Scripture readings for today
My family and I moved to Statesboro, Georgia in July of 2000. In 2003, I entered the Diocese of Savannah’s five-year Permanent Diaconate Program. Like many of the men in the program, I wondered about my calling to be a permanent deacon and where it might lead me. Specifically, I was concerned about how friends, acquaintances, and others who knew me would react if I were to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Even though I was a life-long Catholic who practiced his faith regularly, I still wondered how I would be received after I was ordained in 2008.
I cannot help but think about these doubts when I read Jesus tell the people in the synagogue at Nazareth, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place […]”. When I think about these words, I not only think about my own calling to serve God and His Church as a permanent deacon, but I also think about how each one of us is called to serve God in our own and unique ways.
In today’s Gospel from St. Luke, Jesus speaks in the synagogue during the early days of His ministry. Jesus compares Himself to two great prophets of ancient Israel, Elijah and Elisha, both of whom healed non-Israelites because their own people did not accept them as prophets. We read about Elisha in today’s first reading from 2 KGS. Naaman, the army commander for the king of Aram, has leprosy. A little girl from Israel whom the Arameans had captured instructs Naaman to seek the healing of the prophet Elisha. Elisha heals Naaman, who proclaims, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.” Not surprisingly, the people in the synagogue become angry when they hear Jesus compare Himself to two great prophets. Jesus, however, avoids their wrath and walks away.
We read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Through the prophets, God calls Israel and all nations to turn to him, the one and only God […]”. Have you ever thought of yourself as a prophet? We may not be Elijah or Elisha, but God needs us today as much as He needed them. I believe that every Christian is capable of being a prophet, because God calls us to surrender our lives to Him and to encourage others to do so as well. We do not have to be Elijah, Elisha, or any number of people who continue to teach us and to inspire us. All we have to be is ourselves, exactly as we are at this very moment: “We need to work for Christ with a humble heart, with the humility of Christ. He comes and uses us to be His love and compassion in the world in spite of our weaknesses and frailties” (Mother Teresa).
During this Lent, God calls us to recognize how we are created in His image so that we can discover the many ways in which the light of Christ burns brightly within us. Elisha cured Naaman of his leprosy. When we share our holiness and love of God with others, we, too, can accomplish as much as Elijah, Elisha, and many others who provide healing and comfort to this day. And whether you feel welcomed or not, remember Moses’ words to Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:8: “It is the Lord who marches before you; he will be with you and will never fail you or forsake you. So do not fear or be dismayed.” Amen.
-Deacon Mike McGrath is a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Savannah. He ministers to the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking communities at St. Matthew Catholic Church (Statesboro, GA). Deacon Mike is the editor of the book Answering the Call: How God Transformed the Lives of Nineteen Catholic Deacons.