As much as two mules can carry

Source: As much as two mules can carry

Naaman the Syrian comes up with a seemingly weird solution when Elisha refuses to accept any payment for curing him of leprosy. He asks for as much earth from Israel as two mules can carry. His idea is to worship the God of Israel in gratitude but he can only do this on the soil of Israel. So he takes the soil of Israel with him and transfers his thanks from Elisha to the God of Elisha.

Behind the story is one more hint that God is going to reveal himself, not just to Israel, but to all the nations. Naaman gets it, which is more than the people of Capernaum do when Jesus reminds them of this story. Gratitude is the doorway to recognition. Naaman learns this when he persists in trying to reward Elisha and the prophet puts him off and points elsewhere. Naaman is a foreigner with an open mind.

I am always struck when, without warning, people are asked to say a prayer. Their spontaneous response is often to begin, ‘Thank you, Lord, for the gift of life…’ This is a profound reaction because life itself is the greatest gift of all. God went on to give us a planet and a universe in which to dwell and grow. He gives astronomers the gift of piercing the universe for knowledge, doctors the gift of diagnosing and healing our physical wounds and journalists the gift of seeking, day in and day out, the truth about war, injustice and abuse.

We are grateful to these people and so many more who help us to grow in beauty, justice and truth. They are Elishas. If they are wise, as he was, they will not take credit for themselves. They will know they build on the work of others and, while they may accept acclaim and Nobel prizes, they will know the meaning of the words of Georges Bernanos, in The Diary of Country Priest, ‘All is grace’. Everything is a gift.

The first lesson a new born child experiences, though they cannot reflect on it, is that they are dependent. They are dependent on their parents and family for food, warmth, bathing, hugs – in a word, for love. We grow to be independent and think we can be but Jesus tells us to learn the lessons of childhood if we are to be part of his kingdom. The world is too much for a little child to take in, so they cry for their mother.

It is no different for us who are ‘grown- up’. The suffering we encounter, the wars we start, the injustices we perpetuate, the global warming we ignore – all are too much for one individual to take in and respond to. Jesus knew this and so gave us himself, his presence among us. The Eucharist is the moment we gather and celebrate his presence and recognise he shares our suffering and holds out to us the promise of the fullness of life through victory over pain and death. We take our bare earth home into our hearts and there worship the Lord who is making all things new (Revelations 21:1-5).

9 October 2022     Sunday 28 C         2 Kings 5:14-17    2 Tim2: 8-13      Lk 17:11-19

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