Our first reading today from the Book of Kings about Naaman the Syrian is one of the stories that got Jesus into trouble in Nazareth. He compared Naaman’s faith to the faith of the people from Nazareth and they were angered enough to want to throw him off the cliff outside the town.
Naaman’s story is filled with interesting lessons. A little Jewish slave girl brings a great general with leprosy to Israel. Israel’s king is terrified about the political consequences of the visit. Naaman is angery about being told to wash in the Jordan. A cure comes from the water, which associates it with Christian baptism.
Our reading today, though, omitted part of the story I like. Returning to the Prophet Elisha after he’s cured, Naaman wants to shower the prophet with gifts, but he won’t take any. “Naaman said: “If you will not accept, please let me, your servant, have two mule-loads of earth,* for your servant will no longer make burnt offerings or sacrifices to any other god except the LORD.”
“Two mule-loads of earth.” The Empress Helena brought earth from the site of Calvary to the church of the Holy Cross in Rome in the 4th century when she brought relics of the cross to be honored there. The earth is still there.
We’ve placed rocks from many countries of the world in our Mary Garden at the foot of the statue of Mary and her Child. (Above)
Earth itself is holy. So simple it can be ignored. Yet all life depends on about 6 inches of soil. Of all the memorabilia Naaman could have taken from Israel, he took two mule-loads of earth. He had it right.