As Jesus entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” – Luke 17:12-13 (NRSV)
There is almost no leprosy today, but we know a lot about treating people as unclean, untouchable, cursed and contagious.
In Florida elementary schools, students can’t mention gay parents; queer teachers can’t mention their spouse or comment on their sexual or gender identity because of a fear that queer is contagious. Children might catch it!
The HIV/AIDS epidemic was another wave of stigmatizing people as unclean, untouchable and threatening. Things have improved but the stigma, and loads of misunderstanding about HIV, remain.
People experiencing homelessness are also treated as lepers, as unclean, as untouchable.
During the Covid-19 pandemic we learned to view everyone as a potential source of contagion. If we tested positive, we had a temporary experience of being ostracized.
Leprosy is rare but treating people as lepers is all too common. Not for Jesus.
Jesus wasn’t good at social distancing, whether people were diseased in body or marginalized for other reasons. Jesus was drawn to them. The holy love he channeled zeroed in on no-counts.
We might think the opposite is true. If we are stigmatized or marginalized, we might wonder if we are cursed and if God must keep distant from us. Nothing could be more distant from the truth.
Embodied One, we praise you for ignoring every separation, quarantine, and distance we impose upon others, upon ourselves …and even on you.