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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 5,1-15

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 "fascinating") is a "great man" through whom the Lord had given victory to the Arameans. But he is suffering from leprosy. His family’s concern for him is great, as is the king’s. Obviously his human qualities, his social status, and his power have not erased his fragility. But among the deportees in his household there is a "young girl" from Israel. She suggested to Namaan’s wife to go to the prophet Elisha because he would be able to free him from leprosy. It is the faith of this "young girl" from Israel that starts the process that leads to the healing of the "great man" of Aram. It is one more confirmation of the effectiveness of faith, which is stronger than human power. Even if he has not understood the deeper meaning of the girl’s words, the king thinks that everything depends on the king of Israel. So he sends a delegation with lavish gifts to the sovereign of Israel in hopes that he will grant his request: ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. After reading the letter asking for the healing of the general, the king of Israel becomes angry: "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 the king himself does not understand what is going on, as often happens to believers when they stop at the surface of events and do not try to understand human history in light of Holy Scripture. Elisha, however, is attentive to the Word of God and to the "signs" that the Lord sends. Once he learns of the affair, he corrects the king and sends for Naaman. Without leaving his house, he sends a messenger to tell him to go and wash himself seven times in the Jordan. At the end of the seventh bath he would be healed. Naaman is taken aback and gets angry at such a simple invitation. He probably thinks it is just a simple therapeutic rite. In truth the act is exquisitely religious, because obedience to the word of the prophet signifies obedience to God himself. It was necessary to understand the most profound meaning of those words - the fact that they originated with God - 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 river Jordan. Naaman was convinced by his servants to carry out the words of the prophet to the letter and wash himself in the river seven times. Being obedient even without completely understanding was enough to defeat evil. In fact, after he had washed, "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 his body. Naaman had understood that God was present in the words of the prophet. And then he made his profession of faith to the God of Israel: "Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel." He wanted to take two mule-loads of the soil of Israel to bring [or lead] Syria to continue to praise the Lord. Rich gifts were not needed to obtain healing: it was enough to follow the suggestion of a "young girl" and obey the words of the prophet. The rich gifts brought in the name of the king were not needed; indeed, Elisha refused them. In our relationship with God, it is the heart that counts, and our faith in Him. Naaman obeyed what he was told and received full "liberation", and he becomes a sign of salvation for his people, too.

Memory of the Poor

Calendar of the week
Sunday, 15 October
Liturgy of the Sunday
Monday, 16 October
Prayer for peace
Tuesday, 17 October
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
Wednesday, 18 October
Memory of the Apostles
Thursday, 19 October
Memory of the Church
Friday, 20 October
Memory of Jesus crucified
Saturday, 21 October
Sunday Vigil
Sunday, 22 October
Liturgy of the Sunday