The COVID vaccine tends to make beggars of us all – at least in my state of residence, and in my age-bracket.
It’s become something of a sport, in fact: those of us with flexible schedules (and a modicum of internet-savvy) lately have been trading stories about how and where we scored appointments for our injections.
In my case, it meant traipsing off to a major medical center in the city for a “walk-in” event. Me, and about 500 other people – none of us with any guarantee there’d be enough doses to go around. But I figured it’d be worth a shot (see what I did there?).
Standing in the queue, I had lots of time to think…and fret…and think some more. Mostly I worried that it was all a complete waste of time: Even though I’d arrived at the opening bell, there were already hundreds in line ahead of me – and no staffer seemed to be tracking the new arrivals with an eye toward saying, “Sorry, full up!”
I felt an odd sort of helplessness that day: helplessness, tinged with hope. And recalling the moment, I found myself blessed by an unexpected solidarity with a man we meet in a reading from John’s gospel this week.
He too had been waiting in amongst “a large number” of those wanting to be well. And like a current-day vaccine hunter, he had experienced frustration many times before:
“…when the water is stirred up, while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.”
Jesus – the master healer – notices the man’s fretfulness, and utterly disarms it with a penetrating question:
“Do you want to be well?”
It’s as if he’s saying, “Open your eyes…do not fear…your salvation is here, standing right in front of you.” And no sooner does he have the man’s attention than a miracle does in fact occur:
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.
My spirit is stirred today as I meditate on that long-ago encounter on the outskirts of Jerusalem – and on my own good fortune in having made it through to receive the vaccine.
It felt very much like Jesus reminding me that he is with us still. He is there in the Body of Christ – in the untold thousands of talented people who worked at a record-setting pace to create effective vaccines. He is there in the many thousands more…who work to manufacture and distribute and administer and inject the vaccines.
Christ is there, too, in the many thousands who wait patiently in line – who manage to set their fear aside, and perhaps even offer smiles of encouragement to the care-providers wielding the syringes.
This is how we show that we do want to be well, it seems to me: by all the simple (and extraordinary) things we do…to bear Christ into a world now very much in need.
In the process, each of us has the opportunity to accomplish something extraordinary, says the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. Each of us becomes:
…in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.