Dear Friends,

Jesus touched the leper. He could have just said the words, “Be healed.” But Jesus considered it important to touch the leper. He wasn’t concerned about being contaminated. He wasn’t concerned about Jewish purity laws which would have excommunicated him just as they did the leper. He wanted to connect with this person that everyone was shunning and give an ultimate sign of caring.

As mentioned before, one of my companions in this winter healing retreat that I am on as I recover from my surgery is John O’Donohue’s Anam Cara. O’Donohue says “Touch, and the world of touch, bring us out of the anonymity of distance into the intimacy of belonging…touch brings presence home.” Naturally, he is talking about physical/literal touch. Sometimes that is appropriate and expressive and life-saving—that is what Jesus did in this instance. Sometimes physical touch may be inappropriate because of circumstance or readiness of the other to receive. Touching them with a smile or a word of encouragement or acceptance from a proximate distance may convey our meaning better. The important message is one of caring, of their dignity, of camaraderie.

Edwina Gateley offers a poem that becomes our second reading at today’s Eucharist: “Hell’s Streets.” She is talking about another kind of leprosy that leads to being shunned by others—this kind is more present in our world today.

Hell’s Streets
Edwina Gateley

Out walking after midnight—
sad, lonely people
shuffling along the filthy streets,
strewn with garbage.
Eskimo Joe—with tears
in his eyes, caught unawares—
looking for a bush to sleep under.
Janice with her bag of french-fries
hurrying down the station steps
to sleep fitfully.
Jim, wandering with his canvas bag
slung around him,
face contorted with tears
flowing freely.
The heavy black woman
shouting on the corner
and I.
We stopped and talked for awhile.

She was filled with anger,
resentment, pain—
we are white—
we are rich—
she, alienated, desperate.
She, too, cannot fight the tears.
Ah, four adults
in the morning hours
among the garbage.

How can we touch with care these “lepers” in our world, some of whom might even be in our own families and acquaintances. Our support of each other and God’s touching us make this possible. O’Donohue reminds us of Augustine saying of God: “You are more intimate to me than I am to myself” and reflects, “The subtle intimacy of God, the Holy Spirit, touches your soul and tenderly weaves your ways and your days.”

Loving blessings,
Ron & Jean