Monday of the Third Week of Lent
(II Kings 5:1-15ab; Luke 4:24-30)
As the man grew older, his skin began to itch. So he asked his doctor what he might do. He thought the doctor would surely prescribe a medicated powder. But the doctor only asked if he took hot showers. The man replied that he did and might have added that he enjoyed the sensation of hot water on the skin. The doctor then recommended that he use lukewarm instead. Such a simple solution is not likely to work, the man thought to himself. But he believed enough in his doctor to try the remedy. Very soon the man’s skin no longer itched. In the readings today wise men give similarly simple advice to people and face even greater skepticism.
In a kind of long-distance consultation, the prophet Elisha tells General Naaman of Syria that seven dips in the River Jordan will cure him of his leprosy. The general is insulted. Not only does Elisha refuse to see him face-to-face, but his prescription defies common sense. How could the mere bathing in a river cure the pernicious leprosy? In the gospel Jesus meets with similar incredulity. He tells the people of Nazareth not to be amazed that one of their own has been chosen by God as His prophet. The townsmen and women react violently to the idea.
God is always ready to heal us of our sins. He has sent Jesus with his prescription. We are to believe in what Jesus teaches – primarily, to love God above all and to serve him by caring for the needy. It is hardly more difficult than showering with lukewarm water or bathing in the river. But it does involve denying some selfish desires.