The Perspective of Justice

Open to New Life

On the one hand, there are suffering human beings like Job, slaves longing for the shade. On the other hand, there is God who cares about us, who heals the brokenheaLeprosy was a terrible disease in biblical times. Highly contagious, it was fatal, since there was no cure for it. The law could do nothing other than exclude lepers from participation in the life of the community.

There was more to it than that. The Responsorial Psalm 32 is a reminder that in biblical times people often regarded sin as the cause of disease. Lepers were therefore sinners, and the community excluded them from its worship. In a theocracy such as Israel, exclusion from the temple was a fate worse than death.

Jesus enters the scene as the healer of lepers. Those, for whom the law offers no hope, find in Jesus their savior, their key to re-entry into the human community.

We have our own ‘lepers’ today. They are the wretched people of the world’s slums, the one’s dying of AIDS, the ones sitting on death row. The law of society has nothing of hope to offer them. Their only hope is in the “great prophet [who] has appeared among us,” and in those followers of Jesus like Paul, “seeking not my own advantage, but that of the many.”

The mystery of the human condition is such that, in one way or another, all will face pain, reversal, and, ultimately, the mystery of death itself. Seen through the eyes of faith, however, this mystery is not closed in upon itself.

Through sharing in the cross of Christ, human suffering and pain have a redemptive meaning and goal. They have the potential of opening a person to new life. They also present an opportunity and a challenge to all, calling us to respond to suffering just as Jesus did—with love and care.

U.S. Bishops, 1987, The Many Faces of AIDS:
A Gospel Response

Gerald Darring


**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson