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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

2 Kings 5, 1-15a

Naaman, army commander to the king of Aram, was a man who enjoyed his master's respect and favour, since through him Yahweh had granted victory to the Aramaeans.

But the man suffered from a virulent skin-disease. Now, on one of their raids into Israelite territory, the Aramaeans had carried off a little girl, who became a servant of Naaman's wife.

She said to her mistress, 'If only my master would approach the prophet of Samaria! He would cure him of his skin-disease.'

Naaman went and told his master. 'This and this', he reported, 'is what the girl from Israel has said.'

'Go by all means,' said the king of Aram, 'I shall send a letter to the king of Israel.' So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten festal robes.

He presented the letter to the king of Israel. It read, 'With this letter, I am sending my servant Naaman to you for you to cure him of his skin-disease.'

When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes. 'Am I a god to give death and life,' he said, 'for him to send a man to me and ask me to cure him of his skin-disease? Listen to this and take note of it and see how he intends to pick a quarrel with me.'

When Elisha heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent word to the king, 'Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, and he will find there is a prophet in Israel.'

So Naaman came with his team and chariot and drew up at the door of Elisha's house.

And Elisha sent him a messenger to say, 'Go and bathe seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will become clean once more.'

But Naaman was indignant and went off, saying, 'Here was I, thinking he would be sure to come out to me, and stand there, and call on the name of Yahweh his God, and wave his hand over the spot and cure the part that was diseased.

Surely, Abana and Parpar, the rivers of Damascus, are better than any water in Israel? Could I not bathe in them and become clean?' And he turned round and went off in a rage.

But his servants approached him and said, 'Father, if the prophet had asked you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? All the more reason, then, when he says to you, "Bathe, and you will become clean." '

So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, as Elisha had told him to do. And his flesh became clean once more like the flesh of a little child.

Returning to Elisha with his whole escort, he went in and, presenting himself, said, 'Now I know that there is no God anywhere on earth except in Israel. Now, please, accept a present from your servant.'


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

The story of the healing of Naaman is one of the most famous episodes of the second book of Kings. Naaman (which in Hebrew means "charming") is a "great man" also protected by the Lord for the victory over the Arameans. He is, however, suffering from leprosy. And the concern of his family and of the king himself for his health is great. Obviously, his human qualities, his social status, his power do not erase his fragility. But among the deportees of his house there is an Israelite "little girl." She suggested Naaman's wife to go to the prophet Elisha because he could free him of his leprosy. It is from the faith of this Jewish "little girl" which starts the healing of the great Aramean man. It is further confirmation that the effectiveness of faith is stronger than human strength. The king, although he did not understand the deep meaning of the intervention of the girl, believes that everything depends on the king of Israel. He therefore sends a delegation full of gifts to present to the king of Israel so that he accepts his request: ten talents of silver six thousand pieces of gold, and ten sets of clothes. After reading the letter requesting the healing of the general, the king of Israel gets irritated: "‘Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?" We could say that even he does not understand what is happening, as often happens to believers when they stop at the surface of events and do not undertake to understand human affairs illuminated by the Holy Scriptures. Elisha, however, attentive to the Word of God and the "signs" that the Lord sends and having heard about the affair, corrects the king and makes Naaman come to him. Without leaving home he sends a messenger to tell him to go to bathe seven times in the Jordan. At the end of the seventh immersion he would be healed. Faced with this simple invitation, Naaman reacts shocked and angry. Maybe he thought it was a simple therapeutic ritual. In truth it is a purely religious act because obedience to the word of the prophet meant obedience to God himself. It was necessary to understand those words in their deeper sense, as originated by God himself, and not stop at the surface. Otherwise, it was obvious that the two rivers that flow through Damascus were much more important than the modest Jordan River. Naaman is convinced by the servants to carry out the letter the word of the prophet, and to immerse himself in the river seven times. An obedient act that was not totally understood was enough to defeat evil. And in fact, at the end of the immersion "his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy." Naaman could be readmitted to the court and resume his ordinary life. But he was not only healed in the body. Naaman had understood that in the words of the prophet there was the presence of God. And then he made his profession of faith in the God of Israel: "Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel.” He wanted to take two loads of the land of Israel to bring Syria to continue to praise the Lord. Rich gifts were not needed for healing; following the suggestion of the "little girl" and obeying the word of the prophet were enough. The rich gifts brought on behalf of the king are not needed, so much so that Elisha refuses them. In the relationship with God the heart is what counts, and faith in the Lord. Naaman obeyed what he was told and got complete "liberation." And Naaman becomes a sign of salvation for his people.

Memory of the Poor