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IS THIS 'PROPHET' ACCEPTED BY US?

Father Francis's picture
Third Week of Lent

2 Kings 5:1-15 & Lk. 4:24-30

Naaman the Syrian was a general in the king's army but he became a leper. The biblical term "leprosy" covers a wide range of skin diseases but it was a sickness that could attack anyone, anywhere. For all of his position and power Naaman was not exempt from its attack, and knowing he was a leper he squarely faced the fact.

We are all sinners but do we face up to this fact? Sometimes we try to make excuses for ourselves, blaming people or structures around us such as the media, the society or culture, the mistakes of our parents or priests for our sins.

But there is a major difference between leprosy and sin. Leprosy happens to us. Sin is something we choose.

The cure for Naaman was a simple one that he at first ridiculed because he had to wash seven times in the Jordan river. But that was where the power of God was at work. Eventually he obeyed and his reward was to be freed from the leprosy.

We know the cure for sin and it lies in the Sacrament of Penance. We might hesitate in going to Confession for any number of reasons. But that is still the place where the forgiving power of Christ is at work. If we are in sin, separated from Jesus, let us make haste to use this wonderful remedy He has given us for removing our leprosy.

"No prophet is ever accepted in his own country." Jesus experienced the truth of that saying when He returned to His home town of Nazareth. The local people had heard wonderful reports of His work throughout Galilee, so when He attended the synagogue on the Sabbath they all turned out to hear what He had to say.

Jesus began by warning His audience that they might not like what He was about to tell them. He reminded them of two incidents involving the prophets Elijah and Elisha who had travelled the country, trying to persuade their people to repent of their sins and return to God's ways. They met with so much resistance from their own fellow-countrymen that at last God inspired them to go and minister to Gentiles: they found people of great faith and were able to perform cures and miracles which had been impossible among their own race.

The people of Nazareth were very familiar with these stories, but it was Jesus' interpretation of them which provoked their anger. He was implying that they, the chosen people, had less faith than the Gentiles; He had come to them as their prophet, but they would not be prepared to accept His teaching. This was a reproach which His neighbours could not tolerate, so they rose up against Him, wanting to kill Him.

We have Jesus the prophet in our midst, but perhaps like the people of Nazareth we have become so familiar with Him that we do not listen properly to His words. In the various readings at Mass are the well-known Bible stories and parables, but we have read them so often that their impact on us is minimal. It's easy to think that we know the Gospels thoroughly and there is nothing new to learn, but the Scriptures are an inexhaustible treasure from which we can always gain new strength and new insights. We must listen thoughtfully to what Jesus wants to tell us, and then try to put His teaching into practice in our lives. Every day we should be learning a little more about Jesus and growing a little closer to Him. If there is no progress in our spiritual lives, then once again the prophet is being rejected by His own people.

Lord Jesus, let neither sin nor familiarity with Your Word separate us from You.

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