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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Illness and Sin

"There was a priest named Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah; his wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in the eyes of God,...But they had no child,...and both were advanced in years." Lk 1 5, 8

Luke's gospel gets to the core of Jesus' teaching about illness and other issues that are often seen as punishments from God. Assuring his readers that both Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous, and from the priestly class, Luke makes it clear that though Elizabeth was barren, she was not being punished. Being righteous, in fact, meant that people recognized their faults and sought reconciliation quickly. As one scholar noted, Elizabeth and Zechariah prayed for a child and got a prophet!

No matter how often or consistently the gospels insist that illness is not a punishment for sin, many people, hopeful of understanding the impenetrable mystery of suffering, wonder if their misdeeds are indeed the cause of their woes. Like so many other questions, they are rooted in pride. Somehow we convince ourselves that if can understand what is happening we can control it, but the spiritual life is like not a car with squeaky brakes. Elizabeth's and Zechariah's suffering did not cause them to turn away from God, but prepared them for something and someone beyond their imagination. Their faith was greater than their sorrows.

Today, ask for acceptance and perhaps understanding will follow.

What faith questions are most difficult for you to manage?

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