3rd Week of Lent, Monday, Mar 8
2 Kings 5:1-15 / Luke 4:24-30
Jesus repeats an old teaching: God is the God of all people.
Sometimes people become so preoccupied with their own problems that they tend to see only themselves. Their vision shrinks and they forget that there are other people in the world.
That happened to the Jewish nation, as a whole, in the years after the return from exile. The Jews turned in upon themselves and, in the process, made God over into their own image and likeness. They made him into a nationalistic God who had eyes only for his Chosen People.
Of course, prophets like Elijah and Elisha had warned the nation earlier about this tendency, but it's something that needs to be repeated. That's what Jesus does in today's gospel. He repeats an old teaching that the people didn't want to hear.
Do we tend to let our personal problems blind us to other people's bigger problems? "We see things not as they are, but as we are." H. M. Tomlinson
Today’s liturgy thinks especially of converts who are baptized and immersed into the baptismal water. Are conversion and missionary action still valid? Why be concerned about unknown, distant peoples? – Elisha cured the pagan officer from Damascus, Syria, and the man found both healing and faith. Jesus, not accepted as a prophet in his own town, says that salvation will be offered to pagans. That doesn't mean that the missionary will not be always understood and welcomed in the missions...
There is one day in our lives which we usually consider pretty important, and that is our birthday. It would be a very rare person indeed who would not know the date of his own birth or who would not celebrate that day. As we grow older, we may not be too eager to count how many birthdays we have had, but we still like to be greeted with a "happy birthday" from relatives and friends.
Actually, we have two birthdays, one when we were born of our parents, and one when we were born of God in baptism. The event related in the first lesson puts us in mind of the sacrament of baptism. Naaman suffered from leprosy. He was asked to do a simple thing by Elisha, to wash seven times in the water of the Jordan. After some reluctance he complied, and, as we saw, he was cured of his leprosy. It was a great day for Naaman, one he never forgot.
Our baptism was a very simple ceremony: a little water was poured over our heads, but it was a great day for us. Not only were we cured of the leprosy of sin, but more importantly God gave us a share in his divine life, and thereby made us his children. It was indeed our spiritual birthday.
It does not really matter too much, I suppose, if we do not know the actual day when we were baptized, but certainly should celebrate the day with great joy and happiness. As you know, during Lent there is an emphasis on baptism, an emphasis which reaches its climax in the renewal of our baptism on Holy Saturday. Each time, however, that we come into church we should reflect on our baptism as we take holy water at the font, a symbol of baptism. Then as we see others in the church, we should realize that we are all here in our Father's home, brothers and sisters of one another because of our spiritual birth from a common Father in baptism. Indeed, the day of our baptism was a great day for us, one we should never forget.
Lord God, our Father, you want all people to be saved through faith in Jesus Christ, your Son. May Christians not practice spiritual selfishness and clannishness but may their faith mean so much to them that they want to share it with others, that your Son may be known and loved everywhere, for he is the Lord of all for ever. Amen