January 7th Gospel and Leprosy

Mass readings for today are here

Gospel Luke 5: 12-16 

 It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was;
and when he saw Jesus,
he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said,
“Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”
Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
And the leprosy left him immediately.
Then he ordered him not to tell anyone, but
“Go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing
what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”
The report about him spread all the more,
and great crowds assembled to listen to him
and to be cured of their ailments,
but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.

Nice reflection here 

Further thoughts: 
Sr Francis also had a famous encounter with a leper which became an essential part of his conversion to a new way of life.
When he met the leper it changed his outlook from one of  repugnance to  profound respect and care for the outcast in two ways. 
First, he experienced joy and fulfillment in overcoming his disdain for the leper.
The second came in his recognition of the preciousness of life, which finds its meaning through what Francis referred to as it's Sister, Bodily Death. 

For when I was in sin, it seemed too bitter for me to see lepers.
And God led me among them and I showed mercy to them.
And when I left them, what had seemed bitter to me
was turned into sweetness of soul and body

 Testament of Francis of Assisi (1226, adapted) 

Leprosy is a curable bacterial disease but it is not a biblical disease - people still need our help.

The St Francis Leprosy Guild in the UK ( Link here)
gives support to about 80 Leprosy centres around the world, mainly in Asia and Africa, regardless of race or religion to those affected by leprosy and assistance to families and dependents of those affected by leprosy.
It funds aids specific projects that significantly enhance the life of the leprosy sufferers (for example: drilling for water, weather-proof housing, improvements in hygiene, food or clothing).

The Franciscan Action Network in the USA seeks to promote healthcare for all. Link here 

The work of the Damien Foundation and details of the current global situation on leprosy today from here 

During the past 15 years, the number of patients with leprosy has fallen dramatically. This is due to shorter periods of treatment, more meticulously held records, increased international awareness and coordinated international cooperation. In some regions however, the number of cases recorded remains high. 

However estimates tell us there are currently in the world about three million former leprosy patients who are incapacitated or suffer from malformations. Such malformation may mean that the patient becomes a social outcast.

The World Health Organisation or WHO,  publishes statistics for registered cases. At the beginning of 2008 they numbered 212,802. In the course of 2007 a total of 254,525 cases were detected.. Obviously, these figures relate only to cases detected and known about. The real situation may be different to a greater or lesser extent, depending upon the country or the region.

Drastic fall

The number of sick persons registered throughout the world has fallen very considerably over the last twenty years. Currently, the WHO takes the view that leprosy is no longer a public health problem in all but nine countries. A public health problem is defined as  being a prevalence of sick persons registered for treatment in the proportion of at least one case per 10,000 inhabitants.
Six of the nine countries involved are in Africa while two are in Southeast Asia and one in Latin America. 
This drop is due essentially to a huge reduction in the time treatment takes, together with a change of definition. These days only  persons needing chemotherapy are taken into account. 
The number of newly detected cases is considerably more stable. For twenty years or so it has been between 500,000 and 600,000 new cases each year. In the course of 1998 there was a peak of 800,000 newly detected cases. It was due mainly to the massive campaigns launched in a number of countries. Since 1985, more than fourteen million patients have been cured all over the world with the help of polychemotherapy. 
The actual incidence of leprosy seems to be retreating slowly in certain countries. In others, there is no net decline to be seen. Unfortunately, significant numbers of new cases are going to be appearing for many years to come.
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