Bishop Thomas Gumbletonby Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

As we begin to listen carefully and deeply to the lessons today, I think it might be important first of all to say a word about the first lesson — what seems to be such a harsh law imposed upon the people when they were afflicted with an illness. But in that time, of course, many people, if you remember a couple of weeks ago we read from the Book of Job, thought any affliction like that was because people had sinned, and so it was a punishment and they had to give up their sins in order to be cured.

But in fact, the ritual cleansing that needed to take place or to be approved by the priests was in order to prevent contagion from happening because also in those times, with these kinds of diseases that were very contagious and actually very painful and brought a lot of suffering, were also easy to spread. And so that’s why that harsh rule was imposed upon them.

You have to leave the community. You even have to go through like a ritual purification: Cut your hair, put on sackcloth and ashes, and then if anybody comes near, cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!” They were cut off totally from the community, which is very harsh and difficult, but with their understanding and not understanding how to prevent contagion, that was the only way they can deal with it, so it isn’t quite as harsh as it seems. It was the practical way of trying to prevent contagion from spreading through the whole community….

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