Healing Prayer – Open to the mercy and compassion of God

‘At sunset all those who had friends suffering from diseases of one kind or another brought them to Jesus, and laying his hands on each he cured them’  (Luke 4: v 40)

‘…a great crowd from all parts…had come to hear Jesus and to be cured of their diseases…Everyone was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all.’  (Luke 6: v17-19)

We journey through a world of beauty and pain, a world of peace and turmoil; we journey as disciples of Jesus who ‘healed all who came to Him’; we journey as a People of Hope, not only filled with hope in God but bearers of divine hope to this world.  Hope is the expectation of a better and more whole, more peace-filled world. This hope becomes a well-spring of vision and energy that will bring a measure of healing and new beginnings to our sisters and brothers, to our world.

  

We tend to think that healing is something very rare and happens in places like Lourdes or through the lives of saints (long dead!). Yet Pope Francis has famously described our parishes as ‘field hospitals where all will find welcome, love and healing.’ All the Sacraments have a healing dimension and the Church as Sacrament of Christ is to be a healing presence in our world – and so every parish is to be a healing presence in its community, the ‘field hospital’ of Christ where the broken and hurting will find hope and healing. Healing is to become the ‘ordinary’, not the ‘extra-ordinary’, experience of all communities that celebrate the Eucharist – Jesus, the Broken Bread that makes us whole!

What is ‘Healing’? Healing is a journey into the wholeness, freedom and peace that God wants for each of us. It is part of the journey into the mystery of who we are in Christ, into the reality of being a beloved daughter or son of Abba, our Father. The human person is ‘a freedom for love’ made in the image and likeness of God. Whatever limits that ‘freedom for love’, whatever wounds or scars the image of God within us, Jesus comes to heal, forgive and set us free to be our true selves in Him. Sometimes this might involve the healing of our bodies (curing or restoring health). Often it will involve the healing of inner self: the healing of hurting memories, of rejection or inner pain that leads us to inner freedom enabling us to love more fully. This is true ‘wholeness’. 

So what is healing prayer? 

Firstly, it is believing that God’s desire for us is this wholeness and peace. Therefore in the quietness of our own prayer (and especially at Mass) we confidently bring to ‘Abba’ our Father our own brokenness and pain, physical or emotional, to the God of love.

 

Secondly, it can be bringing our need to our sisters and brothers in the Christian community for their prayer through what is called ‘the laying on of hands’. Often, Jesus would touch with his hands those who came to him – a gentle touch of compassion and love – and he taught the disciples to do the same. The Word of healing is made flesh in the hands of another when our touch is caring and respectful. Of course such healing prayer 

does not require physical contact if the recipient of such prayer is uncomfortable with touching.

Thirdly, healing is a ministry that flows from the Holy Spirit given in our baptism and confirmation and therefore like so many other ministries is not restricted to the ordained among us. There are opportunities to receive simple training that will encourage each of us to be ready to pray healing with others (not just for others) and a normal part of a parish’s ministry as God’s ‘field hospital’. This is not setting ourselves up as ‘healers’ – Jesus alone is the healer! We are simply allowing ourselves as part of the Body of Christ to be used by our Good Samaritan, Jesus, to pour the wine of compassion and healing upon wounded brothers and sisters.

Finally, healing is not just about our individual journeys into love’s freedom, but is also (even primarily) about being a Church not afraid to reach out and touch the wounds of our world, of the communities where God has placed us. When Jesus healed the lepers he ended their exclusion from society and reintegrated them. When Jesus healed the woman with the issue of blood (constant periods) he challenged his society’s attitude to women and illness. When Jesus healed the centurion’s servant and praised his faith he challenged our attitude to ‘the enemy’. When Jesus raised up the Samaritan as an example of compassion he challenged racial and religious discrimination. What are the wounds of our society we need to touch and heal? Working for justice, struggling against poverty, being a voice for the excluded, welcoming the immigrant – all are part of the Healing work and prayer of the Body of Christ.

WANT TO KNOW MORE?  There are a number of parishes in the diocese who hold Healing Services and have small teams trained to offer healing prayer. Many prayer groups also pray healing in this way. If you wish to receive healing prayer or learn more about this ministry, then please contact:

The Bishop’s Committee for Health and Healing 

(email:  richard.mckay@priest.cliftondiocese.com )

Clifton Committee for Charismatic Renewal  (email: ann08.bevan@gmail.com )

The Eucharist and Healing

Let me begin with three short extracts from the Word of God, for the Word of God is our Bread of Life:

The night before Jesus died, ‘He took Bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying “Take and eat – this is my Body”. Then he took a cup of wine, gave thanks and shared it, saying “Take and drink – this is my Blood”.’

