Think about those times in your life when you have felt inspired to something really great. Where does that inspiration come from?
The Holy Spirit. God inspires us to do great things with our lives.
----Matthew Kelly

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Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, I'm just a Catholic empty nester trying to figure it all out. The views on this blog are my own.

Lepers & Saints

During RCIA, we start out by reading the next Sunday's Gospel and having a discussion. Sometimes it can be very interesting to see what stood out for some people.  This week, there were varying opinions: was the leper being prideful when he was healed? Why did Jesus tell him not to tell anyone? What was the "cleansing what Moses prescribed" (Mark 1: 44)?

The Cleansing Process

After reading Leviticus 14 1:32, I realized what a long, arduous process the cleansing is. It wasn't a quick sacrificial ceremony, rather, it took days. It begins with 2 live birds and cedar wood, scarlet yarn, and hyssop. 1 of the birds is slaughtered over fresh water, then the live bird (along with the other materials) is dipped into the blood. The person is then sprinkled 7 times with this blood. The person is then allowed to go back to his house, but he can't go in it just yet. He has to stay outside for 7 days (I'm assuming this is so that the house can be declared "clean"...the rest of chapter 13 of Leviticus discusses that process.), when he has to shave off all hair, wash his clothes, and bathe in water. On the 8th day, 3 lambs are brought before the priest: 2 male and 1 female. One of the males is sacrificed, with the blood being put on very specific places on the one being cleansed. Then, oil that also was brought is placed on specific body parts of the person. Next is a purification offering. Verses 21-32 discuss the cleansing process for someone who is poor, which I imagine a lot of lepers were since they were banished from the community and their families were shamed. It was an interesting read, for sure!

What's the Connection?

During the Readings during Mass, I thought of how the 3 Readings were intertwined. I think some Sundays I have a hard time fitting the 3 together, but not this week. The First Reading (Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46) touches on what I described in the previous paragraph. It seems a bit spliced to me, reading the whole Chapter makes more sense. This Reading gives us a glimpse of what it was like to have leprosy. Just a glimpse, though. Lepers were banished from their communities; their families looked upon with shame because it was believed that leprosy was brought on by the sins of the leper. Can you imagine? These days, leprosy is known as "Hansen's Disease", and, according to the CDC, can take up to 20 years to develop. It is treatable, and the CDC estimates 150-250 people in the U.S.A. contract the bacterial infection per year. (Hansen's Disease-CDC)
The Second Reading doesn't seem to have a connection between the First Reading and the Gospel, but after I listened to it and read it again, there's definitely a connection to the Gospel. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1) and See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself... (Mark 1:44) As part of our discussion at RCIA, we talked about not doing things for recognition (there's that theme again!). Jesus could have told the leper to run out and tell everyone about his great miracles, but that wasn't his purpose for becoming man and being on the earth. He didn't want people to think he was just about being a healer, a miracle worker. He wanted his physical healings to take a back seat to his true ministry: healing the souls of the people. He calls us to imitate him today, to do things for the right reason: to glorify God and not to call attention to ourselves.

A Hero or a Crazy Man?

St. Damien of Molokai was a Belgian priest who, when his brother fell ill before going on a mission to Hawaii, took his brother's place. He learned of a leper island with no structure. He helped, not only with the structure, but building houses and a chapel. More importantly, he helped with their souls. He eventually contracted the disease after living within the community for 16 years and succumbed to leprosy at the age of 49. There are reports that, upon his passing, all signs of leprosy vanished from his face. Upon statehood, Hawaii selected to have St. Damien as one of its representatives in the Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol. When accused of immoral behavior by a Protestant clergyman, St. Damien was defended by Robert Louis Stevenson in his Open Letter to Mr. Hyde. (Franciscan Media) Father Damien was ordained in Hawaii...when he first arrived, he was not a priest. He was only supposed to minister in Molokai for a few months but asked (along with some of the inhabitants) to stay. Even though leprosy is not highly contagious (as was once thought), Father Damien did not pay attention to hygiene which contributed to his contracting the disease.
Want to go on a pilgrimage? In 2015, there were still a few dozen people living in Kalaupapa, which is now a National Historical Park. This includes mostly park employees. Visitors are limited to 100 per day (no one under 16 is permitted) and they have to be invited by either the park employees are the remaining inhabitants. Kalaupapa is accessible only by mule or hiking. There is a long-term plan for the park to be opened up for tourists.

St. Damien Prayer: (Diocese of Honolulu)

Damien, brother on the journey, happy and generous missionary, who loved the Gospel more than your own life, who for love of Jesus left your family, your homeland, your security and your dreams.

Teach us to give our lives with joy like yours, to be in solidarity with the outcasts of our world, to celebrate and contemplate the Eucharist as the source of our own commitment.

Help us to love to the very end and, in the strength of the Spirit, to persevere in compassion for the poor and forgotten so that we might be good disciples of Jesus and Mary.

Amen

1 comment:

  1. I read a book (true story) about the Leper colony in Hawaii. It was so good. Molokai: A Novel, by Alan Brennart https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002H8ORMU/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1) Your post reminded me of this book.

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