The Bishop of Plymouth, Bishop Mark O’Toole, in a Homily at Plymouth Cathedral on Sunday, 14 February, invited all to be ‘super-spreaders of the Gospel’, not of the virus.
Reflecting on his experience of having just received the vaccine, Bishop Mark indicated that he had been invited to receive it by Devon County Council. They had contacted him because he is regarded as a potential ‘super-spreader’ of the virus, given his role working in the community, and ministering to communities across the South West.
The Bishop indicated that a nurse had said to him, “It’s not a nice title for you, Father, but of course you’re a super-spreader of the Gospel”, to which the Bishop replied, “I certainly hope so!”
Bishop Mark commended the extraordinarily efficient process in the roll out of the vaccine and expressed “gratitude to the many healthcare professionals and volunteers who are making it possible”.
The Bishop drew parallels between our present experience and the scene in the Gospels where Jesus encounters a leper, and stretches out his hand to the leper, to touch and heal him. Bishop Mark commented, “Jesus knows intuitively that His physical health is not threatened in touching this man. In this, is his difference to us. Some people of faith – a very small minority it must be said – have suggested that believers should not worry about catching the virus. They suggest that it will not touch you if you have faith. This attitude is misguided. Apart from suggesting that faith acts like a kind of magic which instantly insulates us from all illness and disease, for us Christians, it is also something of a heresy. It equates us completely with the Lord, puts us on the same level. But we believe there is only one Son of God who became Incarnate. You or I are not Him. He is the Lord, we are not. He is the source of all life, of healing. We are not.”
The Bishop urged people who were doubtful about receiving the vaccine to “reflect seriously on the matter”, for “although it is a personal decision it is not just a private one.” Bishop Mark noted, “What we choose has consequences not just for ourselves, but for all those around us”. In receiving the vaccine, he said he was “grateful not just for myself but for all those whom I encounter now or hope to encounter in the future, in my ministry as Bishop.” He indicated he received the vaccine “out of love for them”.
The Bishop hoped that all believers would be open to doing the same, so as to remain healthy and in order that they could be “super-spreaders of the Gospel”.