Tag Archives: healing
Where should we look for locations in which we experience Christ’s presence as healing, and thus as overcoming the bewilderment and fears which are too typical of our modern circumstances? Table fellowship, as some call it, table friendship, or the conviviality of a living community, happen better in some Christian settings than others.
This scene is one where barbeques have gone well, summer picnics have lasted for hours, and the spilling out of indoor celebrations have all been excellent occasions for informal interactions, concerned with inner peace and changes of direction. Unthreatening circumstances for sharing fears and bewilderment are essential for moving beyond fantasies and into strong life-affirming relationships.
But in such circumstances we must decide to put our religious self-awareness into convincing words and phrases. Perhaps we want a more sincere account of who we are than we had a month earlier. We alter our choice of adjectives. The novelist David Lodge claims that “the frequency of coincidence in fictional plots… is related to how much the writer feels he can ‘get away with’,” in order to show how vivid certain encounters or events were. Our stories told to friends may be altered also, to show how much God lets us get away with, in terms of kindness and forgiveness. On this point, David Jasper quotes Emily Dickinson: “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant… The Truth must dazzle gradually/ Or every man be blind.”
What is more life-affirming: vivid wickedness admitted, and partly abandoned, or vivid new expressions of compassion taken totally to heart? Grace has multiple versions.
Only two of the gospels encourage us to see our prospect of celebrating new life as something which began when Mary’s child was a presence in Israel. The gospels begin with the death and resurrection of the Saviour. However, this is a saviour who has been incarnated before he was excarnated. The vulnerability of fleshed existence was for him a struggle to celebrate, because of the layers of heart and mind consciousness, which every child finds difficult to coordinate. None of us is sure what kind of new life God wants us to celebrate, when we acknowledge there are genuine gifts of forgiveness and healing, for instance. We feel our way, half-blind, to a greater awareness of how God acts through us. We seek to be less blind.
We are to be grateful that Jesus’ temptations, re-dramatising the Hebrew Exodus in him, were his solidarity with our half-blind condition. So was his journey with his parents through the desert to find refuge in Egypt. He beckoned to the first followers to challenge their often childish fears by feeling closer to his mission, and the courage it required. When a child beckons to us, asking us to give our full loving attention to them, we must smile with delight at such trust. Our smile of delight at oneness with the wholeness of love in Christ is the gift we need, both for our own healing, and for becoming sources of healing for others. We must delight at the potential which God has made present in each new stranger entering our lives. If we love their potential, we also love the healing which makes it real.
Monday of Week 5
Jesus allows people afflicted by sickness to touch Him, even lepers, who are shunned because of the fear of contagion. He shares His company and teaching with those whose sins make them social outcasts. ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor’, he says ‘but the sick’(Mark 2:17).
For Jesus, sin is a form of sickness. It moves His heart to be with the afflicted person, to reach out with acceptance, forgiveness and healing wisdom. Whether the sick respond to the doctor with co-operation or hostility, this does not affect Jesus’ commitment to be among those who need him.
Although He could have hidden or run away from those who wanted to kill Him, Jesus instead ‘set His face towards Jerusalem’ (Luke 9:51). His teaching by example in the Passion reached out to the many people around Him in need of wisdom and forgiveness. His compassionate mercy extended to the people who crucified Him, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’(Luke 23:34), and to the man dying beside Him, ‘Indeed I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise’(Luke 23:43). This desperate man was saved on Good Friday because of Jesus’ commitment to be among His enemies as a healer.
I thank our Saviour for always remaining with me in my spiritual blindness, to guide me back to the right path. The martyrs, like Paul Miki and companions whom we remember today, follow Jesus in His mission to witness to God’s indestructible love among those who need it most, regardless of the cost to themselves.
I pray today for the same courage, strength and trust in God to love my enemies as they did.
St George’s Gate 2 Wednesday 18th January, 9.30‐10.15am
Canterbury Baptist Church, St George’s Place, CT1 1UT
Health and social care, Compassion
St George’s Gate leads out to the south part of the city, where many of our healthcare facilities are situated: K&C Hospital, the Health Centre and the Chaucer Hospital, to name but a few. Today we pray for all those involved in health and social care in Canterbury, for hearts full of compassion, and for stamina to do their work well.
(The gates shown during this week are to be found around Canterbury: the proper city gates have all gone, except the Westgate.)
In the Gospels, Jesus often points to His works as evidence that God has sent him. His presence transforms people’s lives, healing and bringing new life to all who will accept Him. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, how could my daily life and work point to the presence of God’s Kingdom?
Isaiah 35:1-6, 10
Exult…rejoice and bloom, …rejoice and sing for joy, ‘Courage! Do not be afraid.’
…leap like a deer …sing for joy …shouting for joy, everlasting joy…joy and gladness …sorrow and lament be ended.’
do not lose heart… . Do not make complaints.
Good News …do not lose faith
Today’s Scriptures tell me that signs of the presence of God are joy, courage and trust.
Is this the spirit in which I serve and work?
The tendency to lose heart and make complaints is all too strong, faced with the messes in my life and in the world. But I cannot convey good news with a gloomy face. Only by holding onto a deep faith in Jesus’ promises will I have the strength to show joy and courage, even in the midst of troubles. This should be the sign in my life that accompanies the Good News I am called to share – the news that God is with us and will never fail us.
