I have to admit that I have always felt a little sheepish about handing over hard earned money for a bottle of water. I continue to have a strong suspicion that water is JUST water here in the United States. I certainly don’t have to pay for the clear stuff coming out of my tap! Whatever your opinion is on the subject, Naaman is a man who has clearly been suckered by the world of advertisement. This is a guy who scoffs at the quality of the Jordan River, its physical appearance, the quality of the water; “Are not the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar better than all the waters of Israel?”
Naaman’s journey in the first reading brings him into the land of Israel seeking to be healed of his leprosy. He is sent to the King of Israel, who does not have the slightest clue of what God is about in this particular situation, misinterprets Naaman’s intentions, and becomes angry.
The prophet Elisha, who clearly agrees with myself on the whole bottled
water issue, learns of this, and sends for Naaman. Elisha does not even come out to greet his guest; he sends a message for Naaman to bathe in the Jordan seven times, and Naaman becomes obstinate. Not only is he left at the doorway alone, there is no fantastical prescription or mysterious gestures performed by the prophet to bring about his healing. He is so upset that he departs for home. Thank God for Naaman’s servants who are apparently the only ones able to understand this whole debacle? They argue with Naaman; “If the prophet had told you to do something extraordinary, would you not have done it?”
Man has always occupied a world where appearances fill much of the human heart, and the spirit of the world takes great pains to make sure that the eye is pleased. We can fill our imagination and memory with all sorts of information and images, and we can become overly dependent on our own sight and knowing. Even good things, the beauty of God’s creation, the marvels of the modern world, the extraordinary methods of advertisement and the beauty of other people, can blind us to the one clear indicator that our soul is healthy: thirst!
Because we are all both spirit and flesh, it is a good practice to occasionally ask whether we are thirsting for the Lord. Oftentimes it is our thirst for Jesus that is the sole evidence that something extraordinary continues to happen in our soul. Our thirst leads us toward the Jordan where we are cleansed, healed, and encouraged to continue on our journey.
When we become too dependent on our sight and do not ask Jesus to help us understand our encounter with our daily existence and our experiences, we can become just like the King of Israel or the Jews at Nazareth in the gospel reading, unable to recognize Jesus and what he desires. Just as important, we fail to see our savior in our brothers and sisters. We might misinterpret the purpose of our existence and miss key moments where the Lord wants to exercise his power in our lives and the lives of others. If we become too dependent on the eye, we become obstinate when the simple, humble methods of the Lord do not stimulate the flesh and dazzle the eye.
Just because the flesh is not stimulated, just because the intellect does not have it all figured out, does not mean we are blind. Jesus can see, and Jesus knows, and the Holy Spirit is with his people. Our faith in him will keep us on the personal road that he has us walking. Jesus is our miracle this lent, and he desires to be with us, so close, for all eternity. Many of our days are filled with drinking tap water, the seemingly unimpressive waters of the Jordon, so we walk by faith and proclaim what Naaman proclaims after his miraculous encounter with Jesus; “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.”
Joel Samaha is a husband and father of five living in Augusta, Georgia. He teaches and coaches at a local high school and is a member of the Alleluia Community.