As a child I never experienced going to a traveling circus or carnival where they had strange and exotic "marvels" of the world, for which you would have to pay money to see. The closest I have ever gotten to those kinds of shows as a child was by seeing them depicted in television shows. My parents would take me to Madison Square Garden in New York City to see Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus when it was in town. And certainly there were strange and wondrous things to witness there. But not the same as those carnivals.
In the recent past I went to a Cirque de'Soleil show in New York, and didn't see carnival-like marvels but great and, at times, strange things. These acts at Cirque and Ringling Bros shows were not the "freaks" that I would see depicted on television shows of what carnivals were like. As a child I was interested in trying to go to one of those....perhaps they had already become extinct by the time I was a child and simply had been glorified on television.
As I have grown older I wonder how I would have reacted had I seen those "freaks": the tallest woman, the fattest man, the Siamese twins, dwarfs. All put on display because they were different from the mass of humanity. Would I have made fun of them? Would I have felt pity for them? Would I have been horrified? I know how I would feel now about their exploitation, but I am not sure how I would have reacted as a child.
We have "freaks" of Jesus' time in today's Gospel: a leper, a paralytic, those with all kinds of diseases. In that time period these folk would have been ostracized and thought to have sinned causing them to have these afflictions. They would have been abnormal and considered freaks of their day and age. Jesus doesn't consider them freaks or abnormal: they are simply humans with human ailments and frailties. And he treats all of them with respect and cures all of them. What strange and wondrous things those people witnessed: all of these people were treated the same, like they were all made in God's image, not just a select few. What an interesting thought: that none of us are freaks, that all of us are made in God's image.
Copyright 2008, All Rights Reserved. John F. Dwyer