About a month ago, on a Tuesday, I had cataract surgery on my right eye. I went in on Wednesday for a follow-up visit and all looked fine. But, by Thursday, my vision in that eye was a little cloudier than it was the day before so I made an appointment to go back in on Friday. However, also on Wednesday, I was having some chest congestion, some shortness of breath and a minor headache, so I made an appointment to get a Covid-19 rapid test at a clinic. A quick swab up the nose and bingo!, I had Covid.
Well, I had to do the right thing and let the ophthalmologist’s office know I had Covid. After some hemming and hawing, they decided I could still keep my appointment with some conditions: I had to wait outside until they were ready for me, they had to prepare a room just for me, I had to double mask with my mask taped to my face, and I couldn’t speak while I was in the office. On top of that, the doctor came in attired in full operating garb from head to toe.
It was an inconvenience for me but I didn’t take it personally. I knew the doctor couldn’t afford to catch the virus and risk giving it to other patients. But, when I got home I told my wife that I now knew how the lepers of biblical times must have felt!
This morning’s Scripture passages brought this recollection to mind. We heard in the first reading, Leviticus 13:1-2 & 44-46, how the Lord told Moses and Aaron that those with a “scaly infection” (leprosy) shall be declared unclean, be required to cry out “unclean, unclean!” whenever near another person, and shall dwell apart from other people. It always seemed cruel to me that they should be outcast from society, and I always felt sorry for them because there was no known cure which would allow their re-entry.
Today, as I meditated on that passage, I saw that there was perhaps a purpose behind God’s instructions to Moses and Aaron. An uncontrolled outbreak of the contagious disease could wipe out a significant portion of a civilization. I can see how God, in His wisdom, saw the necessity to sacrifice a few for the benefit of many.
This theme carried over into today’s second reading, 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1, in which St. Paul says, “…do everything for the glory of God. Avoid giving offense…just as I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
And then, in the Gospel, Mark 1:40-45, we read about how Jesus, moved with pity, cleansed the leper. My first thought was that Jesus, as I would expect, was more concerned about that one leper than he was for Himself and His disciples. But, then I considered that Jesus, seeing the bigger picture, obeyed the Father’s instructions to a tee, with one significant twist: He sacrificed Himself on a cross for the benefit of many, including you and me, and for the salvation of our souls.
Ever since the onset of the Corona virus pandemic, people’s opinions have been all across the spectrum on how we should live with it. Some are extremely cautious while others throw caution to the wind. There is much debate about whether masks are effective and if they are safe for the wearer or if they make matters worse. We are a mobile society which makes isolation painful, if not impossible, for some folks. Throw in the politicized aspects of the pandemic and one doesn’t know whom or what to believe.
I dislike wearing a mask as much as the next person. But, our society, our culture, our entire civilization for that matter, is mobile and cannot isolate completely. Thus, measures were implemented to protect the general population, the many, until science could catch-up. And, so, I had to ask myself if it was a sacrifice I was willing to make. I decided last year to wear my mask, including wearing it to church. Not because I wanted to, or because the Governor told us to, but because my pastor asked me to for the well-being of the many. Today, understanding that God advised the Levite priests to do much the same, brought me some consolation.
I found even more consolation in knowing that Christ sought not His own benefit but that of the many when he offered Himself as a sacrifice for all souls, including mine, that we may be saved. If He did that for me, then I can live with a little inconvenience.
“All loving and merciful God, I pray for the souls of those who have succumbed to this virus and for those who have suffered and survived, and I pray for a speedy end to the pandemic. Until then, I pray that, in our inconvenience, we may imitate Jesus and make just a small sacrifice for the benefit of the many. Amen.”
(An Inconvenient Pandemic was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
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