We have a powerful set of readings this Sunday. We read about the lepers and the wonderful act of healing they receive from God.
In the first reading we meet Naaman the commander in chief of the mighty Syrian army. He had all the trappings that came with his position, he had wealth, fame, and power, what need did he have for God? But then he was struck down with leprosy. To be a leper was to be an outcast, someone who was shunned and had no part in society. He was desperate and travelled to see the King of Israel, taking with him six thousand gold pieces, ten festal garments and ten silver talents, a truly enormous amount of goods. When he arrived, he met the King and presented a letter of introduction from his master. It read “With this letter, I am sending my servant Naaman to you to cure him of his leprosy”.
The King of Israel was deeply troubled by this as he knew he couldn’t cure Naaman. Elisha the Prophet learnt of this and met with Naaman and told him to wash himself seven times in the river Jordan, which he did, and he was cured. Naaman is full of joy praising God and he offers Elisha all the riches he’d brought with him. Elisha refuses to accept them as they were not required.
In the Gospel we hear the story of the ten lepers who were all outcasts When the ten encounter Jesus they stand a way off, “Jesus! Master! Take pity on us” they shout. Jesus doesn’t need to lay hands on them to cure them, his word is sufficient. He says “Go and show yourselves to the priests”. They start to go realising they are now clean, but one, a Samaritan returns and like Naaman is praising God.
Both men rejoice in the power and love that God has shown to them. Today, in these passages, we witness the love that God has for the outcast, for those shunned by society. Interestingly we also witness a conversion, both acknowledge that what has happened is an act of God and requires a response of faith. Neither of these men were followers of God but they came to believe and praise.
When we read these stories, it gives us pause for thought. Who is an outsider? Am I an outsider? Do I know someone cut off from others, who might be feeling lonely, perhaps feeling on the outside looking in? Do I recognise that in myself?
So perhaps today as we reflect on these readings, we can learn two key things. The first is the importance of being generous of spirit, helping our friend, neighbour or stranger. The second is that if we do find ourselves feeling alone, isolated, vulnerable like Naaman and the Samaritan then we can take comfort that God is there for us and in knowing that there are people out there who do care and will help.