Sunday the 28th Week in Ordinary Time
A Jewish proverb has it that “God created the world because he loves stories”. These stories include our own life story, and the ones that have a happy ending are the ones in which we see God acting in the most commonplace events of our lives. It is doing the everyday things in union with God and as he would have them done, that gives our life story a happy ending.
The first reading presents us with the story of Naaman the leper. He wanted to be cured of his disease, and he had enough faith to go and visit the prophet, Elisha. He expected Elisha to wave his hand over him or make some dramatic gesture, but all Elisha did was to tell him to wash up in the river Jordan. Naaman wasn’t accustomed to finding God while washing up, but it was a man of God who told him to do it, and so he finally resigned himself to washing up in the Jordan. It was in that commonplace act that God touched his life and cured him of his leprosy. Naaman recognized that it was God who had cured him through an everyday event because he went back to Elisha and said that for the rest of his life he would worship only the Lord.
A similar thing happened to the Samaritan leper in the Gospel. He too wanted to be cured of his disease, and he had enough faith to go and visit Jesus. Ordinarily, Jesus would lay his hands on people in order to cure them, but that is not what he did with the Samaritan. He told him to go for a walk and show himself to the priests. No doubt the Samaritan had gone for a walk many times in his life, but since it was Jesus who told him to do it, he obeyed. And it was while taking a walk that God touched his life and cured him of his leprosy. He recognized that it was God who had cured him because he interrupted his routine and went back to Jesus glorifying God in a loud voice.
Both stories give us a sense of perspective as to what happens in our own lives. We can know for sure that anything we do is bound to be an ordinary thing like washing up or going for a walk. But also, anything that God does is bound to be extraordinary, like curing leprosy or making bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. These reflections lead us to take a rather modest view of our own actions as compared with God’s. We have only to pray for the grace to avoid frantic behavior, not be too fussy about what there is to be done, and understand that it is God who will act for us.
The secret for a happy ending to our life story is to know how to let God in to the very rhythm of our existence. God is more present to us than we are to ourselves and is more aware of when we’re washing up or going for a walk than we are. All the moments of our day can be brought into union with him by a loving act of faith that he is present and loves us. God was already with Naaman when he went down to wash in the Jordan, and the healing of his leprosy was only an outward sign of his presence and his love, which are
continual. The moral of his story is that we too can seek God in our everyday activities, since he is behind them all, and we are sanctified by the acts he wants from us.
St Paul was sanctified by being chained up like a criminal, but he bore with everything because God was present with him in jail. Paul knew that if he held firm, then he would reign with Christ. The same applies to us when it is hard to sense God’s presence, for example when we are tired at the end of a long day. The thing is to seek God in the tiredness itself, by accepting whole-heartedly the situation as it is. God is there; he wants just that, and that is enough.
Everything we do in this spirit makes us sensitive to God’s presence in all that is ordinary, and it leads us to praise him in the common things of life, just as Naaman praised him after washing up and the Samaritan after going for a walk. God touched their lives as he does ours, and then our life is made up of praise in every part. Each little action is an immense event in which Paradise is delivered to us, and in which we can give Paradise to others. Every activity becomes just the outer shell of the glorious reality of our encounter with God, an encounter which is renewed at each moment, and grows in grace at each moment, and makes a person even more pleasing in the sight of God.
When it is time to have supper, then let us go to it: it is God coming to love us. When it is time to receive communion, take and eat: it is God coming to love us.
Let him have his way.