Back in the late 1800’s there was no cure for the chronic disease of leprosy. In order to keep the disease at bay, to keep it from spreading and creating an epidemic, the government sent people with the disease to a leper colony on the island of Molakai, one of the Hawaiian islands, where they would be secluded and isolated from those who were not infected. In this leper colony there were not only severe physical problems, but severe spiritual problems as well. Drunkenness, immorality, abuse, and an overall sense of helplessness and hopelessness.
In 1873, a young priest named Father Damien volunteered to go to this leper colony on Molokai, to spend his life serving the people secluded there. When he arrived he was taken aback, for he saw that the people were not only suffering physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. But Father Damien decided to stay and live there among the 700 lepers. He helped to build hospitals, clinics, churches and even built some 600 coffins. And whenever a church service was held, he would stand up in front of them, and warmly address them as "my dear brethren."
One morning in 1885, at the age of 45, in a calm voice, instead of "my dear brethren," he began the service with, "My dear fellow lepers, I am now one of you."
It was out of mercy and love that this humble priest went to Molokai leper colony to become one of the them. Out of love he gave the people of the colony the most important gift he could give - himself. This is the same mercy, love, and compassion with which Jesus came down from heaven to earth - to become one of us - to live, die, and rise again for us. He too gave us the most important gift He could ever give - Himself.