The Christian Almanac records that on May 4th, 1873, Father Damien, a Flemish missionary, joined the lepers of Molokai Island in the Hawaiian archipelago. The courageous minister sought to transform the little colony of outcasts and the horrible conditions of the settlement known as Kalaupapa which was surrounded by high walls to contain those infected with what today is known as Hansen’s Disease. Where disorder and chaos had reigned, Father Damien brought a measure of order, discipline, and beauty to the suffering community. He served not only as their pastor, but as their physician, lawyer, and friend. Eventually Father Damien contracted the disease himself and after 16 years of ministry, he died. In 1995, the church set aside May 10 as an annual memorial feast day in honor of Father Damien’s sacrificial ministry and service to the lepers of Hawaii.
While this sort of ministry may seem extreme and even fool-hearty, it is really nothing short of what we are called to. Jesus clearly says that if any man wants to save his life, he must lose it, and if anyone wants to follow Jesus, he must take up his cross and follow Him. Who are the hurting, the outcast, and the needy in your life? May God grant us the grace to follow Father Damien, even as he followed Jesus.
Our lessons for this Sunday will be from Exodus 8, Acts 13, and John 13.