Meeting Others in a Pandemic

Jul 14, 2021

Fr. Michael Schleupner offers today’s reflection and he shares a great lesson from the pandemic. Fr. Michael will be with us for our August Directed Retreat soon. We have one reservation available for this retreat and you can read more about it by clicking here. Now, let’s take a quiet moment to read and reflect.

Meeting Others in a Pandemic

There is a columnist for Time magazine named Belinda Luscombe. About a year ago, in the midst of the first wave of the pandemic, she did an interesting thing in her personal life.

Belinda Luscombe started walking around her New York neighborhood just to get out of the house and to make some human contact. In her May 24th essay in Time, she talks about some of the persons she met.

The Personsneighbors, treating others

There was the postal carrier whose name was Archimedes.

He had been delivering the mail for years, but he and Belinda had never met. Now, they talk just about every day.

Then there is Kenny, the superintendent of a nearby building.

Belinda describes Kenny as “a lovely man with a beautiful spirit” who knows everything that’s happening in the neighborhood. Belinda now checks in with him regularly.

And then there is Ram. He is the owner of one of the few nearby restaurants that stayed open during the pandemic, an Indian restaurant.

Belinda’s family became regular take-out customers. Ram has come to know each family member’s preferences and has, as Belinda says, an “optimism that is as nourishing” as his food.

Then there is Elijah. He lives in the building next door, but it had felt like a world away from Belinda’s.

Elijah is a survivor of abandonment, addiction, divorce, incarceration, and an arrhythmia that could kill him at any time. In their conversations, Belinda and Elijah have been able to share their different life experiences.

Finally, Belinda says that the most unexpected rapport that she developed during the pandemic has been “with this interesting young woman who lived in my house. I already knew her a bit, since I gave birth to her about two decades ago.”

Belinda’s moody daughter had moved away for college and then came home when the campuses closed. She has now become a reasonable, charming and engaging young adult.

In her essay in Time, Belinda concludes: “That’s the weird thing about the people you meet during a pandemic. They’ve been there the whole time.”

A Lesson for Us

I think that this columnist has a good lesson for us. Our lives can be a walking tour where we encounter God in the people we meet. And, if we do it right, they can also see something of the love of God in us.

Belinda Luscombe writes about how her life has been enriched by the people whom she met during her walks through the neighborhood. In that same spirit, Jesus sends forth the twelve apostles in today’s gospel. And I suggest that he sends them first and foremost not to accomplish a task, but to accompany people – not to accomplish but to accompany. They are first to accompany others in their journey. In doing this, they will know who others are, what they need, and how to relate to them. They will lead people respectfully, maybe slowly to God. So, Jesus sends the apostles and now us to do this. Again, our approach is not first to accomplish a task, but rather to accompany – to accompany others on the journey of life.

Notice that Jesus tells the apostles to travel lightly – no extra clothes or money or food. For us, travelling lightly probably means leaving behind our preconceived ideas about others, leaving behind our prejudices toward certain groups, and leaving behind our fear of those who are different.

Jesus calls us to respect the life experience of those we meet along the way. And, of course, he calls us to try to share our own life and faith experience in return.

Based on my experience as a person and a priest, with persons of different races and cultures and faith traditions and educational and economic backgrounds, I believe that this is the way to live and relate and do God’s work in the twenty-first century. This is the way to do the mission of Jesus and to make God more and more present in today’s world.

~Fr. Michael Schleupner

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