How to be Firm in Faith
After his cure Elisha the prophet accepted no gift. Naaman then asked him if he could take two mule loads of earth. He wanted the earth where the God of Israel was worshipped. He told Elisha, ‘May the Lord forgive me, when my master enters the temple of Rimmon, then, I too, as his adjutant, must bow down in that temple. But I will not longer offer sacrifice to any other God except to the Lord’. Elisha said to him, “Go in peace.”
Our readings speak of faith today. Timothy gives a good summary of the gift of faith we are given in Baptism. Persevere! He is faithful to us even in our failures. But do not deny Him.
We may all have our way of describing the gift of faith. For Naaman, it came simply as believing the word of a child. We may have expressed our gratitude also. We may grope as blind people clinging to this gift of faith.
Naaman speaks to us especially if we find ourselves unable to celebrate our faith. It sounds like Elisha is not a party prophet, there is not slap on the back or embrace when Naaman returns full of joy. But the prophet says to him, “Go in peace”. Did he know there would be difficulties ahead when it came to holding on to the gift of healing that was like a Baptism for Naaman. Even Naaman could anticipate some trouble. How many people, maybe you, in some way run into circumstances that prevent celebrating and living the gift of faith? No good proof lately, too many negative things, personal failures that are depressing, unsettledness or insecurity. The words of God to us are those of the prophet to Naaman, ‘Go in peace’. Did those words see Naaman, as they can see us, through times when it is hard to welcome the gifts that faith brings us.
But Naaman did have his two loads of special Holy Land. What did he do with it? Perhaps he kept it in a fenced in area outside or in a large box kept in a shrine in his house? This was important, more important than any money he would gladly have given away. Have you kept any Holy Ground from a sacred event? Something from a wedding or another sacrament? Peter Hebblethwaite begins his biography of
St. John XXIII by entering his room after his death and examining the artifacts that John had saved from the events of his life. A lovely examining of the little things that told what had made up his life. We need our piles of dirt! Our momentos of the Holy Ground we have stumbled upon by accident or the special time we felt the closeness of God or heard God’s voice loud and clear. These ‘little things’ that we have by our night stand or desk drawer or in a sacred place help our faith. They remind us, especially when we are groping in the darkness that we have met the God that we have faith in. We go to them, remember and our renewed.
Persevering, treasuring our experiences, and the gratitude seen in our other leper today, all of these feed our faith. Like Naaman we do not need to dissect or explain what happened, but in treasuring the experiences of our faith we become more firm in this gift and it seems to grow stronger.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.