Just Follow the Simple Instruction

In today’s first Mass reading from the Second Book of Kings, we meet Naaman, an army commander of the King of Aram and a leper. The Israeli girl who is servant to Naaman’s wife reveals that if Naaman presents himself to “the prophet in Samaria,” he will be cured of his leprosy.

When Naaman finally arrives at the home of the prophet Elisha, he is given the message “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will heal, and you will be clean.”

This advice angers Naaman, who had expected that the prophet “would surely come out and stand there to invoke the Lord his God and would move his hand over the spot, and thus cure the leprosy.” He is incensed by the advice to wash in a river that by his estimation is a quite ordinary one. What is so special about the water in Israel that makes it better than the waters of his homeland?

Naaman’s servants argue with him, “if the prophet had told you to do something quite extraordinary, would you not have done it? All the more now, since he said to you, ‘Wash and be clean,’ should you do as he said.” And so he washes in the Jordan seven times and is healed.

I always cringe a little when I hear this passage because I think we are not so different from Naaman. When it comes to God (and probably not just God), we like big. We like flashy. We like extraordinary. We like heroic acts and big deeds.

When it comes to experiencing God: Come to us in a big flash of lightening or a burning bush, we ask. Do something spectacular and dramatic to get our attention. And sometimes God does. But other times He comes to us in a tiny whisper.

When it comes to our life task: Give us some big deed to do. I think our expectation is that we will find our salvation in the equivalent of walking across the desert or climbing mountains or some other extraordinary or heroic acts. Shouldn’t there be some big, complicated, heroic act that will gain us the prize. Instead God says: Just love. Just be love. Love me. Love one another. Nothing big. Nothing flashy. Just love.

To paraphrase the servants of Naaman: If God had told you to do something extraordinary, would you not do it? All the more now, do as God asks.