UNLESS you live in Latin America, where a cholera epidemic is raging, are conscious of the spread of AIDS to women and children as well as men, or have seen the devastating effects of that disease in various nations, it may seem that plagues are passe. Conditions such as those described in Daniel Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year may appear to be ancient history, never to be repeated in modern times. Yet to those who are victims of epidemics, the battle is a matter of life and death. And the conditions that give rise to these epidemics are as varied as the diseases themselves. Unsanitary conditions, poverty, ignorance, fear, self-condemnation--even sin--are a few of the players on the field of battle.
Unless we're actively involved in helping victims, it may seem that we have no role to play in winning the victory for life and health. But this is not true. Through our prayers we can reach out to our fellow humans, and we can make a difference. We know this because Christ Jesus' ministry included actual contact with people in need of healing as well as times when he did not meet the person but nonetheless healed the individual. His understanding of God's omnipresence and total goodness enabled him to defeat all kinds of disease and even to gain victory over death itself.
One of the plaguelike diseases of Biblical times was leprosy. Because the disease was so contagious and so feared, people avoided contact with lepers. As a result, lepers were outcasts whose needs were not a priority.
Yet the Bible speaks of leprosy on many occasions and tells specifically how it was healed. The message is that even when a disease seems hopeless or has reached epidemic proportions--as AIDS, for example, now has in many countries--God's goodness can show us how to reverse the evil conditions that underlie disease. God, Love, can bring the needed healing.
A poignant illustration of divine Love's healing power is found in Mark's Gospel. Christ Jesus was preaching in Galilee when a leper came to him and said, "If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.'' Jesus, who had healed so many people without touching them, could no doubt simply have prayed and healed the man.
Yet the Master went a step further. As Mark tells it, "Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.''
This compassion was a perfect example of the Christly love that Jesus had for his fellow humans. That he actually touched the diseased man pointed toward his knowledge of God's all-powerful love, and of man's actual spiritual nature. He knew that these spiritual facts were more potent than the beliefs and fears people held about leprosy. And because he understood them to be the actual truth of his nature--and of the leper's--he could touch the man with only healing effects. His spiritual knowledge s uperseded ignorance.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, was much aware of the dangers humanity faces from contagion, and she wrote a short article on the subject in her Miscellaneous Writings. There, after explaining the fears that often lead to contagion, she writes, "A calm, Christian state of mind is a better preventive of contagion than a drug, or than any other possible sanative method; and the "perfect Love'' that "casteth out fear'' is a sure defense.''
In our prayers about epidemics, then, what we first need is a "calm, Christian state of mind.'' This type of thinking would surely include compassion, such as the Master expressed toward the leper. And it would be free of judging or condemning. Jesus warned against judging others--lest we ourselves be judged--and urged us all to love one another, as he had loved his followers.
The basis for this love isn't a desire to ignore wrongdoing or to overlook sin. It is, instead, a recognition of man's actual spirituality as the child, or idea, of God. When we realize this to be our true nature--and that of our fellow humans--we are putting our lives into an entirely different frame of reference. Instead of standing in judgment, we are perceiving ourselves and others from the standpoint of unity with an entirely good Father-Mother God.
In reality God made us perfect, complete, intelligent, pure--in His likeness. And our understanding of that spiritual fact begins to destroy the sin and wrongdoing that make up so much of the mortal scene. This occurs because we find that material pleasures (and pains) are unable to tell us anything about who we are as God's offspring. And as we draw closer to God, we become progressively more earnest in our efforts to know Him and our relationship to Him. In the midst of our spiritual advance, the mortal picture's enticements toward pleasure as well as the fears of its pains will tend to diminish. Changes will occur because the spiritual truth of our nature is becoming more evident to us.
As we see more of our spirituality, our Christianity will include greater confidence that God does heal and that His law, which is totally good, will prevail. Jesus saw this very clearly in all his experiences with people, no matter how severe the sickness was. The Master's understanding of divine Love's ever-presence even enabled him to restore to life people who had died.
Perhaps the single most important thing for us to know and feel, as we pray for our fellow humans, is God's wonderful, ever-present love for all His creation. No one can be cut off from Love; and none of us can fail to see it in operation, if we are willing to perceive our fellow humans as Christ Jesus did. Nor can any of us resist the desire to pray for our world and to heal it.