“There were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
In today’s Gospel we see Jesus rejected by the people of Nazareth, his hometown. Jesus comments, “No prophet is accepted in his own native place.” In the section of the Gospel preceding this passage, Luke tells us that Jesus had begun his ministry in Galilee, and word about him spread rapidly. He returned to Nazareth and spoke in the synagogue, and Jesus’ neighbors were amazed at his words. They found him too much for them, and sarcastically said, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” They could have added, “We saw him grow up. We know his family and where he comes from. Where does he come off preaching to us?” They expected that if God were to speak to them, it would be in some extraordinary way. Jesus was just too ordinary.
Jesus reminded them about the story of Naaman the Syrian, who was cured of leprosy by the prophet Elisha. Naaman at first got angry at the prophet, who told him to wash in the Jordan. There was nothing special about that. Couldn’t he have just done that at home? But his servant reasoned with him, telling him that if the prophet had asked him to do something special, he would have done it. So why not do what he was asked, even if it seems too ordinary? Naaman let go of his preconceived idea, went down to the river to wash, and was cured.
Sometimes God shatters our expectations by working in ordinary ways, through ordinary people. But we can miss what God is doing if we always look for something extraordinary or expect him to act in spectacular ways. The sacraments use ordinary things: water, bread, wine, oil, words. They’re so ordinary that we might take them for granted and receive them routinely. Lent is a good time to pause and meditate on what we are doing when we participate in the Eucharist, and to receive it with fresh eyes and new love.