Cleansing a Myth

Matthew 8: 1-4
Gen 17:1, 9-10,15-22 / Psa 128

Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.
(Matthew 8:2)

Trust in the Lord’s healing power,
Pray for His perfect protection;
Like Christ who cared for the leper,
We should not fear this affliction.

When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed Him. And behold, a leper came to Him and knelt before Him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” (Matthew 8:1-4)

Reflection

Leprosy, a highly misunderstood disease, has always been a scourge that people generally run away from, especially during the time of Jesus when there was no known cure for it, and people wrongly regarded it as the disease of the damned. By stretching out His hand to touch the leper, Jesus showed not only His compassion for the afflicted man but, His total disregard for the social stigma of leprosy.

The social stigma of leprosy which has caused millions of people to suffer discrimination and ostracism may well be worse than the disease itself. Most people are not aware that leprosy can now be cured effectively, and the fear of its being contagious is grossly exaggerated. As Yohei Sasakawa, a WHO Goodwill Ambassador for the Elimination of Leprosy pointed out, “Leprosy is a curable disease, and the medicine for it is free all over the world.” The myths associated with this age-old disease are harder to cure, because up to the present time, people affected by leprosy are still set apart from the mainstream of society, and denied the most basic of human rights like education and employment. In fact, even those who are totally healed of this disease are discouraged from getting married, lest they pass it on to their children.

The fear of getting infected by a deadly virus can be more harmful than the virus itself. It can affect normal relationships, and alienate people from one another. Such is the prevailing case of the AH1N1 flu scare affecting most parts of the world today. It has disrupted the daily routine of life in major cities, and has even worsened the economic crisis in countries like Mexico where it was first detected. Major industries like airlines, hotels and tourism have all been affected, both in developed as well as underdeveloped countries like ours. And yet, how many people have died from this swine flu virus, compared to deadlier killers like dengue fever? The worse thing that has happened is that those who are found infected by the virus and quarantined at home or in hospitals become social outcasts, much like the lepers. This social stigma can bring about a greater emotional and psychological harm to the victims of this influenza virus.

There is a greater need for us to change our attitude towards people who are suffering from any disease like leprosy or swine flu. Stronger doses of love and compassion are just as important as the antiviral vaccines or multi-drug therapies that are needed to eradicate these ailments. Like our Lord Jesus, we must stretch out to them, and not cut our contacts with them. Modern technology has provided ways of being “in touch” without the danger of getting infected — through telephones, mobile phones, emails, or even the old fashioned letter writing. And let us pray that this affliction will soon be eradicated.

Father God, we believe that the curse of leprosy and other diseases were never part of Your design in creation, but were sown on earth by the evil one. Lord, please make our land clean of these afflictions, and make us whole once again. Grant that we may become more compassionate and caring for those who are sick, as Jesus has done for us. Amen.

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