Emmanuel, during this Advent, let me not forget that your life and work gives me a reason to be happy.
John Masefield, in the moments before Christ’s birth, has the angels sing:
No friends await him
To celebrate him,
But foes to hate him
And nails to pierce.
Yet from their hating
To mankind waiting
A star shall shine;
A star assuring
To men enduring
Through ills past curing
A life divine.
(The Coming of Christ, pp 17-18)
The world needs Mercy, loving kindness, even if people are greedy for riches, as we saw in the second of these posts. A star shall shine through their hatred and de-sacred actions.
While we can think of someone like Franciscan Saint Maximilian Kolbe as a star in a time of hatred, giving his life for another prisoner in Auchwitz, there will be times that we may never be aware of in this world, when each of us assures a life divine to a sister or brother.
Maximilian Kolbe was devoted to Mary, mother of mercy, and died on her feast of the Assumption in 1941; today we remember him on another of her feasts, the Immaculate Conception.
Jacopone’s exhilarating phrases about his great attraction to the tremendous graciousness of God are tied in with other, simpler phrases about how humbly he waits to experience the bubbling spring of God’s forgiveness. This alone can free him from punishment he has had to undergo, for being so outspoken on behalf of Christ.
“Almost paralysed, I lie at the pool near Solomon’s Portico;
The waters have been moved with a host of pardons.,
And now the season has drawn to a close. When shall I be told
That I should rise, take my bed and go home?” (Laud/Letter 52)
“Why did you leave the golden throne resplendent with gems,
Why did you put aside the dazzling crown?…
Were these the actions of someone drunk, or out of his senses?
I know that all knowledge and power were yours
Even when still a child; how could so much be contained
In such a tiny frame, made of common clay?
What can a creature offer you, O Highest Goodness,
In exchange for your gift of yourself?
Your love, I think, brought you no gain.
Does gold need tin for its splendour to be seen?
For love of man you seem to have gone mad!
Myself and all my riches,
The treasure I brought with me when I exchanged
The glorious life of heaven for a cruel death.” (Laud 65)
This quietly bubbling fountain in a slab of stone is inside the Portiuncula Hermitage retreat centre at Clay Cross, Derbyshire. It is run by the Minoress Franciscan Sisters. Follow the link to learn more.
If each person is like an iceberg, with 90% hidden beneath the surface, we have to decide whether we will only notice playful surface images, or peer more profoundly, helped by faith, into our buried and still unhealed depths. How important is it to us to encounter the real self, the life that is ours because it is given by God? We assume that our pleasant opinions of how homely and friendly we are can float reliably across any flow of social encounters ahead. Jacopone’s experience taught him differently. So he challenges his own soul to be honest about itself.
“Galieno, Avicenna, Hippocrates
Never understood how the ills of the body
Are linked to those of the soul.
They meet head on in anger
And create such a turbulence
That I wish I had never been born!
Up with you, accursed one, no more delays!
Our sins are inscribed on our foreheads;
What we thought we did alone,
In the privacy of our chamber,
Will now be displayed for all to see.” (Laud 15)
The thought of how God judges his life, and weighs up the love he has shared or held back runs underneath this poem. He admits his soul’s twists and turns, imagining, rationalising and quick, careless decisions, are unbeneficial. The heart, the meeting point of body and soul, cannot keep the two in harmony. Outbursts of passion or dislike begun in the body prove too much for the badly tutored soul to manage.
Plowden Church, Shropshire: Saint Winifride with her Holy Well and pilgrims’ crutches.
- ‘… Why then, do you want a photograph of our Saint Winifride?’
- ‘Because she has her crutches. I wanted to show them as part of a blog about sacrifice.’
- ‘I’m still not following you.’
I was at an unfamiliar church in the Border country, Saint Walburga’s in Plowden, discussing the theology of sacrifice and of art with a new acquaintance. Such encounters help to clarify the mind:
- ‘I was also thinking of Saint Omer, where the tomb of Saint Erkembolde is covered with children’s shoes. He was a missionary who tramped around Northern France and so became patron for people with foot problems. They leave a token of their child as a sign of their prayer. And so with the crutches and Winifride. I wanted to get away from the image of Abraham raising the knife to Isaac, and look at sacrifice in the everyday.’
- ‘Now you are making sense. I like the idea of the everyday sacrifices.’
The crutches at Saint Winifride’s well represent real, if not everyday events: not everyone is cured at Holywell; nor was everyone cured at Bethesda (John 5). But the crutches represent realities: each of us will need crutches, physical or mental, from time to time; each will need help to walk in the way of the Lord (Psalm 116). For the one who offered a crutch at Holywell it maybe represented a concrete prayer of thanksgiving; for us today it is a sign of everyday needs, physical and spiritual, that we can admit to and offer to the Lord.
For thou hast delivered my soul from death,
mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.
I will walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.
Ps 116: 8-9.
Winifride, of course, was one of those remarkable women leaders of the Church in these Islands in the allegedly ‘Dark Ages’, like Walburga herself, and Eanswythe of Folkestone.
 See Blog posts for 22 April 2016, 4 July 2016, 7 July 2016.