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7/7 Readings: Complete Cleansing

4 Pentecost

2 Kgs. 5:1-14 [Is. 66:10-14]
Ps. 30 [Ps. 66:1-8]
Gal. 6: (1-6), 7-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, suffered from skin lesions. His wife, told by a slave girl from the land of Israel that a prophet in Samaria could heal his disease, urged him to request the king’s permission to make a pilgrimage to the land of Israel. Armed with letters of recommendation and gifts of value, Naaman set out. When he met the king of Israel and delivered his letters, the king suspected that he was being drawn into intrigue and danger. “Just look and see,” the king said, “how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me” (II Kgs. 5:7). Indeed, nations rise up against nations. But then, the prophet Elisha intervened.

Traveling again, Naaman came with his horses and chariots to the entrance of Elisha’s house. Expecting Elisha to come out, and stand and call upon the Lord, and to wave his hand and heal him instantly, Naaman was offended when an emissary arrived instead; offended too that he was commanded to wash seven times in the Jordan River. Could I not wash in the rivers of Damascus? And why have I been disrespected by the presence of an envoy?

The king of Israel tore his clothes in rage; Naaman was offended by the manner of his reception at the house of the prophet. Meanwhile, nothing was resolved. Naaman was covered in skin lesions, though a man of great power. Finally, urged by his attendants, Naaman submitted to the prophet’s command.

We know what we want, and we know how we want it, and we want our self-regard and self-reliance staunchly protected even when seeking help. If a healthy self-regard and hearty self-reliance were enough, we wouldn’t be sick, or in need, or in trouble. The self would take care of itself and rely on no one. Still, the lesions remain. In Christian terms, this is really about cleansing, and cleansing is about baptism, and God sets the terms.

Naaman did not, we notice, argue over the number seven. It’s a number signaling completeness, a complete cleansing. Again and again, in Scripture and tradition, seven is a complete list: the seven days of creation, the seven planets, the seven seas, the seven cows and seven ears of corn in Pharaoh’s dream, the seven sacraments, the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, the seven last words from the Cross, the seven penitential psalms, the seven heavenly virtues, the seven deadly sins, the seven works of mercy, the seven joys and seven sorrows of Mary the Virgin. Naaman is not to wash five or six times. He is to wash seven times, completely and utterly.

We might argue too. Do we not have our own rivers? Does not water run from our faucets? Why must we go to the baptismal font of the local parish four miles from home? On one occasion Jesus asked what may seem a cruel question, “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6) Health brings responsibilities and they must be faced, but in the context of this meditation, Jesus’ question may be about allowing God to heal as God heals and on God’s terms.

We are made new in the waters of baptism and we are dipped in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The number three is also about completeness, for the Father and the Son and the bond of Spirit/Love they share is the source of all being. Do you want to be clean and stripped of demons, made new and pure in Christ? Do you want your name written in heaven? (Luke 10:20) Be baptized and confess the Triune Name.

Look It Up

Read Psalm 30.

Think About It

You restored my life.


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