In the Gospel a leper approached Jesus, saying, “Lord, if you wish you can make me clean.” Then, Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.”
Two points are of some interest there.
For one, leprosy is a double whammy, in that it makes one sick, and it made a Jew ritually unclean, banning him from joining others in the synagogue. This leper, in asking to be made clean rather than to be cured, was saying that being physically healthy did not matter as much to him as being able to take his place with normal humans.
The other noteworthy thing here is that while Jesus normally cured people with just his word, with the leper, he reached out and touched him. He sensed the deep need the leper felt for an affectionate touch.
I saw something yesterday that brought up this matter of happily associating with other humans. In taking me to breakfast after Mass, John Lippincott had to stop by his house to make sure his grandson was up and ready to go to school. While I waited outside I noticed parked across the street the truck of a roofing company. Its men were ready to brave the cold wind on the neighbor’s house. I was struck by the name on the roofing company’s truck. It was Nelligan, an uncommon name, and that had me thinking about a Father Tom Nelligan who died sixty years ago.
One day Father Nelligan called me into his sick room, saying he wanted to tell me a story. Here is how it went.