Memory of Jesus crucified

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

2 Kings 5,1-19

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.'

But Elisha replied, 'As Yahweh lives, whom I serve, I will accept nothing.' Naaman pressed him to accept, but he refused.

Then Naaman said, 'Since your answer is "No," allow your servant to be given as much earth as two mules may carry, since your servant will no longer make burnt offerings or sacrifice to any god except Yahweh.

Only -- and may Yahweh forgive your servant for this -- when my master goes to the temple of Rimmon to worship there, he leans on my arm, and I bow down in the temple of Rimmon when he does; may Yahweh forgive your servant for doing this!'

'Go in peace,' Elisha replied.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The story of the healing of Naaman is one of the best-known episodes in the second book of Kings. Naaman (which in Hebrew means "fascinating") is a "great man" ("highly esteemed" according to the New American Bible) through whom the Lord had given victory over the Arameans. Nonetheless, he is sick with leprosy. This is of great concern to his family and even to the king. His human qualities, his social condition, and his power obviously cannot eliminate his fragility. But among the deportees in his household there is an Israelite "little girl." She suggested to Naaman’s wife to go to the prophet Elisha because he would be able to free her husband from leprosy. The healing of the "great" Aramean man begins with the faith of the "little" Hebrew girl. It is one more proof of the power of faith, which is stronger than human power. Even if he has not understood the deeper meaning of the girl’s request, the king believes that everything depends on the king of Israel. Therefore he sends a delegation laden with gifts to present to the Israelite sovereign to convince him to grant his request: ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. The king of Israel becomes angry after he reads the letter asking for the healing of the general: "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 he does not understand what is happening either, as often happens to believers when they stop at the surface of events and do not try to understand human affairs in the light of Holy Scripture. Elisha, on the other hand, is attentive to the Word of God and to the "signs" that the Lord sends. Once he has heard what happened, he corrects the king and sends for Naaman. Without even leaving his house he sends out a messenger to tell the general to wash himself in the Jordan seven times. After the seventh washing, he will be healed. But Naaman reacts to this simple invitation with anger and bewilderment. He probably thinks that it is just a simple therapeutic ritual. In truth it is an exquisitely religious act, because obedience to the words of the prophet means obedience to God himself. It was necessary to understand the deeper meaning of these words, to see that they came from God himself, to not stop at the surface. Otherwise it was obvious that the two rivers that flowed through Damascus were much greater than the modest river Jordan. Naaman is convinced by his servants to carry out the prophet’s words to the letter and to immerse himself in the river seven times. Even a not-fully-conscious obedience was enough to defeat evil. And indeed, after bathing "his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy." Naaman could be readmitted at court and return to his ordinary life. But he was not only healed in his body. Naaman had understood that God was present in the prophet’s words, and so he professed his 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 earth from Israel and bring them to Syria so he could continue to praise the Lord. Rich gifts were not needed to obtain healing; it was enough to follow the advice of the "young girl" and obey the word of the prophet. The rich gifts brought in the name of the king were not needed; in fact, Elisha refused them. The heart is what counts in our relationship with God; what counts is our faith in Him. Naaman obeyed what had been said to him, and so he obtained "full" liberation. And Naaman became a sign of salvation for his people, too.