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Attitude towards lepers

By Fr. Bel R. San Luis, SVD

Once a jeepney was passing in front of a leprosarium. Two patients, though cured already but still bore physical deformities, boarded. There was an uneasy silence as they wedged themselves between two passengers right behind the driver.

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After a few minutes, the two asked to stop in order to alight. One of them reached out her hand to pay the fare. The driver, who was afraid to touch the hand and coins for fear of contamination, said: “Hindi na bale. Libre na po ang pamasahe ninyo” (Never mind. Your fare is free).”

The patient was so grateful that she grabbed his hand and kissed it! The driver almost fainted.

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That amusing story shows how leprosy is dreaded even today. During the time of Christ, lepers were even more pathetic. They were not only segregated as social outcasts to be shunned but also considered their sickness as a punishment from God.

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The leper in this 6th Sunday’s gospel (Mk 1, 40-45) reveals how desperate he had become by openly entering a town in order to seek Jesus’ help. He approached our Lord and cried out: “Lord, if you will, you can heal me.”

Jesus stretched out his hand and said: “I do will it. Be cured.” And the leper was instantly cured. Note that Jesus was “moved to pity,” rather than by fear of the man’s sickness.

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Today, thanks to the advances of medical science, leprosy is curable and does not bear the moral stigma it once had. Nowadays we seldom meet lepers but we do have modern-day lepers.

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They are those who are considered as social outcasts or shunned by people in society. We have the women of ill-repute, the prisoners, the squatters living in makeshift houses, tribal people who’re often looked down upon and whose rights, especially on their ancestral lands, are abused.

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What is our attitude towards them? What is the Christian response?

In a meeting about a project of doing apostolate with prisoners in a provincial jail, one young man stood up and said: “Why undertake this project? Isn’t it only fair that they are put behind bars to suffer for the consequences of their crime”? Someone from the group responded: “We live by another kind of standard.”

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The “standard” which he referred to and should be emulated by every follower of Jesus is the spirit of Christian love and compassion as shown by the Lord in this Sunday’s gospel.

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There’s another important insight in this Sunday gospel. Note that the leper comes to Jesus and asks to be cured. Jesus stretches out his hand to the leper and cured him. We go to doctors and faith healers, but do we ever go to Jesus in prayer or his healing sacraments like going to confession and receiving Holy Communion?

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Today, February 11, is the feast of our LADY OF LOURDES, let’s pray to the Lady who has healed miraculously thousands of the sick, especially those with cancer, AIDS, leukemia, renal failure. Let’s extend help, too, to numerous sick indigents. Let this be our way of thanking God for our good health.

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INDIGENT SICK. In the spirit of World Prayer Day for the SICK, I am appealing on behalf of indigent sick we are helping like Dante Cabansag and Fr. Ruben Mamuad who are undergoing hemodialysis thrice weekly. Also M. Maranga, J. Lopez, Rosanna Cayunda sick of pulmonary ailments and hence.

For inquiries, e-mail me at: belsvd@gmail.com.

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