The trust required to undergo the treatment for a physical disease is a good analogy for the trust in God required to be cured of the spiritual disease of sin. Cure and conversion go hand-in-hand. The connection between the two was the subject of our readings this past Sunday.
You want me to what?! In the first reading, Naaman seeks to be cured of his leprosy. The powerful Aramean army commander is instructed to present himself to the prophet Elisha in Israel, which is in enemy territory. Naaman visits Elisha, risking great scandal. However, Elisha’s instructions are not what Naaman expects, so he doesn’t do what Elisha prescribes until one of his servants talks some sense into him. It is Naaman’s humility, rather than his understanding, that leads to his healing. In gratitude, Naaman builds an altar to the God of Israel.
Thank you very little. The gospel reading is the New Testament compliment to the story of Naaman. Jesus cleanses ten lepers, but only one, a Samaritan, returns to thank him. It may be inferred the others were Jews who were either: 1) so preoccupied with the cure that they forgot to thank the one who provided it, or 2) simply believed they were entitled to it. Jesus holds up this Samaritan outsider, a non-Jew like Naaman, as an example to the Jewish people of the connection between faith and salvation. Obedience to Jewish laws apart from faith entitled them to nothing.
Love, honor, and obey. However, let’s not discard obedience so quickly. In the second reading, St. Paul provides strong advice regarding our final destination. He reminds us, “If we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us” (2 Timothy 2:12). There are essentially two interrelated ways to deny God. One is to fail to do His will (failure to obey); the other is to do His will but hoard the credit (failure to honor). Either one constitutes a denial (failure to love), which has damning consequences. Yes, pun intended.
Catholicism 101. The doctrine of justification is a significant point of debate between Protestants and Catholics. Protestants believe salvation is justified by faith through grace poured out in the saving work of Jesus on the cross. Catholics believe our faith calls us to also participate in Jesus’s saving work by dying to sin and rising to new life in Him. This is not “earning” salvation by good works apart from grace, which is a heresy called Pelagianism. Read more about justification in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.