Monday, March 16, 2009

Naaman's Silver

I've read and heard the story before, and I'm sure you have too. It's tied to the gospel from Luke 4, when Jesus goes home to Nazareth to initiate his ministry by reading from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue, then proclaiming, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:21). The people ask him to do some miracles, and he replies by noting that Elijah went to a foreign widow, rather than one from Israel, and Elisha healed a leper from Syria, rather than one of the many lepers in Israel. "When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath" (Luke 4:28).

At Mass today, the story of Naaman from 2 Kings 4 was read. We heard how Naaman was a general in the service of the king of Syria and a leper. A slave girl told him of a prophet in Israel who could cure him. So he packed his bags with valuables and set out with his entourage for Israel. Elisha told him to wash seven times in the Jordan River. Naaman is offended. What's wrong with the rivers in Syria? He storms off, but his servants calm him down, and he returns. Upon bathing for the seventh time, his leprosy is cured. He returns to Elisha and praises the God of Israel. So ends the passage read at Mass, but it's not the end of the story.

Naaman is grateful, and he wants to give gifts to Elisha, but Elisha refuses. Naaman leaves to return to Syria with dirt from Israel so that he can offer sacrifice and worship to the God of Israel. Now the story gets interesting.

One of Elisha's servants, Gehazi, sees Naaman leaving with all of his silver, gold, and festal garments. Gehazi runs after Naaman and tells Naaman that Elisha sent him. Gehazi asks Naaman for two talents of silver and two festal garments, to which Naaman generously agrees. A talent of silver must have been quite a sum, for Naaman had taken with him ten talents of silver and 6000 shekels of gold.

Elisha knew exactly what Gehazi had done, and was not happy! The leprosy that had been removed from Naaman was bestowed upon Gehazi. And now you know the rest of the story.

There are so many spiritual lessons that leap out from the full story. The words of Christ upon sending out the apostles seems appropriate: "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without pay, give without pay" (Matthew 10:8).

1 comment:

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Now, apologetics is NOT quite same thing.

I received doctrine from CSL, Chesterton, most notably from Catholic Catechisms (not the CCC!) which I paid for in ecclesiastic or other bookstores.