The term lunatic is from the Latin word lunaticus, which means moon. Its equivalent word in English is “moonstruck.” The society considered people with mental disorder who had aggravated symptoms during the full moon as lunatic. They were distinct from demon possessed because most lunatics had epilepsy. Astrologers had used this term to refer to neurological and psychiatric diseases. They believed the moon could disturb the brain.
In the olden days, when people were sleeping in the open air with no shelter used to keep awake because of the intense light of the full moon. That would affect the health and behavior of a mentally sick person. Other than this, there is no scientific evidence for the full moon’s influence on human behavior.
JESUS AND LUNATICS
Along with other sick people, Jesus cured the lunatics. “His fame spread to all of Syria, and they brought to him all who were sick with various diseases and racked with pain, those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics, and he cured them” (Mt 4:24).
Another healing of Jesus was a lunatic with demon possession. During the transfiguration, the father of a lunatic brought him to the nine apostles who were at the foot of the mountain. They failed to cure the child. So, when Jesus came down the mountain, the father said to Jesus, “Lord, have pity on my son, for he is a lunatic and suffers severely; often he falls into fire, and often into water” (Mt 17:15). In Mark, the father states, “Whenever the spirit seizes him, it throws him down and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth and becomes stiff all over” (Mk 9:17-18). “The spirit throws him into a fit and he foams at the mouth; it scarcely ever leaves him and is wearing him out” (Lk 9:39). Though the symptoms were of epilepsy, the father considered it as lunatic and demon influence. Hence, the condition of the boy was severe and needed a divine intervention for cure.
The father made a mistake in requesting Jesus: “If you can do anything, have pity on us and help us” (Mk 9: 22b). The father lost his hope in getting the cure because of the failure of the nine apostles and because of the severe symptoms repeated even in the presence of Jesus. When Jesus questioned the father’s doubt, the father cried out saying: “I do believe, but help the little faith I have” (Mk 9:24). That was the key to get the cure. Jesus empowered the father’s faith and gave a complete cure to the boy.
People had associated lunatics with people out of mind, or the demon possessed. Since Jesus did extraordinary teachings and services, his opponents falsely accused him as lunatic, and demon possessed (Mk 3:21-22). If we are loyal followers of Jesus, we must do extraordinarily good things that people might ridicule us. Then let us remember the words of our Lord, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mt 5:11-12).