On the first Easter evening, the two disciples at Emmaus ‘recognised Him in the Breaking of the Bread.’

Those converted on the first Pentecost day ‘devoted themselves … to the Breaking of Bread.’

For over 46 years now as a priest I have ‘broken bread’ and ‘shared the cup’ with God’s people almost every day. Over those years I have pondered more and more this first name given to what we now commonly call the Mass or the Eucharist – the ‘Breaking of Bread’. Breaking is a dramatic word – and it is a powerful action at the central moment of our worship of God. 

Jesus Christ is alive among us as the ‘broken one’, ‘by whose wounds we are healed’. He comes to us in broken bread to heal our brokenness, the wounded one who heals our wounds. Jesus the Good Samaritan ‘pours out His Blood’ into the wounds of a world beaten up by the shedding of too much blood by our wars and injustices. In the parish community I serve, each time I ‘break the bread and share the cup’ I am very conscious that so many of my sisters and brothers gathered around the Table have fled places of torture, political imprisonment, genocide and persecution: so many scars of body, mind and memory, so much trauma is brought to our Table, to our community. It gives new meaning to ‘the Breaking of Bread’. 

So I passionately believe the Eucharist is the great Healing Sacrament. When we gather as a community to share the Mass, to break bread together, to share the cup among us, we bring all that we are, all that the world around us has shaped us to become. In the words of the hymn ‘we come to share our story, we come to break the bread, we come to know our rising from the dead’. So we bring, each one of us, our particular story of joy and sorrow, our gifts and our wounds, uniting it with THE STORY of Jesus suffering on the Cross, his redeeming death and life giving and transforming resurrection. We unite our pain – bodily illness,  mental anguish, hurting hearts, painful memories – with the wounded broken Christ we encounter in the Eucharist. 

And in the Eucharist we meet the suffering and dying Christ whose love transforms those very wounds of the Cross into wellsprings of healing and new life in his Resurrection. Indeed the first disciples recognised that He is risen because He shows them his wounded hands, side and feet. Those wounds of human brutality become wellsprings of healing and peace. Just as bread and wine are transformed into the dying and Rising Christ, so the wounds of human suffering are touched by the loving power of Resurrection and we find healing and wholeness. That is why the Church’s liturgy invites us to say those powerful words before receiving the Communion – ‘say but the Word and I shall be healed!’. We need to utter these words with faith, with the expectation that God is touching us with healing and enabling us to grow into a deeper wholeness. 

In a Mass dedicated to Healing we have a special opportunity to ‘come and share our story’, to speak of our pain and anguish and receive prayer and ministry directly into our wounded self. I believe we need more opportunities to come together as communities of healing, communities of wounded healers in THE WOUNDED HEALER, JESUS CHRIST! As Pope Francis has said, each parish, each Christian community, needs to be a ‘field hospital’ where the wounded of our world know they will find welcome and non-judgemental acceptance, a willingness to listen to the wounds that are brought to us (to Christ among us), and an enduring love that will hold them until they experience healing, inner freedom and hope. When Jesus invited Thomas the apostle to reach out and touch His wounds, the Lord was challenging us, the Apostolic Church, never to be afraid to reach out and touch our wounded world, our pain-filled brothers and sisters so as to bring them healing. Remember that Jesus also said ‘whatever you do to these sisters and brothers of mine, you do to Me!’ Touching their wounds is for us to touch His with a love that can make whole!

The Eucharist is not some magical presence – no! it is the gathering of a loving community that is the Body of Christ, and grows as such by sharing the Body and Blood of Christ. The Eucharist we celebrate becomes healing for each other and others as we allow ourselves to become ‘Living Eucharist’ – as the great African bishop, St Augustine, said – ‘may we become bread in God’s hands to be broken and given for the life of the world’. The Healing power of the Eucharist is the Healing power of an authentically Eucharistic community. The Bread we break around the Table of the Lord is Bread of Healing, Bread of Freedom, Christ’s Bread of Love for the world. Will we become that Living Bread for others? The Cup that we share is the Cup of the Lord’s suffering, which is the suffering of the world He welcomes into His opened Heart – will we who drink His Blood open our hearts to the suffering of others as He does and, like the Good Samaritan, pour ourselves out as the Divine Wine into the wounds of those who come to us, who have so often been ‘beaten up’ by the world? We are not a Eucharistic Community if we too ‘pass by on the  other side’. We are called by the Eucharist to be (again in the words of Pope Francis) ‘a messy church’.

