Last week I had to drive up to Mundelein to take care of my taxes. I stopped along the way at one of those Oasis overhead rest stops to get some coffee. A man I never saw before, pouring cream in his coffee, told me, “I hope you have a great day.” A bit stunned at this friendly gesture, I wished him a good day. He responded, “Thanks, my friend.” My day changed for the better.
Getting back in my car, a woman was standing by her car, another total stranger, waving at me shouting, “HI... how are you?” A Total stranger,I kid you not. I’m flying high about now, despite driving up to finish my tax return. My God, how two total strangers can change one’s entire outlook. Simple gestures go a long way.
How total strangers can even catch us off guard!! A lesson right from this mornings readings. Naaman, a Syrian needed to be healed of his leprosy. Nothing was working so he was advised to see Elisha, a Jewish prophet known for his healing powers. Naaman reluctantly goes to Elisha who tells him to wash seven times in the Jordan. He does so and is healed. Naaman and Elisha were outsiders to each other, strangers. And yet a miracle restored Naaman and gave him back his humanity.
Jesus reminds the people of this incident in the Old Testament when he tells them, in no uncertain terms, that a prophet is never honored in his own home town. Why? Because his prophetic words rub his own people the wrong way. They want one of their own to offer words of comfort not challenge. And Jesus was definitely challenging them by surfacing TWO people from their own scriptures, Naaman and the widow from Zarephath, both strangers and outsiders who were healed and had a bountiful harvest. These two unlikely people received divine favor and blessing.
God surprises us in so many ways so that we don’t control how God acts. The people in Jesus’ town didn’t like his allusions to these two favored outsiders, individuals not a part of the clan or tribe. Prophets are called to widen our horizons, which soften the heart, allowing us to experience love in new and surprising ways.
Two total strangers changed my whole day, filling me with joy. Not even a tax return could dampen that joy.
Peace. Fr. Frank