Reading (2 Kings 5:1-15ab) Gospel (St. Luke 4:24-30)
There are two things in today’s readings that we need to look at. First of all, what Our Lord had to say to the people of His own hometown, and I suspect if He were standing here before us, He might say something rather similar. He tells us that there were many widows in the time of Elijah and there were many lepers in the time of Elisha, yet to none of these were the prophets sent. It was only to these two foreigners that God had given the grace to be healed. It is not that there was no grace there for any of the people of Israel – it is that they did not accept it because something was just too simple.
There was a little girl from Israel who told her master, “If only Naaman would go and show himself to the prophet, he would be healed.” She had absolute confidence. There was no doubt in her mind at all that this would take place; it was a done deal, as far as she was concerned. And Naaman, the head of the army, was willing to humble himself and come to Israel and show himself before the prophet. Now that is where our trouble comes in. Most of us are not really willing to believe what God has promised, and most of us are not willing to humble ourselves to come before Him and do whatever is required, which usually is not a whole lot.
But that is the other point we need to learn from Naaman in the first reading. He humbles himself, shows up, and then gets angry because he thought that he already knew what the prophet was going to tell him to do. “Oh, he was just supposed to wave his hand over the spot and take it away! What’s this nonsense of telling me to go down to the Jordan River and plunge in seven times?!” He nearly walked away unhealed. It was only when his servants reasoned with him and said what all of us would fall into the same category with. They said, “If the prophet had told you to do something extraordinary, would you not have done it? How much more now, since he told you only to do something very simple?”
All of us probably fall into the same boat. Number one, we think we have God figured out, so we know how He is supposed to do things – which it never happens that way. As soon as you think you have got Him figured out, He will do something different just to let you know you do not have Him figured out. And secondly, if He told us to do something extraordinary, we would do it. But because He does not tell us to do anything extraordinary, but just something very simple and ordinary, it passes most of us by because we are not expecting that and we think it is either too simple or beneath our dignity or it cannot be that easy or whatever goes through our minds. So we reject it outright.
God’s ways are very simple. He is not trying to do anything that is going to “wow” somebody. He is not trying to require something of us that is so difficult it would barely be able to be accomplished. God is a loving Father. He is not going to ask of us something that we are not going to be able to do, at least reasonably. He is going to ask what is going to be rather simple for us. Like any father, He is going to set it up for success; but if the children decide that this is too simple and it is too good to be true – “God couldn’t possibly do this for me!” – then we walk away. That is what Naaman nearly did, and it is what all too many Catholics do every single day. God’s invitation and His manner, everything that He is about, is very simple; all we need to do is accept. It is just that simple. If we would have the faith of this little girl, who was now a slave, to send her master, the general of the enemy army, down to Israel to be healed, and if we had the faith of Naaman, willing to go in order to be healed, God could do extraordinary things in our lives.
The problem is that we think the call somehow has to be extraordinary, and it does not. It is very simple and very ordinary. The manner in which God does things is very simple and very ordinary. So we have got it backwards. We think He needs to do something extraordinary in order to accomplish the ordinary in our lives. Instead, He does things that are very ordinary in order to accomplish that which is very extraordinary. That is the point we need to understand. We need to let the guard down, we need to put aside all of the assumptions that we come into this with, and we need to simply allow Him to show us what He wants us to do. We need to have the faith of a child to be willing to say “yes”, to get ourselves out of the way and let God do extraordinary things in us.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.