**From the Navarre Bible Commentary
First Reading - From: 2 Kgs 5:14-17
Naaman Is Cured of Leprosy
Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of Elisha, the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child,and he was clean of his leprosy.
Naaman returned with his whole retinue to the man of God. On his arrival he stood before Elisha and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel. Please accept a gift from your servant.”
Elisha replied, “As the LORD lives whom I serve, I will not take it;” and despite Naaman’s urging, he still refused. Naaman said: “If you will not accept, please let me, your servant, have two mule-loads of earth, for I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except to the LORD.”
5:9-14. The scene at Naaman’s arrival at the house of Elisha is full of significance. Before obtaining a cure for his physical ailment, Naaman needs to learn to obey the prophet’s word. The pomp surrounding Naaman contrasts sharply with the simple message conveyed by Elisha’s servant; the Syrian is expecting some magical rite to be performed on his behalf, whereas in fact he is ordered simply to bathe in the Jordan. Naaman needs to see that the prophet of the Lord, is not a magician or a kind of witch-doctor: it will be God who cleanses him when he does what he is told.
Naaman will come to see that it is not the waters that cure him, but God himself. His obedience needs to be put to the test: he has to dip in the water seven times. A similar command to Elisha’s, and an obedience like Naaman’s are to be found in the cure Jesus works for the blind man from birth (cf. John 9:6-7). Both these episodes are rightly seen as a prefigurement of baptism, the sacrament in which, through water and obedience to Christ’s word, man is cleansed from the leprosy of sin and is given the gift of faith: “The crossing of the Red Sea by the Hebrew was a figure of holy Baptism, for the Egyptians died but the Hebrews escaped. This is what the sacrament daily teaches us—that in it sin is drowned and error destroyed, whereas devotion and innocence cross unscathed… Finally, learn the lesson provided by the book of Kings. Naaman was a Syrian, and a leper, and there was no one who could cure him…He bathed and, finding he was cured, he realized immediately that it was not the water that cured him but the gift of God. He doubted prior to being cured; but you, who are already cured, should not have any doubts” (St. Ambrose, De mysteriis, 12, 19).
5:15-19. Naaman’s profession of faith (v. 15) is the climax of the episode, the true miracle. In the history of the kings of Israel, their idolatry is denounced time and time again; Naaman, by contrast, is an example that all Israelites should imitate. The fact that he takes away with him heaps of soil (land) from Israel is explained by the prevalent idea that a god could only be worshipped in the land where he manifested himself, and any land where idolatry was practiced was on that account desecrated (cf. Amos 7:17). Naaman’s act of thanksgiving (vv. 15-17) is reminiscent of the Gospel passage (cf. Lk 17:11-19) where Jesus cures ten lepers, but only one, a stranger, returns to thank him. Jesus had a good reason to complain (cf. Lk 4:20-27) of our impudence in daring to think that we have in some way merited the gifts God gives us.
Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.
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