Bible meditation: The small voices of the unknown

Sunday October 9, 2022, four texts will be read.
First Reading Second Book of Kings (2 Kings 5, 14-17).
Psalm 97.
Second reading Second Letter to Timothy (2 Tim 2, 8-13).
The Gospel according to Saint Luke (Lk 17, 11-19).

Second Book of Kings 5, 14-17
In those days, the Syrian general Naaman, who was a leper,
descended to the Jordan and dipped himself in it seven times,
to obey the word of Elisha, the man of God;
then his flesh again became like that of a little child: he was purified!
He returned to the man of God with all his escort;
he entered, presented himself before him and declared: “From now on, I know it:
there is no other God, on all the earth, than that of Israel!
Please accept a present from your servant. »
But Elisha replied, “By the life of the Lord whom I serve,
I won’t accept anything. »
Naaman urged him to accept, but he refused.
Naaman then said, “Since it is so, let your servant
take soil from this country
as much as two mules can carry,
because I don’t want to offer any more burnt offerings or sacrifices
to other gods than the Lord God of Israel. »

The story of Naaman the Syrian

We will only read part of Naaman’s story this Sunday, and that’s a shame. Naaman is an important man, a high officer in the King of Aram’s army. But he is stricken with leprosy. Among its staff is a little girl from Israel, taken prisoner by the Aramaic army, who has become a slave to his wife. This young girl advises her mistress to contact Elisha, a prophet in Samaria, capable according to her of curing her master of leprosy.

No one knows the name of this little one, but the whole story that takes place in chapter 5 of the Second Book of Kings is due to her. Naaman, no doubt in despair, believes the little one and goes to find the king of Aram to ask him for permission to go and meet the prophet. The King of Aram sends a letter to this effect to his counterpart, the King of Israel, who understands nothing and assumes that there is a provocation from his adversary.

The biblical text takes great care to distinguish men of faith from others. Among those who believe, the little girl who trusts the prophet and his God, Naaman and his wife who believes the little girl and the king of Aram who supports his general. Among those who doubt, the king of Israel, immediately suspicious. Luckily Elisha the prophet is made aware of Naaman’s request and proposes to the king of Israel to meet him.

The day Naaman arrives in front of his house, Elisha sends him this message: Go and bathe yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will become clean again, you will be cleansed. » (2 Kings 5, 10). Naaman is quite upset: going all this way just to go for a dip when he could have done the same at home, what a masquerade! He hoped to meet a brilliant prophet and experience a great celebration with laying on of hands and invocation of the Most High, but nothing.

On the usefulness of servants when you know how to listen to them

It is his servants, anonymous like the little girl, who put his ideas straight: the prophet asks for something simple, why refuse it? Good question. Why run after sensational, magical cures, when the word of God is simple for the simple in heart. Naaman agrees and goes swimming. He is cured of his leprosy and comes to thank Elisha in the text given to us to read. But we wouldn’t be here without the strangers (the little girl and the servants) who allowed Naaman to trust Elisha.

While Naaman is rich and offers to recompense him, Elisha does not want to receive anything from him. Naaman accepts and goes home with a handful of earth, a way of remembering the Creator God who once fashioned old Adam from the earth and today has brought him back to life. But Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, tricks Naaman into extorting bullion, making him believe that Elisha has changed his mind. Gehazi will pay dearly for this betrayal and will find himself covered with leprosy.

The voice, often despised, of strangers, strangers

The unknown, foreign characters are those who allow Naaman to put his steps in faith in the God of Israel, while the Israelites, the king and the servant of Elisha are those who turn away from it. In the Gospel too, it is a stranger who returns to thank Jesus. We must listen, in the Bible as in life, to the small voices of strangers, of the young slave girl and of the servants of a foreign notable. They might well tell us something about the salvation offered to all by our God.

Anne Lecu is Dominican. She practices medicine in prison. She is the author of This is my body, You consecrated me with a perfume of joy, Our father, and So that you bear fruitpublished by Editions du Cerf.

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Bible meditation: The small voices of the unknown

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