Monday of the Third Week of Lent
2 Kings 5:1-15; Psalm 42; Luke 4:24-30
What makes a victory or achievement sweet? Imagine you’re in a mediocre sports team that’s participating in a league. If your team wins a match against the worst team in the group, many might just feel that it’s to be expected and wouldn’t make too much out of it. After all, it might not have been too difficult. However, if one wins a match against the best team in the league, the victory would be sweet and very much treasured. The team would feel that it was a hard fought match and the greater effort and struggle truly sweetened the victory. The same goes for exams – an ‘A’ from a difficult exam would feel much more worthwhile than an ‘A’ from an easy examination. We often think that hard work or a struggle makes something worth more because of the effort we put in. Is this always true?
Our normal impulse is to measure the worth of value of something by our own efforts. Look at the example of Naaman in the first reading. He went to the prophet Elisha for healing and instead of the grand welcome that he expected as a respected general, all he received was a message to bathe in the river. He was, unsurprisingly, upset. He expected his healing to be accompanied with pomp and spectacle and a sound and light show to match. Or he might have expected to be put through herculean tasks befitting a great general. Instead, he was just asked to bathe in the river. His task was both unexpected and too easy and he might have felt that more was needed for the healing of the serious condition of leprosy. If the healing did not have struggles or bitter medicines, it might not be worth as much.
Thankfully, Naaman’s servants were wiser. They were Israelites who were captured as slaves and they lost none of their faith even in captivity. They were sensitive to the basic quality of God in that grace comes to those who need it with or without their effort. All that’s required is faith and the recognition of the presence and power of God. Healing happens not because of our efforts and often happens in spite of who we are and what we do. Naaman was healed in spite of his stubbornness and haughty attitude. We should learn to be more like his servants and to be humble in our faith.
We learn that expectations can sometimes ruin our reception of grace, healing and other good things that God wants to give us. Just as we play down the achievement of an easy win, we also look down on the so-called ‘easy’ cures because they’re not what we expect. We want to work hard for our cures or our achievements so that we can be proud of them. If it’s too easy, we don’t place value in them. Sometimes, we might even think that our lives are so complicated that we start to feel that our sins are beyond God’s help. Such arrogance! The people in the Gospel felt the same. They didn’t want to listen to the Lord because his message was too simplistic and not what they wanted to hear. This simple carpenter’s message didn’t fit into their perspective of the world so they rejected him.
What’s the cure for all this? How can we be healed if we want to? Humility is the first step. Once we realise that we’re not the centre of the universe, we also see that healing and the grace of God does not always conform to our perspective of things. We learn to accept what God gives and not expect what we want. The faith comes in. We trust that the Lord comes to us and gives us what we need. We may receive things simply and easily or there may be difficulties and struggles first. We don’t ask or second guess the graces given but just receive them as they come. This makes us open to the graces and healing given and increases our trust that the Lord will indeed give us what we need, not when we want it but in God’s time. And we continue to pray not just for what we need but for the openness to break down our expectations. Then our victory will be sweet, because it’s infused with the love and mercy of God.
Lord, in your infinite love and goodness, you have shown us that our faith allows us an approach to your healing. Accept our humble selves, teach us to put ourselves completely in your hands that we may experience your love as you give and not as we expect. Amen.