I love when science and faith come together. Prime example, this blog every week. So it tickled me pink when I found out that there was a remedy for malaria called “Jesuit’s bark”, I HAD to find out more.
For those of you who don’t know, Jesuits are a Catholic order of priests founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola. They focus on evangelization and have founded many schools, leading them to excel in many areas of academia and being one of my favorite orders. BUT, as I said, they were originally founded with evangelization in mind, so they sent missionaries to many different countries around the globe. In the 1600s the Spanish Jesuits sent missionaries to Peru. While there, the missionaries were taught the healing power of the bark from several species of Cinchona trees.
The natives would crush the bark into powder and use it to fight off chills. This gave the missionaries the idea that it could possibly be used to combat the chills associated with malaria. This was at the front of their mind since malaria was a very common disease in the 17th century. After they saw they were right, the Jesuits began to share this remedy with all of Peru.
Once the remedy made its way back to Europe, Cardinal Juan de Lugo pioneered its use in Rome. During the middle of the 17th century, Rome and the surrounding areas were plagued with a large malarial outbreak due to the surrounding marshlands. Although its popularity grew in a mere decade or two, it took almost 200 years to isolate the active ingredient. It was found to be quinine which is still the main ingredient used in cures for malaria today.
It's quite amazing to me how quickly the cure for a common ailment spread. This is back when it took months to travel between continents, but they were able to send back this cure and it began to be used by everyone.
Well… almost everyone. In 17th century England there was a very strong hatred and mistrust of Catholics. Yes, so much so that they would refuse a cure for a rampant disease. One writer put it, “The Protestants scented a Jesuit plot; the bark was an insidious poison which the Jesuits had brought to Europe for the purpose of exterminating all those who had thrown off their allegiance to Rome.” The Jesuit’s bark (also known as Jesuit’s Powder) saved thousands of lives when it was first brought over to Europe. Unfortunately, there could have been many more saved if they hadn’t been so blinded by who the cure was named for.
This Sunday’s gospel (Lk 19:1-10) tells a similar story of people who are so blinded by what they think of the person. Jesus speaks to Zacchaeus, a tax collector, and asks to dine in his home. The crowds are completely beside themselves at this. They grumble to each other.
How often are we like the 17th century Protestants or the crowd in the gospel? We can all too often be blinded by hate. We despise our neighbor, but they might just be who God is using in our lives to help us. We know that He calls those shunned by society. How many times has there been an answer to our prayer that we dismissed because of where it came from?
When you read the story of the English protestants you might have scoffed at how they could let their people die because of their hatred towards the Jesuits, but we saw the same thing the last few years. Many people turned down the COVID vaccine because they didn’t like the people promoting it. We, as Christian people, cannot be blinded by hate. If we needed help, would we turn down help from our neighbor because they voted differently or they worship differently or they act differently than us? In the gospel the Lord reaches out to those who are different and even those who are hated. It is to that hated man that Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.” If He does this, then how can we justify turning against anyone? You never know who could be the person God has sent to help you.
I’d invite you to take a minute and ask God to wash the hate from your heart. Ask Him to not let you be blinded to the good in all of His people. God wants to help the world. He gives us gifts every day. I pray that we have open hearts that we may accept them, no matter who or where they come from.