Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday of the Third Week in Lent

4 Kings 5:1-15 / Luke 4:23-30

Why hast thou rent thy garments? Let him come to me, and let him know that there is a prophet in Israel.

When Naaman the Syrian, the general of the king of Syria and a man not to be trifled with, came to the king of Israel to seek healing for his leprosy, the king was none too pleased. Indeed, more to the point, he was frightened and thrown into a panic. For the king of Israel, his arrival could only be read as a challenge, a set-up to provide the pretence for war. Am I God, the king asks, to be able to kill and give life, that this man hath sent to me to heal a man of his leprosy? Mark, and see how he seeketh occasions against me.

Now, the king of Israel knew perfectly well the stories told of the mighty works which God performed at the time of the patriarchs, of Moses, and of the judges. He even knew of the more recent mighty deeds that had been accomplished by the prophet Elijah. Yet, despite knowing all of this, the king could not imagine that right then and there, right in his very midst, God would do anything wonderful. He interprets Naaman's request on a purely earthly level because, whatever he may tell himself he believes, in actual fact he lives and thinks as though his only hope is in this world. That the absence of regular wonders accomplished by God might not be a sign of divine incapacity, but of the freedom of the Lord to choose when, where, and how to act in the world, whether by sustaining the ordinary course of things or by dramatic restoration of what has been lost, never occurred to him.

We confess great and wonderful things, not only the mighty deeds God did of old for the patriarchs, judges, kings, and prophets, but even more so what God has accomplished in the Incarnation of his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. We proclaim to the world his power over unclean spirits, his healing touch which could give sight to the blind and make the dead to be alive again, his profound insight into the human heart and making known what we imagine remains forever hidden. We know all of his, or at least we profess to do so. Even so, when presented with a challenge, whether posed by an unbeliever or by our fellow believers, like the king of Israel we tend to balk. Whatever we may tell ourselves about what we believe, we are sorely tempted to act and think as though our only hope is in our own power.

While it is not acceptable to demand of Jesus Christ signs at our bidding, to satisfy our doubts or he doubts of an unbelieving world, if is our task and glory as believers to bear witness to the world and to ourselves of the mighty deeds God is working here and now. That God works in simple ways, in ways not open to consumption by the global news outlets, does not make his activity any less worthy of our confidence. Unlike Naaman, we need not turn our noses up to the simple but powerful means we have been given in Jesus Christ: the sacraments, intercessory prayer, mercy and the forgiveness of sins. These can and do work wonders, even proper miracles

The world is afflicted no less than Naaman was, and in Jesus Christ we have something greater by far than the prophet Elisha. Do we have the confidence to trust in him, and to draw any who are seeking an answer to their needs the only source that will satisfy?

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