March 18, 2021 (Edward J. Barr) – The Samaritan Leper who thanked Jesus in Luke (17: 11-19) was given a place of honor in heaven. His gratitude for the healing God provided him is an example for all people of goodwill. One day Saint Peter approached him. “Good morning my friend.” The Leper smiled. “A blessed morning!” Peter nodded in agreement. “As you know, our Lord rejoices in giving abundant gifts to those who love him. He is aware that in the past, your heart has yearned to attend the Mass that mentions your healing by Jesus. The church reads that gospel reading on the 28th Sunday of ordinary time in year C of the church’s liturgical calendar.” The leper listened intently. Peter continued. “I realize it could be a very emotional time for you, so I thought it may be a good idea for you to attend a mass now before that special Sunday which will occur in the next Liturgical year. That way you can decide if you feel called to attend the actual Mass.”
A half-smile slowly appeared on the Samaritan’s face. He had often wondered about attending the special mass but wasn’t sure it would give greater joy to the Lord than worshiping God in heaven. Perhaps it was possible. Then he thought about his disease? It was a difficult life being a leper before he was healed by Jesus. Would the people of today welcome him or treat him as a pariah? His half-smile slowly withdrew. Saint Peter was watching carefully. “Of course, since you are healed by our Lord you will have a sinless body if you return. There will be no blemishes of any kind. You will be as healthy as any person on earth.” The Samaritan’s half-smile quickly returned and immediately became a full grin. “If the Lord permits it, I welcome this latest gift.” Saint Peter nodded. “Good. By the way, it is the month of March in the year 2021. It will be a weekday Mass.”
In an instant, the Samaritan was in the narthex of a large Catholic Church. “This will be so enjoyable,” he thought. “When I was on the earth there were hardly any Christians. They probably couldn’t even have filled this church. The Spirit must be so alive here! Surely, I will find charity in abundance.” He followed other communicants as they walked into the nave. Then he noticed something peculiar. Well over half of the parishioners were wearing masks. They were in a multitude of colors and styles. Then he remembered. He had seen a notice in the narthex about masks being required for Sunday worship. There must be some sickness in the area. Yet the same notice stated that masks were not required at weekday mass. A strange sensation pierced his joy. The further inside the church he stepped, the more fear he sensed. It wasn’t his fear, it was the fear of the faithful. Why were they so fearful?
The Samaritan slowed down as a parishioner was about to cross his path. He looked into her eyes, the only part of her face he could see. She was wearing both a large mask and some sort of see-through shield. As soon as she saw him, she stopped so quickly that she almost fell over. She put her hands up and froze, giving him a look of disdain from her eyes. Perplexed, he continued down the aisle. He entered a pew and moved toward a couple seated near the middle. It happened again! The woman who was closest to him put her hands up. The man with her bent forward so he could see the Samaritan and commanded, “that’s close enough.” Stunned, the Samaritan walked back a few feet and sat down.
“Something must be wrong,” he thought. “They know. They must know!” He slowly and carefully looked at his arms and his hands. They appeared in perfect shape. No lesions of any kind. He tried to be as inconspicuous as possible as he lifted his trousers to see if there were any lesions on his legs. None. He looked around to make sure that no one saw his strange movements. Again! Another couple stared at him. The man shook his head in disgust. The woman grunted something barely audible through her mask. It surely wasn’t a friendly comment. “They have to know. Peter must’ve been wrong. Where is the charity? Where is the kindness? Even if they knew I was a leper, no disciple of the Lord would treat me this way. But they did. They must know!”
The Samaritan could take it no longer. He willed himself back to heaven to find Saint Peter. As he approached Peter, the first Pope looked surprised. “Back so soon?” The Samaritan nodded. “They knew, Peter. They knew.” Peter showed concern and care on his face. “Oh, thank you, Peter, thank you. It is so good to see someone’s face.” Peter smiled. “OK, what happened?” The Samaritan recounted the events of his short visit to the church. St. Peter frowned. “We know there are challenges in the Church these days. But no, they didn’t see you as a leper. Well, that is, they saw you as a type of leper since you didn’t wear a mask.” The Samaritan frowned. “It wasn’t just how they treated me,” he said. “It was the feeling of fear that I sensed throughout the congregation. Where is their faith? Don’t they remember the recent pope who chose the phrase ‘do not be afraid,’ as his motto?” “Some do, my friend. Some do,” replied St. Peter. The Samaritan smiled. “That’s good. But I think I’ll wait for them to arrive here in heaven before I meet them. Just in case.”
Edward J Barr is a Catechist, an attorney, an intelligence officer, a Marine, and a university faculty member. He earned a Master of Theology degree from the Augustine Institute. Mr. Barr is a contributing writer for the Roma Locuta Est blog (www.RomaLocutaEst.com)