The Word for the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time:
2 Kings 5:14-17
Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4
2 Timothy 2:8-13
We open with a reading from 2nd Kings. Naaman, a Syrian military commander, seeks to thank Elisha for curing him of his leprosy (an act that King Joram of Israel is not too keen to happen). Not only does he wish to give thanks to Elisha, but also to his God. This is nothing short of a complete conversion for Naaman, who not only sees the glory of God, but recognizes the importance of the land in this covenant relationship. He asks for two mule loads of dirt to take back to his homeland in order to worship God on his land. Naaman’s experience shows us several lessons: First, of the need to show gratitude and thanks. Second, is both recognizing and giving honor to God. Third, it is an example of a theme that is often played out in the story of the prophets… where a foreigner finds greater insight (and favor) with God than do his own chosen people.
All these themes are also reflected in our Gospel. In another story that is unique to Luke’s Gospel (and a continuation from where we left off last week), we are told Jesus is traveling through Samaria and Galilee (the equivalent of the “outback”) on his way to Jerusalem when he happens upon ten lepers. They ask Jesus to have pity on them, whereupon he tells them to go show themselves to the priest. As they go on their way, they are cured of their affliction. When this happens, one of the men, a Samaritan, runs back to Jesus to thank him. Once again, the one who is a foreigner demonstrates a faith stronger than the others, and is blessed for it.
In our second reading, we continue our study of the 2nd letter to Timothy, where an imprisoned Paul urging Timothy to persevere in his call to Christ. The message is clear… stick with Christ, and you will be saved; deny Christ, and he will deny you. It’s a harsh testament, but one must also realize that Jesus is also our advocate, our champion to the Father, willing to forgive us our sins if we stray. To deny Christ completely so that he denies you would take a lot of effort, but we must always remind ourselves that it can happen. Paul’s words are meant to inspire us while shaking us out of our complacency, fear, or guilt. Paul himself would remind you that even a sinner such as himself can be saved.
While our readings teach us about prayers of thanksgiving, there are also other types and forms of prayer. Prayer is an essential part of our faith life, yet for many it is one of the most misunderstood and often elusive aspects of their Christian experience.