Ordinary Time 28, Year C-2010

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
Here is my servant ..., my chosen one with whom I am pleased (Is. 42:1—NAB)

Thank God for that little girl the Arameans captured from the land of Israel in a raid. She became not just Naaman’s wife’s servant but also God’s instrument. Without her, the mighty military commander from a kingdom hostile to Israel would not have come to confess in the end, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.”

But Naaman would not have made such a confession either without another intervention “from below,” that is, from those servants who reasoned with him to reconsider his decision, made in anger, not to pursue further his quest for healing [1]. Thank God for these servants also. Without them, victorious Naaman would have been just another easy victim of unwarranted expectations, vain sense of self-importance and entitlement, misguided nationalism, and the stubborn illusion that wealth and influence can buy everything, including healing and wholeness (cf. Acts 8:18; 2 Cor. 2:17).

Naaman’s servants and his wife’s maid are proof positive that the poor can bring good news in the same unbelievable manner that the muddy waters of the Jordan can wash a leper clean better than the mountain spring waters of the rivers of Damascus can. The poor are not just objects of evangelization but are also its subjects; they evangelize, as exemplified by St. Vincent de Paul’s own conversion, as much as they are evangelized [2].

And if the Samaritan leper—poor on two counts for being at once a leper and a member of a hated ethnic group—is any indication, the worse the poverty, the greater the capacity to be an instrument of evangelization. With the other nine, the Samaritan proclaims the good news of faith [3]. Surpassing his companions, however, he bears the good news of a discerning, joyful, grateful and, ultimately, saving faith. Such a faith glorifies God and acknowledges Jesus as God’s agent. It sees Jesus as the full confirmation of the presence of prophecy in Israel. It prompts believers to accept Jesus as the Messiah, who, though questioned and rejected, brings peace and ushers in God’s kingdom as he breaks down the dividing wall of enmity and makes the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers clean (2 Kgs. 5:8, 19; Lk. 4:27; 7:22; Eph. 2:16) [4].

Yet servanthood or poverty, needless to say, does not automatically make for evangelization. As Elisha’s servant Gehazi’s being afflicted with Naaman’s leprosy indicates, seeking one’s own interest can get in the way of one’s being an evangelizer. Only those poor evangelize who seek the good of others ahead of their own, those who die with Jesus, the Suffering Servant (Is. 53:5; 1 Pt. 2:24), and lives also with him, those who commune with Jesus as he takes bread and wine, gives thanks, and says: “Take this, all of you, and eat it ...; take this, all of you, and drink ....”


Notes

[1] Cf. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1990) 10:46.
[2] Cf. The Constitutions of the Congregation of the Mission (1984), art. 12, n. 3. See also Robert P. Maloney, C.M., The Way of Vincent de Paul (Brooklyn, NY: New City Press, 1992) 150, and He Hears the Cry of the Poor (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1995) 20, 111, 113, 117.
[3] Cf. http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Luke/Faithful-Looking-King-Kingdom (accessed October 8, 2010).
[4] Cf. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, 43:153.