he runs after Naaman. When Naaman sees him, he stops and Gehazi asks him (lying with the name of Elisha) for two silver talents and two festal garments. Naaman was happy to give this to him. When Gehazi returns to Elisha after laying claim to these “gifts” he is confronted by the prophet who tells him that he was present in spirit when Naaman stepped off his chariot and gave Gehazi these gifts. Elisha tells him that the leprosy of Naaman will cling to him and his family forever.

The Church centers on the response of Naaman because it indicates his thankfulness and gratitude for the restoration of his health. Note too that Naaman was a foreigner just as the one leper of the ten who have been cured returned to the Lord was a foreigner. Those who have no expectation of God’s favor and receive it seem to be more responsive than those who think God owes them. 



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