Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

7 Pentecost

First reading and psalm: 2 Kings 5:1-14 • Ps. 30

Alternate: Isa. 66:10-14 • Ps. 66:1-8 • Gal. 6:(1-6), 7-16 • Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

 “All must test their own works … all must carry their own loads” (Gal. 6:4-5). And yet personal responsibility in the body of Christ implies responsibility to the whole, which is why St. Paul says that we “should bear one another’s burdens … and work for the good of all” (Gal. 6:2, 6:10). Each person has a gift to offer and a need only others can supply.

Additionally, one’s gift must not be inflated as a cause of personal pride nor, if the gift is outward, should it become a form of “circumcision” and outward credential. Rather, one’s impoverishment is the real key to riches. St. Paul says, “May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14). He explains himself, naming a double death. “The world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” In communion with a dead and naked Christ, Paul is cut off from the world and exposed to raw need. Rising in union with the Risen Christ, Paul becomes a new creation. Indeed, “a new creation is everything” (Gal. 6:15). Paul has gifts, to be sure, as do we, but every detail of those gifts is given by the one true God.

“Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master” (2 Kings 5:1). Disarmed, however, he was all in all a man. And so his body had a defect, leprosy, we are told, which in the ancient world meant a wide range of skin disorders. In the course of the story he makes an official trip to Israel to seek healing from the prophet Elisha, a man of God. The prophet advises that he dip himself seven times in the River Jordan. Although recognizing his need, Naaman has standards and a high social position, his dignity. How is it that the prophet sends a mere messenger? How dare the prophet refuse incantation and a wave of the hand over the diseased spot? And why the waters of the Jordan when the waters of Abana and Pharpar are just as good? Let Naaman learn what disease may teach. He is a man, only a man. Dip at the directions of the prophet of God or go home with your illness! Dying to his expectations, he gets a new creation on terms other than his own. Reborn, he emerges with the flesh of a young boy.

Suppose, as the prophet does, that the whole nation is lost. An exiled people “mourn over her” (Isa. 66:10). And yet the hope of restoration recurs, and at this great moment the people are called to rejoice, be glad, and love her. God is calling and making all things new. Trial has exposed the most primitive need; the nation and its people are newborn infants. Whence cometh their help? In a sense, God is the nation, or rather, God works through the nation, nourishing the people “from her consoling breast” (Isa. 66:11). “And you shall nurse and be carried on her arms, and dandled on her knees” (Isa. 66:12). “You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice” (Isa. 66:14).

A rejoicing and pure heart knows nothing of its inherent strength and competence. Rather, such a heart grows from need. No purse, no bag, no sandals, no greetings on the road, only a willing peace and an unprejudiced palate. Clean your plate, stay where you are welcome, say “thank you” often, heal the sick, announce the kingdom! God is at the door of your need.

Look It Up
Read 2 Kings 5:13. The small thing might be the big miracle.

Think About It
O God, make speed to save us! Shoot this arrow prayer.

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