Raise your hand if somehow the Book of Leviticus seems less foreign to your ears than it did a year ago. Timeless the plight of the leper, isn’t it?
He shall dwell apart.
If this were not resonance enough, notice what’s missing between the beginning and end of today’s Leviticus text. In these omitted verses, we discover that even in the ancient world there was a chance for false positives. What appeared to be a contagious skin infection (“leprosy” is a misleading translation) might be a harmless rash that would clear up on its own. So the afflicted person would undergo a seven-day quarantine or two. Only when the priest was certain there was no chance of healing would the unclean person have to dwell apart. Imagine the agony all around. Community meant everything to the People of God.
Imagine what they would have done were the contagion invisible and deadly. They, too, might have learned what it means for the whole community—the entire world as they knew it—to dwell apart. Raise your hand if you can relate to that.
And keep your hand up if over the course of the past year you begged and pleaded with God for healing—for yourself, a loved one, a stranger, a million strangers. If you got on your knees like the leper before Jesus: Please, please, please. But you did not get the answer, “I do will it. Be made clean.” Maybe you began to wonder whether Jesus ever dismissed someone at once without answering their prayer. If so, you would be among a global community of like-hearted questioners. Why is God so utterly absent? Why doesn’t God just fix this broken and sick world?
Maybe it is precisely in this despair and doubt that Christ reaches out and touches us, offers healing for an illness we fail to recognize or are reticent to admit: being community only in name.
We liked to say over the past year that though apart, we remained together. But I wonder. I wonder if these painful months have lanced some festering wounds, revealing the ways we were apart when together: Polite smiles. Feigned friendliness. Thinly veiled acrimony. Avoiding conflict at all costs—or taking to social media to vent our grievances—because it hurts too much to be honest with and humble before one another.
Let there be no doubt: Christ wills that we live peaceably as one. And there is no wound of disunity too great for him to heal. Timeless—and timely—his touch. Whether we desire to be a part of that healing is the resonant question.