March 8. Compassion.  Prudence had been an AIDS activist and compared the COVID-19 pandemic to HIV/AIDS and also to leprosy, which had historically been a serious scourge in Jesus’ day and also at the time of St Francis. She explained the Biblical story of Naaman a highly-placed foreigner, a proud and arrogant man, who suffered from leprosy and was seeking help from the prophet Elisha.   The prophet treated him with some disdain, telling him to go and wash in the river Jordan. 

Scripture. Naaman was angry and went away, saying, Behold I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord. 1 Kings 5:15.  But Naaman humbly listened to his servant’s advice and did wash himself and was miraculously made clean.  He came back to thank Elisha and acknowledged the greatness of the God of Israel. Jesus himself and St Francis had not treated lepers by keeping them at a distance, but had been caring and healed them.  COVID-19 is not as repulsive as leprosy but does still carry some stigma. The law requires us to isolate and quarantine and so those infected are often deprived of much needed human comfort and support from their loved ones, while health workers wear themselves out in caring for the sick.

Pope Francis: The pain, uncertainly and fear and the realization of our own limitations brought on by the pandemic have only made it more urgent that we rethink our styles of life, and our relationships. God willing, when all this is over we will think no longer in terms of “them” but only of “us.” FT 35.  

From THE LITTLE FLOWERS OF ST FRANCIS.   In one story about St Francis there was a patient in the leprosy hospital who was so insolent and rude to those who served him that they thought he was possessed by a devil and no one would attend to him. St Francis himself visited the leper and wished him peace.  The man replied, “What peace can I look for from God who has taken from me peace and every other blessing and made me a putrid and disgusting object.” Francis humbly asked how he could help and the man said, “wash me.” That is what Francis did, washing the man with his own hands. His flesh was miraculously healed and the angry and bitter leper repented as his body and his soul were purified. 

Reflect, share, act, pray.  Are we as kind and compassionate as we could be towards patients and families who are struggling with the effects of COVID-19? What more can we do?