A doctor was walking down the corridors of a hospital when he saw a small crowd. He stopped to enquire. The main office door wasn’t opening as the key was jammed. Everyone had given up when a young boy came forward and offered to help. Within a few seconds the boy managed to turn the key and open the door! Handing over the key, the boy walked off when someone gasped. There was blood on the key.
You see this Hospital was well known for treating patients with Hansen’s disease and this boy had contracted the dreaded disease. The bacteria which is responsible for the sickness somehow has a special liking for nerves. The person affected by this disease would slowly lose his ability to feel any kind of sensation -like heat, cold or even pain. This boy most probably had lost pain sensation in his fingers and therefore when trying to open the door, turned the key with such force that it injured his fingers. But he would not have ‘felt’ any pain, nor would he have noticed the blood dripping from his wound since his sensations would have been dulled by the sickness. Eventually, fingertips (sometimes tips of noses or ears too) fall off as a result of long-standing infection, resulting in a disfigured and often revolting ‘look’ we associate with lepers.
Yes, Hansen’s disease is commonly known as Leprosy and this boy was a leper.
The worst part of being a leper is not their looks, but the way others ‘look’ at them. Leprosy has been associated with Divine punishment from ancient days and untouchability and ostracization was the norm for a leper even during the New Testament times. That is the reason why Luke the physician when narrating the story of Jesus cleansing the leper says clearly – ‘Then He put out His hand and touched him (the leper) …’
Someone had once told me – if you laugh at something you are supposed to cry at, you know your senses have become dull.
While reading the story of ‘cleansing of a leper’ in St. Luke chapter 5, a thought occurred to me – could it be that sin does to me the same thing the bacteria does to the leper? In other words, could it be that the effect of sin is to ‘dull’ or ‘numb’ my (spiritual) senses, just the way the leprosy bacteria dull the (physical) senses in its victim?
For example, suppose we are in a group and someone cracked a joke. The ‘joke’ was crude, filled with double meaning and sexual innuendos, demeaning and putting people (because of their socio-economic or cultural background) down; but then everyone, including you, laughed at it. But deep inside you know, you should not have. Could it be that our spiritual senses were dulled?
Recently my mother-in-law told how she watched a ‘top-rated’ kid show. Within a few minutes of watching it, she shut the TV off. Reason? She felt disgusted at the way the show completely disregarded the real meaning of beauty (as God sees it) and made children and parents focus deliberately on outer beauty alone, often pushing parents go to extreme lengths to make their children ‘beautiful.’ Her spiritual senses were very sharp. What about ours? What about the shows, movies, songs, books and videos we watch and allow our children to watch? How dull or sharp are our spiritual senses?
Sin numbs our spiritual senses.
You see, in Orthodoxy, sin is seen not just as an infraction or breaking of rules. It is seen as an infection which has spread in our system – both individually as well as society.
If then sin is an infection which dulls my spiritual senses, what is the treatment for it?
It is to partake of Gods Divine nature through the life provided to me by Jesus Christ and be restored back into the ‘image’ God had created me to be.
This brings up another question – how do I know that I am being changed into the image of God? Answer is simple – just look at how Jesus responded to situations He came across (and that can be easily understood by reading the Gospel accounts and understanding the parables He taught)
When did He cry or laugh? What made him sad, angry, discouraged or happy?
Jesus got angry at hypocrisy, greed, lukewarm living, hard heartedness and spiritual pride. He expressed his overwhelming joy when souls were added, and salvation was revealed to the disciples. He got sad over the fate awaiting Jerusalem and wept with Martha and Mary. He got discouraged seeing his disciples unable to sit up and pray with Him and was troubled in His Spirit when facing separation from God (this is not an exhaustive list).
Do the same things which made Jesus happy make me happy? Do the same things which enraged Jesus, enrage me? Do I become sad at the things which made Jesus sad? How sensitive are my spiritual senses? Do I need His touch; His healing touch to restore my spiritual sensitivity?
Enough said. I have to confess that more than anyone else, I am a leper. My senses have been dulled. The infection has spread, and I didn’t know it. I need His touch.
Gracious Physician sent by the Father to the earthly ones to heal the wounds and sicknesses of mortal men, You were walking on the way when a leper approached You, crying: “Lord, if You will You, can make me clean.” With Your word You stretched forth Your hand full of healing and he was cleansed of his leprosy and sang the praise of the Physician who had given him health.
When I respond (or start to respond) like Jesus did to situations in my life, then I am becoming more like Him.