Trust in an unseen God-made-visible

Each year, thousands of men, women and children are innocent victims of sexual and organ trafficking, and it seems that we are so accustomed to seeing it as a normal thing. This is ugly, it is cruel, it is criminal! I would like to draw on everyone’s commitment to make this aberrant plague, a modern form of slavery, adequately countered. Let us pray together the Virgin Mary to support the victims of trafficking and to convert the hearts of traffickers. — Pope Francis

I spoke with a woman not long ago who has worked with a faith-based outreach to teenage youth victimized by the sex-trafficking industry. I have read articles and listened to presentations on the topic over the years, but every time I meet someone who is personally involved in this kind of work it shakes me to the core. History has demonstrated again and again that there lurks in humanity a dark and perverse drive toward enslaving fellow human beings for pleasure, power and profit.

The Hebrew’s story in Egypt is humanity’s story, and the words God spoke to Moses from the Bush were spoken over all ages:

I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt,
and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters;
I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them
out of the hand of the Egyptians,
and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land,
a land flowing with milk and honey (Ex. 3:7-8).

The Hebrew story is also the Christian story, as these “words of God” became flesh and tented among us. Hear in this section of the Nicene Creed striking resonances of the above Exodus text:

For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.

In Jesus, God “became man” not only “in accordance with the Scriptures,” but in accordance with the the entire human experience — even into bowels of hell, as the Apostles Creed starkly puts it, “He descended into hell.”

This woman I spoke with said something really profound about these young people’s plight in relation to God:

It is difficult to trust in an unseen God when what is visible appears to destroy any chance of redemption.

As she shared with me over an hour and a half’s time the details her faith-based approach to this work, and some of the extraordinary stories of how it brings hope in a hopeless place, I remembered my own experience 25 years ago working with the Missionaries of Charity. Specifically, I remembered this one young woman I came to know who had been sex-trafficked and was dying of HIV-AIDS when I met her. She said that she believed God had brought her to live with the Sisters before she died “to protect me from the men.”

“To protect me.” That phrase burned itself deeply into my memory and convinced me with new force that this was indeed the core mission of the Church in the world, to be God’s rescue made visible and audible. To extend the Incarnation and be Yeshua, “Yah rescues.” And Yah, an abbreviated form of the divine Name, Yahweh, is etymologically derived from the Name revealed to Moses from the Bush, “I Am” (Ex 3:14). The rescuing God is, and He is with us saying to every Pharaoh, “Let my people go.”

1 John 1:1-4 exquisitely captures this mission that flows from the Incarnation of the Word:

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life—this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship [koinōnia] with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

I know a man who had a “near death experience” after suffering a grave cardiac event in his early 30’s, and after he’d recounted to me the remarkable specifics of what he had seen and heard, he said: “I know this probably sounds like wishful thinking, but I am convinced that if everyone had one of these experiences, and saw and heard what I did, there would be no more wars or violence or starvation. When you’re there you realize absolutely nothing matters — and I mean nothing — but love.” Then he said, “But what I realized after this happened was that we already have all of this in our faith. But like Jesus said [Luke 16:31], it’s never that simple.” I added, “Yup, makes me think of G.K. Chesterton’s satirical quip, ‘The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.'”

The world is teeming with God’s glory, but sin and ignorance conceal its vision from our eyes, its music from our ears. Faith, hope and love give us the liberated, liberating capacity to see and hear again, and the imperative — “Go!” — to give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, liberty to captives by declaring in word and deed what we have seen and heard. The church is, as I once said here, the manifestation of the eternal God’s irrepressible ‘freaking out’ in our history to build a home for humanity to dwell in with Him; in safety.

This woman I spoke with also said, “And everything we do is soaked in prayer.” Indeed. And so we cry out unsparingly day and night to God in the face of all forms of slavery, “Tear open the heavens and come down!” (Is. 64:1).

Through me.

Let’s try.

6 comments on “Trust in an unseen God-made-visible

  1. beads2rosaries says:

    It is so hard to feel rescued and protected by a God who is preceived to abandon and betry his children. Those who have been vitimized, particuary sexually, have those feelings. It can be hard to see a loving God especially when the thinking process about relationship has been so damaged.

    • Unquestionably. And there is no easy or a quick-fix way through that dense forest of charred and splintered memories. Which is why it is so imperative that organizations, faith communities and outreaches like those I described, and the one I was part of back in 1991, exist and act. As the chaplain presiding at the funeral of that woman with HIV-AIDS said: “She came here dead, but died alive. All because Mother [Teresa] long ago said yes to Jesus. And the members of this community here today joined her.”

  2. DismasDancing says:

    Because of its length, comment to you via your pvt email. AMDG

  3. Nos still... says:

    Brevity has never been your strong suit which is why we love you… you have now cheated countless followers of this blog of your gifted wisdom and insight, hey I still love you. P..B.W.Y.A.A.

    • DismasDancing says:

      My dear NOS:
      Good to hear from you, my friend. Much appreciate your kind comment; and even though our Brother Tom has told me several times not to worry about it, this site is his, so I am reluctant to post lengthier items purely out of respect for him–and for site visitors who love me far less than you do. Know for certain that I love and appreciate you and your wisdom far more than you might know. All because of our Great and Good Lord who, at some point in our lives, woke each of us up to Him, and in His beautiful Providence, threw us all together within this space and time to be mentored by a fellow traveler in search of Christ’s promise to those who love Him. I am humbled that I am so blessed to have been permitted to be here with each of you; but I also rejoice and am glad to see your testimony and witness. NOS, your pen name tells me a lot about you and your faith, and I am always filled with joy and anticipation when I see your (and Jen’s) names and comments.

      As to the subj at hand: Long post was sent to our brother this AM, so will defer to his wisdom on the efficacy of sharing with fellow followers.

      I DO have Jen’s personal email. If you’re OK with the good professor sending me your personal email, I would love to share other items with you, including my longer reply should Tom not include it here. I just sent Tom and Jen a meditation on the beautiful prayer, the “Anima Christi”, for their perusal. Would be happy to share it with you as well when I have your address.

      Somehow, before I am worm bait, perhaps I might learn the meat of what the Bard of Avon meant when he had one of his most notable characters utter: “…brevity is the soul of wit!” With that I send you blessings and prayers for the beauty and comfort of God’s joy that surpasses anything possible in this life. Luv ya!


  4. Clare says:

    This is a wonderful post. I volunteer with the St Vincent de Paul Society and there are a number of people who I have helped with food and counsel and who have no one else to turn to – who often have issues that isolate them in the community and who are not on the radar of social services or have family to help. I think people like me are the face of Christ in our community and it’s a privilege.

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