A new look at leprosy … and numbness … Reflections on the Sunday Gospel from Mark 1:40-45 by Father Steven LaBaire

father steven labaireI am pleased to present this guest post from Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

In preparation for mass this Sunday:

“A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, ‘If you wish, you can make me clean.” (Mark 1:40)  That’s in this Sunday’s gospel.

from Community Eye Health
from Community Eye Health

Leprosy is a disease that affects nerves. Most people think about leprosy as a horrible skin disorder. But that’s only part of the story. Leprosy tragically affects the nerves of the body, especially in the hands and feet. Leprosy stops people from “feeling.” So for example, someone with leprosy might not “feel” the red hot pot on a stove. Their bare hands would be terribly burned. Because there’s no feeling. Leprosy creates numbness.

Leprosy can also be a “spiritual” affliction, something under the skin. Some call it “leprosy of the heart.”

It’s an overall, generalized “numbness” that deadens our feelings and reactions to life.

Because we’re so busy and distracted we can become “numb” to what’s really going on with our kids or spouse.

Because we “overdose” on  headline news and stories of terrible things happening all over the world, we can be “numb” to the pain of the co-worker sitting a few feet away.

Because we’re surrounded so much noise and distraction, we can be “numb” to our own feelings and emotions. (One day, someone tells us how angry we get over the smallest thing. Or, that we’re no longer fun to be around. Or, that we’re so “negative.” Then we wonder, “How long have I been like this? How long have I been “numb” to what I’ve become?)

Numb by Tony Alter
Numb by Tony Alter

Part of healing involves assessing our own personal leprosy or numbness. It might mean asking some hard questions of ourselves. It might mean making some daily  lifestyle changes. It might mean changing our circle of friends if they are people who seem content with their “numbness.”

(Let’s remember that lots of folks actually pursue “numbness” through alcohol, workaholism and drugs, so… we may need to make some new friends!)

Above all, the path to healing requires asking God  for the grace needed to live a fuller, more abundant life: Day by day, hour by hour, situation by situation. Healing is rarely self-induced. It requires openness to a power that is bigger and higher than ourselves.

If you can at least allow yourself to “feel” the need within yourself, you’ve taken the first step toward healing. Pray for the “nerve” to go further.

copyright 2015 Steven Michael LaBaire

Artwork: photo of Father LeBaire by Susan Bailey; “Leprosy” by Community Eye Health. Community Eye Health–Elderly multiple disabled multibacillary (MB) leprosy patients with a long history of disease are most at risk of developing severe eye complications and blindness.
© Swapan Samantha, IS Roy. Flickr Creative Commons; “Numb” by Tony Alter (Pink Floyd Comfortably Numb Lyrics; Songwriters: WATERS, ROGER / GILMOUR, DAVID JON) Flickr Creative Commons

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