By Fr. Tim Knepper, C.PP.S.
One of the sad aspects of life today is the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve got mask mandates, six-feet social distancing, and not interacting with people from outside our immediate households.
At a funeral recently, a parishioner wanted to hug everybody. “Father, I’m a hugger,” she explained when I reminded her that the six-feet social distancing is today’s version of not coughing on someone.
“Elbow bumps work just as well,” I offered. She looked at me like I had just made a bid exactly $1 over her bid on The Price Is Right. Hugs and physical contact are big casualties in these times of COVID. Even with the light of vaccines at the end of the tunnel, we’re not at the end of this pandemic yet.
It was shocking for me to learn that leprosy colonies exist still today. We’re still not at the end of leprosy, though it’s a bit different. In biblical times, leprosy cut people off from the community. In the first reading, those who had leprosy yelled, “Unclean! Unclean!” to make sure other folks wouldn’t catch it. On top of how contagious leprosy was and is, lepers relied on the charity of others to live. On top of all those difficulties, a lot of people in biblical times thought leprosy was a punishment from God for something they did.
In the Gospel today, Jesus reaches out and touches the leper. Jesus risks being unclean to touch him. Jesus heals the leper and brings him back into full participation in the community. He’s restored to this community and to live fully.
What is this living fully in these times of COVID-19? I don’t fully know, but I do know it’s not what living looked like before. My parishioners in nursing homes feel more cut off than ever before. People in the hospital for routine procedures find it’s anything but routine. Folks are logging in to remote work from home while running a virtual homeschool for kids or grandkids.
Jesus healing the leper today reminds us that living fully is being connected to our community, maintaining our connection to others. We can connect with those who feel isolated or alone. We can call folks and check in on them. We can send cards to those stuck at home.
The pandemic has made it worse for those struggling economically too. The work of our food pantries and Vincent de Paul Societies is even more crucial today than before. We can reach out to people so that they might feel less isolated, and together, we might feel God’s healing touch and concern as we pray for an end to this pandemic.
To view the full scripture reading, click here.