Leviticus 13:1-59; Mark 6:1-29; Psalm 39:1-13; Proverbs 10:10
As a pediatric nurse of 15 years in a large LA County hospital, I have seen all kinds of crazy diseases. Some of them all the harder to witness because they affect young children. I remember one young girl, about a year and a half old, who was really painful to look at. Not because of any physical disfigurement or malformation, but because of the red and purple, scaly, peeling, blistering, and oozing rash that covered her entire body. We all truly winced when we first saw her because it looked so painful. But we had another reaction as well - to draw back and move slightly away. Was she safe to touch? Was this skin disease contagious? As medical professionals, we can't always immediately tell if something is contagious or infectious right away, so we place those patients in isolation as a precautionary measure until we can better determine the nature of the disease. This girl was, of course, placed in "contact isolation."
In Old Testament times, she would have been considered unclean and would have gone under the examinations and periods of isolation much as we see in our reading today in Leviticus 13. At first it may seem like God is making arbitrary or unnecessary rules that create outcasts in society. Yet if we really look at these rules and see how they might even play out in today’s medical world, we see that God is actually setting up a healthcare system that will keep his people healthy. Our God, the creator of mankind, the Great Physician, isn't making arbitrary rules, but rather is prescribing a way of living for the health and well-being of the nation as whole. In his wisdom, he is setting into motion the idea of isolation to prevent the spread of disease and infection.
But how hard it was for those people who were in isolation, or who were considered "unclean." All the more revolutionary when Jesus came and touched them and even healed them. I am reminded again of the women in our reading yesterday and her bleeding for 12 years. She would have had no human touch or contact for 12 years. Can you imagine? And yet Jesus would "lay his hands" (Mk. 6:5) on these people and heal them. What good news. And so as nurses and physicians, we don our gloves and our gowns and enter into isolation with that little girl. We lay our hands on her and apply salves and medicines in hopes of restoring her skin to the healthy glow that young skin usually bears. The kind of skin that makes people want to grab young children and kiss them all over.
O Lord, where are the unclean of society today? How can I join them and offer healing to them? I am convicted when I read your words in Psalm 39:6 - "[Man] bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it." Lord, I don't want to bustle about in vain, to seem to keep busy with all these things I think are important but may not be. I don't want to spend my energies on what does not satisfy. My hope is you. Show me and lead me in your work. Your kingdom come, your will be done.
- Mary Matthias
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