Today I got the pleasure and the honor of exploring Christian traditions of contemplation and meditation with a lovely group of women. One of the things we did was an active imagination contemplation on a passage from a gospel. I used Mark 6:53-56 which is a short passage whose language captured me a few months ago when I ran across it in my morning scripture readings.
“Once they had crossed over to land, they landed at Gennesaret and dropped anchor. As soon as they had gotten out of the boat, people recognized him right away, and they ran around over the whole area and started bringing those who were ill on mats to wherever he was rumored to be. And wherever he would go, into villages, or towns, or onto farms, they would lay out the sick in the marketplaces and beg him to let them touch the fringe of his cloak. And all those who managed to touch it were cured!”
I read the passage a few times and asked the women to imagine themselves in the story. Where are they? On the shore? Running around over the whole area? In the marketplace? On a farm? And what do they experience there with their senses? Is it hot, does it smell like lake-shore, is there sand on their feet, do they hear animals or people?
And then I asked them to consider who they might be in this story. Are they Jesus? Are they one of Jesus’ followers? Are they bringing their loved one for healing? Are they themselves laying in the marketplace hoping that Jesus will come near? Are they a shop keeper or bystander watching and wondering what is happening?
And then I asked them to inhabit the story and imagine what might come next after the text ends.
Today I read this passage and found myself in the marketplace. I have heard a rumor that Jesus is coming and I am in need of healing. My family humors me and doesn’t understand why I would go, but I know I need to go, even if they don’t understand. I have no mat. No one can tell that I am there too hoping and waiting to see if the Healer will come here. No one can see my illness. I can see the others, those with scaling skin, those laying in the hot sun barely breathing, those with withered limbs, with all manner of physical illness. And I see those family and friends who have brought them here, anxious mothers with their sick children, friends standing by, all of them ready to rush their loved one close to him, to help them to reach out, to press in all around in the chance that they will come close enough to be cured. They are the ones who really need the Teacher. They are the ones he should reach out to.
I don’t know why I thought I could come here, whole in body, and seek for my own healing. There are so many here who will die if they are not helped. Still….I will stay regardless. Maybe there is a chance he will come here and at least I will see him and see for myself this man of God. I smell the fires of the cooking ovens. I wait for a long time. The air feels tense with anxiety; everyone straining to see down the path. Will he come? And then suddenly there are shouts and a great many people run down the road. He is coming. He is coming here. I hold back assuming there is no room for me to get anywhere near him. He is pressed from all sides. Everyone is scrambling and calling out. Voices everywhere beg and plead. He walks through the crowd slowly reaching out and touching the sick.
He is amazing to watch and as he moves further into the crowd, an amazing calm moves through the people. They witness him in awe. Everyone who touches him, everyone he touches, even just a brush of his clothes, becomes well. They sing and shout their praises. Mothers weep in gratitude. I watch and wish that I too could come close. Suddenly everything stops and he meets my gaze through the crowd. He knows exactly why I am there. I am embraced in a feeling of all-encompassing love. There is nothing but his gaze and somehow I am standing before him. He takes my hands and tells me that I too am well. And I am. I am well. I am a boundless perfection beyond all thought and word. I am an essential piece of everything and there is Love, only Love. Everything is Love. He smiles at me and tears run down each of our cheeks. He says, “Come. Follow me.” And I do. I leave everything I have known for Love and Joy.