You know the famous Pied Piper poem; it’s about a town searching for healing in a time of plague and then dishonestly refusing to contribute to the costs, evading their responsibility. It’s remarkably up to date.
“Hamelin town’s in Brunswick, by famous Hanover city,
The river Weser deep and wide washes its wall by the southern side,
A pleasanter spot you never spied.” and then the plague of rats hits them!
You know the story: Hamelin was pleasant and rich but its leading citizens were not; they were greedy and ungrateful, not paying the price to the Pied Piper for getting rid of the plague and so their children are taken away into exile. The poem is based on historical facts; the leaders did not keep their own laws and promises; they tried to exploit the one who brought the cure and jeopardised the future of their children and themselves. It illustrates well the gospel message today: we are in need of healing: accept Jesus who will help you to be a messenger of peace.
In the poem it was a disabled person who told the story. I would like to give a modern example to show how those who have been dealt a tough hand in life can show us how to live honourably. Joanna is deaf, suffers from cerebral palsy, is married to a deafblind man. She has overcome lots of obstacles. In deaf school she met wonderful, kindly religious people who gave their lives for the children’s welfare. She also met with inadequate, cruel people who needed supervision themselves. The running of the school had been fair until the numbers increased beyond the limit of their competence, and the less qualified staff could not be adequately watched.
She learnt from that experience that it’s right to speak out when things go wrong, that everyone needs healing, that you can begin to live a full life again with the help of kindly supportive friends and family and not look back with crippling anger. Jesus has begun a mission of healing and asked her to look back with realism and yet try to become life-giving herself. Her best response is to use any compensation to become a channel of healing.
Adversity often brings out the best. During the pandemic many energetic, caring, well qualified teachers, carers and parents of the severely disabled continue to do wonderful healing work. They assist their special friends to cope with a very confusing environment. I thank such experienced helpers for teaching us by word and example the spirit of the gospel; they think of children first and in our present emergency they deserve to be vaccinated first. They appreciate our support as they ‘wait on others’.
Strangely some modern Catholics give the impression that they don’t need healing themselves and are entitled to write their own gospel. In their haste to condemn the failures of a previous generation they argue for a total reinterpretation of the form and content of Church teaching on the family. It seems that private conscience is to be their only guide. They insist on changing rules rather than concentrate on applying them properly. When Christ’s commandments are taught with love and mercy sinners repent. It’s the centenary of the trial of Oscar Wilde. He realised in his case that the Church preached the truth and was kind to the weak and so he famously became a Catholic on his deathbed. He accepted healing. The law of the gospel formed his conscience and gave him peace.
Jesus preaches the gospel of truth and asks us to assist victims with mercy and forgiveness. Pornography is a huge scourge today yet some justify it in the name of freedom as they greedily exploit the weaknesses of others. A national newspaper on one page condemns the callous professional men who abused defenceless young women and, on another page, argues for freely available pornography because that is what women want to read. I think Jesus would look on this scene with dismay and compassion and wish to expel the demons. We can point to the awful negative effects: low self-esteem, self-harm, unbearable shame, family tensions. Victims need to be healed and helped to avoid the sad consequences of greed and exploitation of modern Hamelin townships where the rich do not want to pay for the necessary healing processes.
Jesus invites us to have faith in the gospel of healing and mercy so that everyone can strive bravely to make our world a pleasanter place for all.