Lent: Monday of the Third Week

“Are not the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be cleansed?”* With this, he turned about in anger and left.” (II Kings 5:12)

Origen of Alexandria (part 2 of Pope Benedict’s reflections on Origen) comments on this verse from the First Reading proclaimed at Mass today:

“But in addition, that we may accept the interpretation of the Jordan, that river that is so fresh and grants so much grace, it is useful to present both Naaman the Syrian, who was cleansed from leprosy, and the comments made about the rivers by the enemies of religion. It is written of Naaman, therefore: “He came with his horse and chariot and stood at the doors of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will return to you, and you will be cleansed.’” Then Naaman becomes angry because he does not perceive that it is our Jordan, and not the prophet, that removes the uncleanness of those who are unclean because of leprosy and heals them. For the work of a prophet is to send one to that which heals.

Since, therefore, Naaman does not understand the great mystery of the Jordan, he says, “Behold, I said that he will assuredly come out to me and will stand and call on the name of the Lord his God and will place his hand on the place and the leprosy will recover,” for placing the hand on leprosy and cleansing it was the work of my Lord Jesus alone. To the man who asked with faith, “If you will, you can make me clean, he not only said “I will, be made clean,” but in addition to the word that he spoke, he also touched him, and he was cleansed from leprosy.

Naaman, who is still in error and does not see how inferior the other rivers are to the Jordan for healing the suffering, praises the rivers of Damascus, Abana and Pharphar, saying, “Are not the Abana and the Pharphar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Shall I not go and wash in them and be cleansed?” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 6)

May Your unfailing compassion, O Lord,
cleanse and protect Your Church,
and, since without you she cannot stand secure,
may She be always governed by Your grace.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen