As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you.” And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly ordered them, “See that no one knows of this.” But they went away and spread the news about him throughout that district. Matthew 9:27-31
Jesus was not seeking recognition or glory. When folks came to him seeking healing, Jesus handed the responsibility back to them. Jesus saw in them and sees in us the potential for wholeness. He showed people how to believe in their/our capacity to heal and to be the light of the world.
Jesus sees in us the potential for wholeness. God desires wholeness for each of us.
Jesus took the time to be alone, to be far from the crowd, to pray. He would disappear or fall asleep in the boat in the middle of the storm. He did not have a savoir complex.
The story about Mary, the harlot, captured my imagination. When orphaned at the age of 7, she lived with her Uncle Abba Abraham in the desert. One day while her uncle was away, a man posing as a holy monk came by and raped her. Filled with shame, she ran away and became a harlot. “Me too” is not new. Silence around sexual assault is not new. Shame is not new.
Even though Mary knew her uncles love for her and even as she had lived in the shelter of the desert, she felt shame. Shame propelled her into a life with more shame and unhappiness. The violent act of another, she took on as her responsibility.
When we look at aggression solely on individual terms, we miss the power of the community to care for one another and create appropriate standards of conduct. When we understand rape only in individual terms, we miss the systemic violence against women. When we understand violence against people of color only in individual terms, we miss the power of systemic racism.
Mary saw herself as damaged. She internalized the shame and disappeared, walking away from her uncle’s love and care for her. She also walked away from God, closing her heart to God’s love for her. But God remained with her. She was still beloved. God was still waiting and holding her.
Her uncle, searched for her for two years. After learning of her whereabouts, he left the holy home he had created. He left the lifestyle of austerity and went to the brothel.
Imagine him eating and drinking in the brothel—eating and drinking food he avoided for a life of faith. His prayer life and the love it engendered moved him to enter a different culture where he ate and drank while disguised as one seeking to hire a prostitute.
It is too easy in our busy culture to separate prayer from action. Worship and prayer is mission; when we are grounded in God, we know ourselves and God well enough to calmly enter into the places of danger or discomfort. Even if he’d been recognized, even if pictures of him in the brothel were to go viral, Abba Abraham knew himself and knew God.
He walked into the brothel not as an imposter though he was disguised but as the holy man that he was, willing to risk his reputation. But then again, he was so grounded in God that the brothel couldn’t sully him.
He was able to enter that place not as one at risk of temptation but as one there to share love and God knows love was needed in that place.
When Mary, his niece, recognized her uncle and the lengths he went to speak with her privately, she experienced her uncle’s love as God’s love and God’s call to return home.
So often our fear and our shame get in the way of God’s love for us; Jesus wants healing and wholeness for us.
Ashamed for actions that were not hers, Mary ran away from God but God’s love and her uncle’s love did not abandon her. But even if the actions were hers, God’s love endures. Mary, a victim of trauma who tried to run away from God became a trusted spiritual guide.
Jesus wants healing for us. A life of prayer, contemplation, and calm, provides the tools, the muscle, to enter into the hard places with love.
So dare to enter into the hard or dangerous places with love, knowing that your love is God’s love and will transform lives.
Note: Information about Abba Abraham and Mary taken from The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane. p. 175-6.