The first reading on Sunday, the 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time, places the experience of sickness in the context of religion and the community.
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘If a swelling or scab or shiny spot appears on a man’s skin, a case of leprosy of the skin is to be suspected. The man must be taken to Aaron, the priest, or to one of the priests who are his sons.
‘The man is leprous: he is unclean. The priest must declare him unclean; he is suffering from leprosy of the head. A man infected with leprosy must wear his clothing torn and his hair disordered; he must shield his upper lip and cry, “Unclean, unclean.” As long as the disease lasts he must be unclean; and therefore he must live apart: he must live outside the camp.’
Sadly, the response of religion, here, is to exclude the sick person from the community.
Self-exclusion for the sake of others may well be a generous and self-sacrificing act, but if we impose exclusion on others for our (presumed) well-being it can be a deadly and selfish thing – not working for the good of society, but leading to its disintegration.
In the UK today the sick, the elderly and the disabled are excluded, so often. We may not make them cry out ‘Unclean, unclean’, but their place in society is often unsecure and so the security and health of our society made less secure.
The present debates about the NHS and social care, about euthanasia and the like reveal so much about our priorities and values. And society presently seems rather shabby and careless.
The saying that it takes a village to raise a child, has something to teach us about people’s experience at other stages in life too, when they cannot cope alone. When they cannot cope? Or when we cannot cope… ?
- For who do you show care?
- Who shows care for you?
Bring your thoughts and feelings to God in prayer.