Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean” (Mk 1:41). Jesus felt compassion when he heard the plea of the leper. He went out from himself and did the unthinkable and touched the leper. Jesus saw not a leper but a brother. Jesus met the person before him and in an act of love gave him what he had not experienced in who knows how long, human touch.
When is the last time we have been moved with pity, with compassion, to suffer with and feel the pain of another? In so many ways we are like the leper, starving for love and affection. Too many of us are living a life of isolation and aloneness. We are starving to be heard, to be acknowledged, to be touched, to be loved. It is no wonder anxiety disorders, addiction, and unhealthy practices are on the rise. Especially during this time of pandemic, where we need to as the lepers did and keep our distance. We are not able to exchange a simple hand shake, an embrace, or a kiss on the cheek.
Jesus knows and has experienced the loneliness we all feel in our hearts. He feels our distance and hunger. He seeks to draw close to us as he did with his brother the leper. The Son of God entered our human condition and encountered us to experience the fullness of our brokenness as well as help us to see the promise of our potential, the fullness of who we really are and can be. Jesus encountered people, he did not see them as other. He seeks to encounter us, to draw close, to touch, and to heal us.
May we follow the lead of Jesus and make an effort today to see each other as brothers and sisters. No matter who we come across may we not avert our eyes but be drawn into another’s gaze and smile. In that simple act, we acknowledge to that person that they do exist. As social beings, we long to be touched, and even though at present we need to keep physically distant, we can still be present to one another. In our hyper-sexualized culture, we need to be models of chaste expressions of love by building friendships. We also can draw close by resisting the temptation to talk at or over one another, seek to fix one each other, and instead draw close to another’s pain and be willing to accompany another through their struggles. We can seek to forgive and be forgiven. What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than by putting into practice these simple practices. By doing so, we can begin to encounter one another again, to draw close as Jesus did, to heal and build up the wounded Body of Christ in our midst.
Photo: Spring break almost two years ago now. Happy Valentine’s Day to my heart!