Do Not be Frozen in Fear

02-14-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Because we think our modern society is so sophisticated and advanced, when we hear the stories of various events in the early times of the Israelites or other ancient people, wetend to view them with a judgmental attitude. Certainly the great fear that the ancient Israelites possessed about leprosy and other skin diseases gives us this opportunity to feel so very superior to them.

In the midst of this Pandemic, most of us have witnessed or felt the effects of many people who have either great irrational fear or denial of the COVID Virus. Reactions in this country alone certainly have varied from either extreme, with many of us more in the center. Not only has our response to this been influenced by our own interior personal interpretation of sickness and illness, but also for many it has also become a heated political or religious matter, and sadly oftentimes a statement. In truth, we are not that far removed from the Israelites blaming their parents and an alleged sin of theirs for diseases and sickness or that God deliberately punishes people with sickness and disease. Some people, many of whom are part of the Christian Tradition, in fact, still hold to these interpretations quite strongly. Although contemporary medicine keeps advancing, we live in an age that recognized germs, viruses, infection, etc. We often know what causes disease or illness and can do much to lessen or cure the disease. This was not so true for the Israelites way back then. Their knowledge was extremely limited and so their solutions and cures were quite dramatic and often different from ours.

In the Book of Leviticus are the required rules, or laws, for the people to follow regarding sickness, especially skin diseases. Bear in mind these rules were based upon their recent memories of the boils that were a plague in Egypt for the livestock and their owners the Egyptians. The Israelites saw that God sent the plagues to get the Egyptians to obey him, and when they did not, God sent sickness and death to them. The Israelites concluded the same might also happen to them. They easily connected sickness and sin. They thought only adults, for example, parents, could sin. The rule that a priest was to officially acknowledge a cure was related to the notion that sin caused sickness.

One of the major reasons that Jesus was so popular was because He cured people from their sicknesses, especially skin diseases such as leprosy. The cured were no longer victims of isolation or of the sins of their parents, as least so the people believed. It is clearthat the compassion of Jesus motivated Him to cure people. These acts were not for medical reasons; instead they were to show by the divine power of Jesus the love of God for His people.

What is also significant in this story is that the leper was not frozen in his fear or helpless. He acted to seek help. He came to Jesus and acknowledged his illness and asked for help.This is an important model for us to remember. In our problems of life, we need to come to the Lord Jesus and acknowledge Him and our faults and failures and also ask Him for His grace and help. Some of us need His grace to give us courage or strength, others wisdom or humility or other gifts, and some need to ask for forgiveness and a new beginning.