“For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:19-22)

I have long been intrigued by St. Paul’s rhetoric from 1 Corinthians 9. Here he contextualizes his method, in order to share the Gospel of Jesus with different groups of folks. To the Jews I became as a Jew… To those under the law I became as one under the law… To the weak I became weak… I have become all things to all people” which causes me to wonder how St. Paul might share the Gospel with us? Or how we might share the Good News of Jesus with others?

Last week, the CDC and Governor DeWine announced the lifting of restrictions and health orders. On June 2, many of the health department orders previously issued by the State of Ohio will be lifted. Early on in the pandemic, the image of a dimmer switch was used to convey the slow, incremental way that would govern changes in COVID19 protocols. Last week’s announcements surprised me.

I am by nature a cautious person. Instead of jumping right in, I like to take my time getting into a cold swimming pool. I am also someone who heeds the call of Jesus to love my neighbor, and especially the neighbor who is the most vulnerable. And when I think about COVID 19, I think about all of those who have not yet been fully vaccinated, which includes so many of our children.

In December 2020, our grandson George contracted COVID. He was sick for a couple of days with a high fever. Thanks be to God that he is now fully recovered. His grandpa (me) is also fully recovered from the dread that gripped my chest when the test for little George came back positive for COVID. Our children, and those who remain unvaccinated can still contract (and spread) this disease, so I am planning to remain cautious and planning to continue to love my neighbor. Jesus is my model. But I think I’m going to borrow St. Paul’s method.

Now I am blessed to be fully vaccinated, but when I am out and about in public, my plan is to continue to follow protocols that will keep my unvaccinated neighbor (and children) safe. As St. Paul might say, “To the unvaccinated I became as one unvaccinated…”

While shopping for groceries, I will wear a face covering, even though it steams up my glasses in the ice cream aisle. While standing in line, I will keep a safe distance. When I greet you, I may not shake your hand, but I will extend my elbow or invite you to give me a “low five”, which is the sole of my shoe touching the sole of your shoe.

As we make decisions in our personal lives and in the life of our parishes,
how might we continue to value the safety of our unvaccinated neighbors and our children? How might we employ the dimmer switch, and slowly and carefully make changes to our established COVID protocols? How might we continue to be in conversation with and seek guidance from local public health officials? And how might we consider the loving model of Jesus and the intriguing method of St. Paul, “To the unvaccinated I became as one unvaccinated…”

Let us pray, Lord, this has been a long and hard journey, and we are weary. We pray for strength and encouragement as we slowly move forward. Lead us to love our neighbor as you love us. And give us the patience and the wisdom to make good and faithful decisions. This we pray in the name of Jesus, crucified and risen for the world. Amen.