A Biblical Picture of Disease in a Time of Pandemic

The first reading for Mass on Tuesday (Tuesday of the third week of Lent) was striking in its relation to the current time of turmoil. It reminds us of our vulnerability. Despite all our strength, we are individually and collectively in need of tremendous grace and mercy from God. Thanks be to God and a good cooperation between government and the private sector a vaccine is now at hand. Perhaps this plague will pass. But sin always remains and for all our concern about the physical threat of this virus, we should be even more concerned about our spiritual vulnerability. In the reading, from 2 Kings 5, we are told of the great strength and wealth of Naaman, the Assyrian commander:

Naaman, the army commander of the king of Aram,
was highly esteemed and respected by his master,
for through him the LORD had brought victory to Aram.

Of his wealth it is said:

So Naaman set out, taking along ten silver talents,
six thousand gold pieces, and ten festal garments.

Despite this wealth we are told:

But valiant as he was, the man was a leper.

In Scripture, leprosy is not merely a physical disease; it is a symbol of sin, which disfigures as it eats away at us.

In this time of vulnerability to disease and fear, consider this brief reflection:

Yes, Lord, Naaman was a gifted man. He was a strong man and yet a leper, a sinner in need of Your mercy. Help me, O Lord, to see in him an image of myself: gifted by you, undeservedly so, and yet still a leper in great need of your mercy. Help me to see myself as I really am: a man loved by you, gifted by you, but ultimately a leper, a sinner in need of your mercy. Like Naaman, I need Your perfect mercy. Just as Naaman washed himself in the river seven times, I need Your seven sacraments, Your seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, Your seven cardinal virtues, and Your seven beatitudes. Above all, I need You.

May all of us who are making this journey through disease, vulnerability, and fear see beyond the merely physical dangers to the far worse spiritual dangers with which sin imperils us.

Have mercy on us, O Lord!

3 Replies to “A Biblical Picture of Disease in a Time of Pandemic”

  1. Nicely written. I think this metaphorical understanding of disease has led to some real difficulties in our societies. For years people literalists these metaphors that disease represents sin. Many people have been treated as they were bad or “demons” because they had diseases. Unfortunately, there is still some residual effect of these mistakes that continue to hurt people in many countries including the United States. To me this is one of the issues that comes when we lean so heavily on metaphorical meanings.

    That being said, I love the ideas you bring forth in recognizing that all people are multifaceted and in need of support from each other. Thank you for your writings.

  2. My comments do not seem to be going through. Is there an issue that is keeping them from being posted?

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