Monday – Naaman
Naaman was highly insulted. He had come all this way to Israel in the hope of finding a cure for his leprosy. First off, the Israelite king hadn't known what to do for him and even thought that his arrival was some kind of Assyrian trick intended to pick a fight. Naaman was slightly annoyed by the whole matter.
Then the king had sent him along to some fellow named Elisha who was supposed to be a great and powerful prophet. Naaman had arrived at Elisha's door in splendor, complete with a show of fine horses and chariots. He wanted to make a good impression after all. But the prophet wouldn't even see him! He just sent Naaman a message: “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will heal, and you will be clean.”
Now Naaman was really miffed. What kind of advice was that? He was looking for a miracle, not a bath! If he wanted to go swimming, there were plenty of rivers in Assyria. He didn't have to come all the way to Israel for that. He was ready to turn around and go straight home, cure or no cure.
Then some of Naaman's servants approached. “My father,” they began, somewhat hesitantly, “if the prophet had told you to do something extraordinary, would you not have done it?" So, they continued, why not give this idea a try? Naaman had to give them credit for daring to even ask him such questions, but he also had to admit that they were right. He had, after all, been expecting some difficult task, something that would earn his cure somehow. He would have been more than willing to have done such a thing. Maybe, just maybe, the washing the river thing seemed too easy. It poked at his pride.
So Naaman followed the prophet's command. He washed in the Jordan River seven times, and when he came out, he was both dripping wet and completely healed. He also had a brand new perspective. He believed that Israel's God was indeed the only God, and he realized that this God wanted obedient followers much more than proud show-offs. Naaman went home a new man in more ways than one.
Tuesday – The Take and Give of Forgiveness
In today's Gospel, we listen as Jesus tells a parable about the take and give of forgiveness. That's right...take and give, not the other way around.
The main character in the parable is a servant who is in debt to his king. He can't pay, and he knows it, so he goes to the king to beg for mercy. “Be patient with me,” he pleads, “and I will pay you back in full.” The king looks upon his groveling servant with compassion and forgives his entire debt. The servant leaves the king's presence free and clear; he has received a marvelous gift.
As quick as he is to reach out and take the king's forgiveness, however, the servant is not willing to give the same pity to anyone else. Just after leaving the king, he comes across a fellow servant who owes him a little bit of money. One would think that he would graciously tell the man to forget about the matter, thereby extending the same forgiveness he had just received. But he doesn't. Instead, he grabs his fellow servant, starts to choke him, and demands that he pay back every penny. The fellow servant cries out for mercy in the same words the first man had used to speak to the king, but this time they don't work. The fellow servant ends up in prison.
Witnessing all this, the other servants are extremely disturbed, and they report back to the king, who is naturally upset by the matter. After all, he had just forgiven this servant a large sum of money, and now he hears that this person refused to do the same for someone else's small debt. He calls the servant into his presence, and this time things aren't nearly so pleasant. “You wicked servant!” the king exclaims. “I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?” The time for mercy is now long gone, and the servant ends up in the hands of the torturers.
The servant brings his fate on himself, of course. He is so willing to take, but he is not willing to give. Do we do the same?
Wednesday – Don't Forget
In today's first reading, Moses essentially tells the Israelites, “Don't forget everything that God has done for you.” Don't forget how He heard your cries when you were slaves in Egypt. Don't forget how He brought down plagues on the stubborn Pharaoh. Don't forget how He passed over your firstborn sons and saved them from death. Don't forget how He led you out of Egypt in a fiery cloud. Don't forget how He parted the Red Sea and then let it fall back over the pursuing Egyptians. Don't forget how He made a covenant with you and gave you a Law. Don't forget how He fed you with manna and made water flow from a rock for you to drink. Don't forget how He defeated your enemies and led you to the land He had promised.
We, too, must not forget what God has done for us. Every day we ought to take a few minutes to recall the blessings God has poured out upon our lives. This practice will give us confidence, for God does not change. What He has done in the past, He will continue to do. We just have to remember His blessings, recognize them, and receive them with grateful hearts.