And we must not forget – or neglect – the enduring Presence of the Eucharistic Christ in the tabernacles of our churches. The still Presence of such blessing waiting lovingly for us to ‘come and watch one hour’. Gently He cries out to us ‘Come to Me all who labour and burdened, and I will give you rest, peace, healing.’ To rest in the still gentle Presence of Divine Love in the Eucharist reserved in our tabernacles or in Exposition for Adoration is truly a ‘healing balm’ that can quieten our troubled minds, still our hurting hearts. Regular times of Adoration in our parishes can be power houses of prayer and intercession serving the mission of our communities, the healing ministry of our parishes. For me personally as a priest, spending time each day in the silence of Adoration before the Eucharistic Christ, this Sacrament of Blessing, is the source of energy for my ministry, and for healing for my life.

My hope is that the Eucharistic Congress will not only deepen our experience of and love for the Christ we meet in ‘the Breaking of Bread’, but will also challenge us to be missionary and healing Eucharistic communities – places where Jesus will be recognised as truly alive and life-giving among us – authentic Eucharistic Communities, called, blessed, broken and given for the healing of our world.

Questions to help reflection:

[1] Do I experience Jesus alive, healing and strengthening me through my sharing in the Eucharist?

[2] How can I help my parish become more deeply a Eucharistic community of Healing?

[3] How can the Mass we celebrate in our parishes enable people to ‘come and share their story’ more effectively and so find healing?

[4] How is the pain of the world embraced in the Mass I experience and share?

Charismatic Prayer – Letting the Holy Spirit pray in us

‘When Pentecost day came round, they has all me together… and were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues’  (Acts of the Apostles 2: v 1-4)

‘All who are guided by the Spirit of God are sons of and daughters of God, for you received the spirit of adoption, enabling us to cry out “Abba, Father!”… The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness, for when we do not know how to pray properly, the Spirit makes our petitions for us in groans that cannot be put into words.’  (Romans 8: v14-16 & 26)

In preparation for the Second Vatican Council, Pope St John XXXIII called upon us all to pray to the Holy Spirit, that Spirit might ‘renew the Church with signs and wonders as like a New Pentecost’. That great Council of the Church re-affirmed the charismatic character of the Church and the many charisms and ministries of lay people flowing from the Spirit’s gift in Baptism and Confirmation. 

Shortly after the Council ended in 1965 a group of professors and students at a Catholic University in USA experienced a rich outpouring of the Holy Spirit accompanied by spontaneous joyful praise, the gifts of tongues, prophecy and healing, and a deep love for the Word of God and desire to witness to Jesus. For them it was a life-transforming experience, literally a ‘being born again’. Remarkably quickly, like fire spreading through the brush, other groups caught this ‘fire of the Holy Spirit’ and formed small communities of spontaneous prayer, open in a new way to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. An international movement was born in the Catholic Church that we know as the Charismatic Renewal.

So what is ‘Charismatic prayer’?     All real prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Just as the Holy Spirit is the eternal dialogue of love and life flowing between the Father and Son in the Trinity, so our prayer is in reality a sharing in that same eternal dialogue: for we are reborn as sons and daughters of our Father, co-heirs with Christ  and filled with the same Holy Spirit as filled Jesus at the Jordan river. Our prayer is the breathing of the Spirit deep within us. Whether our prayer is in words uttered, tears shed, or the silence of contemplation, it is by nature charismatic for it is the Spirit of God praying within us who are Temples of the Holy Spirit. 

What we call Charismatic Prayer (as experienced by Prayer groups and individuals who have experienced the so-called ‘Release of the Holy Spirit’) is the re-emergence of ways of prayer familiar for many centuries in the life of Church, but seems to have got lost in the excessive formalism of prayer and worship in more recent centuries. Its re-emergence today is part of the renewal of the Church in our present age. Charismatic prayer is characterised by an ease and a joy in spontaneous prayer, coming together in groups to pray and sing with another, an emphasis on the prayer of praise (rather than solely intercession), an openness to charisms or gifts of the Holy Spirit such as healing, inspired teaching, prophecy, discernment, the prayer of tongues etc. 

