Monday of the Third Week of Lent
Readings: 2 Kings 5:1-15ab and Luke 4:24-30
One of the themes in the readings for today is that God is present in ordinary things.
Naaman is presented to us as the commander of the armies of the kingdom of Aram (Syria). We know that the Arameans have recently been in conflict with the Israelites because they have captured, and enslaved, a little girl. Naaman has developed leprosy, an incurable disease that will disfigure him and likely isolate him from society. There is no hope for him, yet the little girl urges him to present himself to the prophet in Israel to be healed.
Imagine how important Naaman was, and how desperate the problem, if the king of Aram humbled himself to appeal to his enemy in search of a cure. Elisha agrees to receive Naaman in order to demonstrate that there is indeed a prophet in Israel. But Naaman is stunned and disappointed when Elisha tells him simply to wash in the Jordan. He was hoping for a miracle, expecting some dramatic set of events that would restore his health, something like the spectacles of the magicians of the ancient world.
Elisha knows, however (and there are many other examples), that God is present in ordinary things, not merely in extraordinary events. God works through the commonplace—water, flour, wood, wine and even little girls—to remind us that he is present everywhere and that his gifts are offered every day.
Jesus recalls this example in the reading from Luke. In this incident, he has just read a powerful passage from Isaiah, a passage that seems to speak of dramatic things that God will do, and told the men in the synagogue that Isaiah’s words are fulfilled then and there. Like Naaman, the men are stunned and they respond in anger at what they believe to be Jesus’s arrogance. They cannot believe that God can work in the ordinary. When they try to punish him for his words, he does not escape; he simply walks through them, in an ordinary way, and leaves the village.
We are like Naaman and the men of Nazareth if we only see God’s presence in extraordinary events. But he offers his grace on a daily basis in the sacraments, through words and water, bread, wine and oil; ordinary things of daily life. Perhaps in this Lenten season we can refocus our attention on the common gift of God’s grace and his presence in the ordinary.
Robert G Kennedy, PhD
Professor and Chair
Department of Catholic Studies