Vicar’s Reflection: Lent 2, 25th February 2018
Leprosy is a much-feared disease. Those who contracted it suffered great disfigurement. For a long time, leprosy was thought to be a hereditary disease, or a curse, or a punishment from God; until 1873 when Dr. Gerhard Hansen of Norway identified through a microscope the culprit bacterium Mycobacterium Leprae, or Hansen’s bacillus. Leprosy causes skin lesions and if untreated, destroys the nerves. Over time this leads to the disfiguring effects of leprosy, as those affected lose the sense of pain. In daily activity they acquire small cuts and abrasions, and even serious injuries which go un-noticed until the affected finger or toe is beyond healing or lost entirely. No-one likes pain. No one likes suffering. But with leprosy we see what can happen when we don’t feel pain. Pain provokes us to do something to protect ourselves, to seek treatment and healing from injury. Suffering is a more complex and broader experience which can affect not just an individual but a community. Surviving students of the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida may not have been injured but they are certainly suffering. Their suffering has provoked them to protest about American gun laws. Such action can bring a redemptive meaning to suffering. We have learned this from Jesus who warned his disciples about his own suffering and prepared them for their call to take up a cross. All suffering is a call to the followers of Jesus to take redemptive action.