Today’s first reading at Mass was the story of Naaman who came to the prophet Elisha to be healed. You remember the story: Naaman is a military commander of the Arameans–enemies of Israel. He is a man of wealth and power and his wife has a Jewish servant girl–captured in one of the Aramean raids. Naaman is struck down with leprosy and the little girl witnesses to him saying the prophet in Israel can heal him. So Naaman goes to the Israelite king who is very upset because he doesn’t know how to heal leprosy. So the King sends Naaman to Elisha…(a prophet by the way who is close to my heart because he was not only a curmudgeon–he was baldheaded).
So the prophet Elisha sends his servant out to tell Naaman to go dunk himself in the river Jordan. Naaman, being a man of wealth and power, is annoyed that the great prophet didn’t even bother to come out and talk to him, so he goes off in a huff. Then his servant says, “Master, why not go and do it? What harm can it do?” So Naaman does and he is healed, and in a very moving detail the scripture says his leprous flesh was “like a child’s”
What a lesson for this time of crisis we are facing with the coronavirus. Like Naaman our Western society is wealthy and powerful beyond all measure. We are richer, healthier and more powerful than any society has even been anywhere in the world. Ever. But like Naaman who had no control over his leprosy, we have no control over this contagious disease. Suddenly, for Naaman, there was one concern and only one concern: getting better. Suddenly for Naaman nothing else mattered. He was willing to give up his wealth and power to be healed, and what was required was not the rich gifts he brought Elisha–the prophet sent those back.
What mattered was that Naaman was willing to be humbled, to be instructed by a little girl (a foreshadowing of the Blessed Virgin) and go to the prophet (a foreshadowing of God) and listen to his servant (a foreshadowing of Christ) and submit to a baptism in the Jordan. (a foreshadowing of baptism and repentance)
Then he was healed and his flesh was “like that of a little child” (foreshadowing the verse that says unless one becomes like a little child he cannot enter the kingdom) and in becoming like a little child he foreshadows the self emptying of the Son of God himself who also became a little child, and who also submitted to baptism in the Jordan.
There now. What does it say to our proud and powerful society? If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. May this health scare be over soon. May the saints and angels intercede for us. May we receive not what we deserve, but a merciful deliverance. May we, like Naaman, hear the sweet advice of the Blessed Virgin to. turn in prayer and sacrifice to the Lord, to hear the word of his Son and during this Lent be renewed again in the waters of baptism–becoming as little children again. May this health scare focus our hearts and minds on the most important matters–the matters of life and death, and may we greet Easter with a new experience of the life everlasting.