Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
We have parallel accounts in our readings today. In the Old Testament we have the story of a military officer, a leper and a miracle. In the gospel (Matthew 8:1-13) we also have a leper, a military officer and a miracle.
A miracle is when God does something different from the order He has established in His creation. The universe has its natural laws and normally the Lord does not change these laws. However, He has the power to suspend the order of creation in some cases to show His will, to testify that something happened by the power and will of God and not by chance.
The manifestations of the power and divinity of Jesus Christ is the theme of this season of Epiphany. In the gospel Jesus showed this power twice. He healed a leper and the servant of a centurion, officer of the Roman army. In the same way, the prophet Elisha, by the power of Jehovah, healed Naaman, leper and general of Syria. So, we have three examples of faith: the faith of Naaman, that of the leper in the Gospel of St. Matthew, and that of the centurion.
Clearly the centurion had the strongest faith. “And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, begging Him, and saying: Lord, my servant is prostrate at home, paralyzed, severely tormented. And Jesus said to him: I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said: Lord, I am not worthy for you to enter under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will heal. Because I am also a man under authority, and I have soldiers under my charge; and I say to this one: Go and he goes; and to another: Come, and he comes; and to my servant: Do this, and he does it. And when Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, Truly, I say to you, I have not found so much faith in Israel."
Certainly the leper that Jesus encountered before did not have so much faith. “And, behold, a leper came and worshiped him, saying, Lord, if you want, you can cleanse me. And Jesus extending his hand touched him, saying: I will, be clean. And instantly he was cleansed of his leprosy.” Lord, if you want. He believed in the power of Jesus, but did not completely trust His good will.
And Naaman had almost no faith. The general of the king of Syria was the leper in this case. Leprosy is a very ugly skin disease. The girl from Israel said to her lady, Naaman's wife, "If my lord begged the prophet in Samaria, he would heal him of his leprosy." And Naaman thought he had nothing to lose by the test of the words of the girl.
But, Naaman had more faith than the king of Israel. “And it came to pass that when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes, and said, Am I God, that I may kill and give life, that he may send me to heal a man of his leprosy? Consider now, and see how you look for an occasion against me. ”
“And when Elisha, a man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his garments, he sent to say to the king: Why have you torn your garments? Come to me now, and you will know that there is a prophet in Israel. ” And like the Magi in Bethlehem, Naaman came to Elisha's house with many people, and much gold and silver.
“Then Elisha sent him a messenger, saying: Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored to you, and you will be clean. And Naaman went mad, saying, Behold, I would say to myself, He will come out later, and while standing he will call on the name of Jehovah his God, and will raise his hand, and touch the place, and heal the leprosy. Abana and Farfar, rivers of Damascus, are they not better than all the waters of Israel? If I wash myself in them, won't I be clean too? And he turned and was angry."
Naaman did not believe only in the Word of God that he received from Elisha. “But his servants approached him, and spoke to him, saying: My father, if the prophet sent you any great thing, would you not do it? How much more, telling you: Wash yourself, and will you be clean? Then he went down, and submerged seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh became like the flesh of a child, and it was clean. And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and stood before him, and said: Behold now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel. ”
The centurion had the strongest faith, Naaman the weakest. But what resulted in each case? All the sick were healed by the grace of God. The Lord has all the power to heal disease. His power and mercy do not depend on the strength of our faith. Some false teachers say, even today, if God does not answer your prayers in the way you anticipate, you do not have enough faith. You have to pray more, with more intensity, and do this thing or another to win the favor of God. This is not the truth.
God is almighty and answers our prayers out of His good will for us. We only need faith as a mustard seed. That means, we must not reject God's Word, but listen to it and receive God's blessings. The power is not in us nor the merit. But, if we remain in prayer and listen to the Word of God, by faith we recognize the blessings God has given us. Above all, God has given us the promise of eternal life in Jesus Christ, without merit on our part. Therefore, let's not live like those who have no hope, because we have the highest hope. We do not anticipate that God answers our prayers aloud, face to face, but we trust in the Word that God has given us for the prophets and the apostles.
To have a strong faith like the centurion is also a gift from God. It is a work of the Holy Spirit that we receive at baptism. Because Naaman's bath in the Jordan River is a prefiguration of the sacrament of baptism. John the Baptist also baptized them in the Jordan River, but the waters of Jordan, like the water in our baptismal font is only water apart from the Word of God.
By the Word of God, the water of the Jordan River healed Naaman of leprosy. Also, the water of baptism with the Word of God heals us from sin and gives us new life in Christ. In this we have the peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.
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