Readings: 2 Kings 5:1-15; Luke 4:24-30
"In the prophet Elisha's time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these were cured, except the Syrian, Naaman." (Luke 4:27)
Among the many attractive stories which we enjoy in our scriptures are those about the prophets Elijah and Elisha in the books of Kings. The Elijah stories have several echoes in our Gospels. Because he had been taken up to heaven in a burning chariot, he was expected to return. The angel Gabriel tells Zechariah that his son, John the Baptist, would enjoy the spirit and power of Elijah. When Jesus cried out from the cross, bystanders thought he was calling on Elijah.
By contrast, Elisha, Elijah's successor, is mentioned just once in the New Testament when, as we hear today, Jesus names him in his sermon in the synagogue at Nazareth. He recalls how Elisha cured a foreigner, Naaman, a servant of the king of Syria, of his leprosy. Elisha is the third prophet named in this sermon after Isaiah and Elijah. Jesus speaks of Elisha not only because he cured lepers as he himself would, but also because he did not restrict his mission to his own people. Elisha became known to the king of Syria, just as Jesus became known to King Herod and Paul became known to Festus, the Roman governor.
Our calling as Christians summons us to struggle against the leprosy of evil and sin and to share the universal outlook of Jesus, who cured the servant of a Gentile centurion and whose Gospel, according to the Acts of the Apostles, would flourish in Rome itself, in those days the centre of world power.
Father, may we, unlike Jesus' audience in Nazareth, be responsive to the words which he speaks to us in the Gospels, so that we may follow the example set before us in the lives of the many holy people who have gone before us. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.