For many people this ‘experience’ of the Holy Spirit with its new-found gifts of prayer, praise and ministries, comes after participating in ‘Life in the Spirit Seminars’ during 

which individuals have an opportunity to be ‘prayed over’ (with the ‘laying-on-hands’) in small groups for a fresh out-pouring of the Holy Spirit in their lives. For some their lives are changed dramatically, for most there is a gradual change that leads to deeper intimacy with God, a thirst for prayer and the Word of God, a hunger for the Sacraments, a desire to pray with others, to witness to their faith (or give testimony) more publicly and a willingness to be more involved in the life and ministry of their parish communities. They experience ‘coming alive in Christ’.

This form of prayer also helps us to heal some of the divisions that have afflicted the Body of Christ over the centuries. We can enter more easily into prayerful fellowship with our Evangelical and Pentecostal brothers and sisters and find new ways of witnessing together to the Gospel of Christ before our world. The Charismatic Renewal has given new impetus and heart to the Ecumenical movement.

WANT TO KNOW MORE?  There are a number of prayer groups meeting around the diocese and a few parishes who sponsor from time to time the 6 week course known as ‘Life in the Spirit Seminars’. In addition the Charismatic Renewal Movement both nationally and in our diocese holds ‘Days of Renewal’ and ‘Celebrate’ Conferences. If you wish to make contact with a prayer group or to know more about these events then please contact:

Clifton Committee for Charismatic Renewal  (email: ann08.bevan@gmail.com )

Celebrate Bristol  (email:  bristol@celebrateconference.org )

On Priesthood: Priest – Prophet and Shepherd

The priest is the servant of the Eucharist, who gathers the People of God that the Spirit might form us as the Missionary Body of Christ, and then sends us out into the world to work with God – co-creators with the Father, bearers of healing Salvation with Jesus and renewers of the face of the Earth with the Spirit.
The priest is our brother who walks with us and helps us listen together to the Voice of the Spirit in our times – to see ‘the Sign of the Times’ that we the Church might be God’s radical love poured out with abundant generosity into the hurting heart of the world..
As a brother he is our shepherd who needs us all to be shepherds; he is a prophet who challenges us – and wants to be challenged by us! He is a leader who knows how to serve, a preacher who knows how to listen, a prophet who has the courage both to challenge and be challenged.
The ordained priest and the Priestly People – journeying with one another in faith and love, forming each other as a People of Hope, a People of Love, a People of Mission – God’s People!

The healing touch of God

The Church is called by the Healing Jesus to be a community of Healing at the heart of the brokenness of our world. Jesus brought the Kingdom of the Father, the reign of Love’s Wholeness and Freedom, breaking into people’s lives through His extensive Ministry of Healing and Liberation. We are a healing community by the quality of our welcome, by the gentleness of our loving, by the courage of our standing alongside each other, by the receptivity of our listening to the pain that struggles to be heard, by the depth of faith and compassion that we bring to our praying with others in their need. The Church’s Healing Ministry is not just about the Sacrament of Healing administered by priests – it is about all of us, the baptised, our faith to expect God to heal, our love in holding the hurting, and the courage of our struggling for peace and for justice in our broken world.

November – A month to remember and pray for the dead

We remember not only the dead of the wars that have been the scourge of past 100 years, but in this month all the Faithful Departed, all ‘who have gone before marked with the sign faith’ and indeed all of deceased humanity for all are precious in God’s eyes. Please take a Memorial Sheet today and fill in the names of all whom you want to be prayed for and remembered at every Mass celebrated in the parish this November. They are with the Bulletin this week. Our prayer for them becomes part of God’s loving them into the fulness of their lives!

St Nicholas of Tolentino – Lover of God, Lover of the poor

St Nicholas, lover of children, born like Samuel, Samson and John the Baptist of barren parents, the gift of God to his parents, and his parents gift to God in return.
St Nicholas, who learnt to break bread with the poor long before he learnt to break the Bread of the Eucharist – risking his future in obedience to the God of the Poor and disobeying the voices of those who knew not the poor man of Nazareth.
St Nicholas, man of prayer who entered Love’s silence in order the proclaim Love’s Saving Word.
St Nicholas, vessel of God’s healing love, from whom healing and life flowed in all abundance, raising the dead, healing the woulds, setting free.
St Nicholas, God’s compassion to the prisoner, God’s protector and rescuer of the prostitute, listening with a gentle heart and an open mind.
St Nicholas, reaching in praying love beyond the bridge of death, holding the Departed in the purifying love of God. 
 
St Nicholas, inspirer of our mission, healer of our wounds!