The story of Naaman, the commander of the Syrian king’s army seeking a cure for his leprosy, is about a well-off man looking for a solution to his biggest problem, not a new religion. He comes from a society that treats lepers as regular members of society—unlike the Jews, who segregate them in the belief that leprosy occurs because the individual transgressed God’s law.
Like any good adventure story, Naaman begins a journey seeking advice from a sage. He is eventually sent to the house of Elisha the prophet. At first he dismisses the advice relayed by Elisha’s messenger, to wash in the Jordan River. It seems too easy, and his pride is hurt that with his august position the prophet himself did not come outside to meet him and to call on the God of Israel to instantly cure him with great fanfare.
How many times have we been given advice (exercise daily, eat vegetables, completely unplug from technology) so deceptively simple that we find it easier to dismiss than to take seriously? For how could God’s message from us come in the form of a mere news article or a neighbor’s comment? Aren’t we special enough for the clouds to part and a booming voice to ring out, or at least something a little striking? And wouldn’t God expect us to do something extraordinary, not something mundane like washing in a river?
Of course, the simple baptismal act leads to the disappearance of leprosy and religious conversion as well for Naaman, who declares he will now only sacrifice to God. But if Naaman had not listened to his servant, who counseled that he should humble himself and do this small thing, the life change could not have happened.
Sometimes, we need a small reminder, as Naaman’s servant so rightly points out, that we have to follow through on all things: God expects us to do both the ordinary and the extraordinary.
Appointed readings for today: 2 Kings 5:1-15b, Psalm 42:1-7, Luke 4:23-30