By Lynne Keating
Today’s Scriptures are so familiar that we can probably recite parts of them by heart. There’s the reading about a man plunging into water seven times (ice cold no doubt) and the one about those 10 lepers. Sure, we get it; it’s about being cured, right?
Well, that’s part of it.
In our first reading, Nathan is first of all reluctant about even having to seek out a holy man—a prophet—to ask for healing. A wealthy, influential man, he had no doubt been to all the experts—medical, spiritual, nutritional. When he finally does go, the cure which the prophet suggests angers him.
Bathe in a river? Done that thousands of times! Nothing more original or at least more mysterious than that? Nathan sneers at the suggestion and turns to go home.
In our Gospel, the 10 lepers stop at a distance from Jesus, who calls out telling them to go show themselves to a priest. I can imagine the conversation among them.
“Really? What’s the point? The priest has seen us plenty of times!”
In both Scriptures, sheer desperation causes the seekers of healing to move beyond their fears, beyond their faith (or lack of it) to take a step toward hope.
Nathan turns his entourage around and heads for the river, plunging himself into the water seven times. In the process, he discovers that healing has taken place. In fact, Scripture tells us that his skin was made new like the skin of a baby.
The lepers in the Gospel turn around at the words of Jesus and trudge toward the temple, certain that they would not be welcomed. Along the way, they too discover that they have been healed.
The Bible is full of similar accounts. To defeat Jericho, Joshua was told to march around the city walls with his army, knowing that such action would only serve to alert the enemy. Yet he obeyed. And in the process, the walls of the city came down on their own, without a fight. What seemed like certain death, produced life. When Jesus fed the five thousand, the apostles had to move past their expectations and even their intellect, to distribute a few fish and loaves to a multitude. What seemed futile was, in fact, fruitful.
Hidden in the word “obedience” is the word “die.”
Obedience to the Word of God—this living, breathing, life-giving Word—requires that I put to death those things within me that keep me from reaching out, beyond myself, beyond my understanding of the laws of physics, science and society, to hope in God. Fear, pride, status, self-righteousness, and even my intellect all must be put to death in order for me to obey this unenforceable call to hope in God.
Sometimes my own unworthiness makes me reluctant to approach God; sometimes my needs seem too small in comparison to the needs of the world and, like the lepers, I stop at a distance from Him. Like Nathan, my intellect and logic often wage war with the Word of God.
It is precisely here, at the intersection of my will and the Word of God, that the battle, and my healing, begins. How is such a battle won? St. Paul tells us to pick up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17), the weapon that systematically puts to death anything which threatens to separate me from God, and from my truest and deepest healing.
I cannot count the times that I have found myself looking back over a particularly dark or difficult time through which I have come, and wondered, “How did I do that?” In the midst of the struggle between vice and virtue, the healing has come softly, and almost unnoticed. And I find, to my surprise, that I have been made new.
Spend some time with the Lord today and bring before Him the deepest desires of your heart. Perhaps it’s time for your first fencing lesson.
About the Author:
Author and blogger, Lynne Keating also lectors and teaches the Bible to CCD students at St. John the Beloved Parish in Wilmington, DE. Convinced that this is one of the most exciting and important times in salvation history, her writing encourages all people to recognize and rejoice in God’s self-offering love, revealed more and more through the actions of His people. She blogs at Fellowship of the Lamb.