HOMILY LENT WEEK 03 01 – Year I
The Healing Power of Humble Faith
(2 Kg 5:1-15; Ps 42; Lk 4:24-30)
A little recovery joke fits today’s liturgy. The addict’s problem is not that he or she thinks, “I am very special.” Nor is it that he or she thinks, “I am a worm.” The addict’s problem is that he or she is convinced: “I am a very special worm!”
The readings today invite us to place our faith in Jesus, come to him humbly with our need, and receive his healing.
The first invitation in the readings is to have humble faith like that of Elisha, who when he learned that King Aram had sent Naaman, the commander of his army to Israel to be healed, responded with total certitude and confidence, “Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” I believe he also stated this in all humility and without a shred of false pride, because he knew his healing power was all a gift from God, through his predecessor, the prophet Elijah, who gave him a double portion of his own healing power. His faith builds on the faith of the captive servant girl who told Naaman’s wife to send Naaman to Samaria, where she was convinced the prophet Elisha would cure him of his leprosy.
In the gospel, Jesus struggles with the unbelief of the people of his time, who simply cannot absorb that God would come among them in such a humble fashion as to be one of them. When they were reminded by Jesus of the barrier their pride and that of their ancestors put up against experiencing God’s love and healing, that point of truth so enraged them that they wanted to destroy Jesus. There we see the dark side of false pride, expressing itself as denial, blame, projection and even murderous intent, instead of humble faith and repentance.
The second invitation in these readings is to be aware of and admit our need in all humility. Naaman the leper’s problem at first was his false pride. When asked by the prophet Elisha to wash in the Jordan, his pride bristled (like the people of Jesus’ time) and in his anger, he refused to do so, claiming the rivers in Damascus are better than that of the Jordan river. Mind you, having been to the Jordan and seeing how puny and muddy it is, one could almost excuse him for having that attitude.
Fortunately, his servants had more humility and faith than he did, and convinced him to submit to the prophet’s suggestions. As we read, his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy. It was not really the water itself that brought about his healing, but rather the fact that in the end, he had faith in the prophet and humbled himself to obey Elisha’s instruction.
There is another underlying message in these texts, and that is how God reveals God’s self through unlikely people and circumstances. The healing of Naaman all begins with a little girl – an unlikely hero – and yet she plays a major role in Naaman’s miraculous healing. She shows that the small and the humble can bring great glory to the Lord. The scene with this little girl moves us because it comes from such an unexpected place, a place of purity, sincerity and humble simplicity.
It is the same story throughout the scriptures. Gideon, the youngest of the least of the families of Israel, led his people to victory. Ruth, a widowed and impoverished foreigner, won the heart of a wealthy Israelites and became part of Jesus’ family tree. And King David was just a young shepherd boy when the Lord chose him.
In a similar way, God can use us to reveal God’s self. We may not be wealthy, powerful or famous. We may feel that we don’t have a lot of control over our circumstances either. But none of that matters to God. In fact, we might just be the right person God is looking for. Just as God worked through a little girl to change the course of history, God can use us to bring powerful change to us and the people around us.
Whether we are doing dishes, shoveling snow or filing papers, we can be a vessel of Jesus’ love and grace. A simple word of encouragement, spoken from a heart of love and trust, can do far more than we can imagine. Just ask that little girl who set Naaman on the road to healing.
We may have to check our attitudes, to see if there is any of that false pride of the people Jesus’ addressed, who were scandalized by his ordinariness and lacked faith in him, or that initial attitude of Naaman that at first blocked his own healing. Our willingness to have faith in Jesus to forgive and heal us, and to humbly come to him to receive that forgiveness and healing, can make all the difference in our lives, and in the lives of those around us.
The Eucharist is a profound act of faith as well as a humble meal, as we listen to the Word of God, and receive God’s forgiveness and healing even as we celebrate. May it strengthen our faith in Jesus, deepen our humility, grant us any healing we may need, and empower us to be like that young servant girl, in bringing God’s love and healing to others.