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Prayer

Lent is a Time for Health and Healing

~Fr. Michael

One thing is abundantly clear from the Gospels, no matter how you read them or interpret them, this point is solid:  Jesus was a healer.  ‘Everywhere he went’ we’re told over and over again, ‘everyone brought the sick and infirm to see him.’ It seems the majority of time that Jesus spent in ministry was spent healing physical infirmities, disease, and restoring people to the fullness of life and health in a variety of ways.  In fact, the whole of Jesus’ mission can be described in terms of healing.  Jesus came to heal sick souls.  Jesus came to heal and make whole the breach and gap that we have created between ourselves and God, who is the source of life and health.  Jesus is the one true physician:  with perfect power to heal that springs from His divinity, and perfect power to understand sickness that comes from His humanity.

We call Jesus “Savior”, perhaps without realizing that that the words “Savior” and “Salvation” mean “Healer” and “Health” (for instance, a salve is a healing ointment).  In our rebellion against God, humanity has — from the very beginning — cut itself off from the one thing that brings true health.  In our stubborn insistence that we can handle our sickness ourselves, we refused to go to the doctor to be made well.  So, in His infinite mercy and compassion, God made a house call — God came into our lives to show us the true result of our disease, and to offer us a cure. What’s more, Jesus didn’t come just to heal for a little while, and then disappear.  He came to establish a lasting clinic.  One that would not simply carry on His work in His Name, staffed by people who guess how He might have worked; but a means through which He does continue His healing work, and gives to those who trust Him and believe in Him the privilege of sharing in that work.  This is not just a metaphor of how the Church operates, or an ideal which we hold ourselves up to, it is a rather profound statement of the truth of our calling.

The Church is God’s great spiritual hospital, where all the maladies and illness which spring from our separation from God are healed.  All the practices, doctrine, and ritual of the Church have as their purpose to heal us and keep us truly healthy.  The liturgy of the Church is like physical therapy, which draws our whole bodies into the healing process.  The sacraments of the Church are the medicine which drive away sickness, nourish and nurse us back to health, and cleanse us from infection.  Our common worship in the celebration of the Eucharist and in praying the Daily Office are the office hours that our Divine Physician keeps in order to bring the health we so desperately need and long for into our lives.

If we think of our life together as Christ’s Church in this way, it may help to shed some light on our priorities, and how seriously we take this mission and our part in it: 

  • How often do you think of washing or disinfecting your hands?
  • How often do you think of the grace given to you in Baptism?
  • How often do you think about nutrition for yourself and your family; of buying and providing balanced and healthy nourishment? 
  • How often do you think of the perfect spiritual nourishment given to us in the Eucharist? 
  • Would you ever let a wound continue to bleed unchecked without staunching the wound and bandaging it? 
  • Would you ever let a pattern of sin continue unchecked without confessing it to God and receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation? 
  • When was the last time you took a pill or a syrup to get better? 
  • When was the last time you received the laying on of hands and anointing for healing?

Jesus’ healing miracles point us to the fact that the body and the soul depend on each other — that our lives have a physical reality as well as a spiritual one — that we are bound by time, but also part of eternity.  If we focus on one and ignore the other, then our lives go out of balance.  If we consistently live our lives out of balance, then parts of them will spiral out of control.  True wholeness comes from accepting and celebrating the gifts of spiritual and physical health that are given to us in Jesus Christ.

The Church introduces the season of Lent with the words, “See, now is the time of grace; now is the day of salvation.”  Lent is the perfect time for spiritual healing and recuperation — it is the focus of the whole season.  Just as people seek out spas and take vacations to devote time to bodily rest and recuperation, so Lent is a time for recovering the health of our souls.  Let us make the best possible use of this time.  Let us be cooperative and obedient patients, allowing our great Physician to do his work. 

We have a resource that all of us truly need:  a Healer Who wishes to help us, a clinic that provides all the means necessary to restore our health, a medicine which unfailingly produces its effect if we use it as prescribed: “Do this in remembrance of Me.”  And we are not the only ones who need this resource — everyone in our community, everyone in the world needs it.  The question we must ask ourselves is, “How in God’s Name is anyone else going to find out about this incredible source of health and healing unless we both take the opportunity for ourselves, and then tell them about it?”

 Things to give up in Lent:

1.  Fear:  God is on my side. In Him I am more than a conqueror. (See Romans 98)

2.  The need to please everyone:  I can’t please everyone anyway. There is only one I need to strive to please. 

3.  Envy: I am blessed. My value is not found in my possessions, but in my relationship with my Heavenly Father.  

4.  Impatience:  God’s timing is the perfect timing.

5.  Sense of entitlement:The world does not owe me anything. God does not owe me anything. I live in humility and grace.

6.  Bitterness and Resentment:The only person I am hurting by holding onto these is myself.

7.  Blame: I am not going to pass the buck. I will take responsibility for my actions.

8.  Gossip and Negativity: I will put the best construction on everything when it comes to other people. I will also minimize my contact with people who are negative and toxic and bring other people down.

9.  Comparison: I have my own unique contribution to make and there is no one else like me.

10.  Fear of failure: You don’t succeed without experiencing failure. Just make sure you fall forward.

11.  A spirit of poverty: Believe with God that there is always more than enough and never a lack.

12.  Feelings of unworthiness:You are fearfully and wonderfully made by your creator. (see Psalm 139)

13.  Doubt:Believe God has a plan for you that is beyond anything you could imagine. The future is brighter than you could ever realize.

14.  Self-pity:God comforts us in our sorrow so that we can comfort others with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

15.  Retirement:As long as you are still breathing, you are here for a reason. You have a purpose to influence others for Christ. That does not come to an end until the day we die.

16.  Excuses: A wise man once said, if you need an excuse, any excuse will do.

17.  Lack of counsel: Wise decisions are rarely made in a vacuum.

18.  Pride: Blessed are the humble.

19.  Worry: God is in control and worrying will not help.

A Practical Way to Grow in Your Relationship with God:  Develop a Daily Habit

~Fr. Michael

If you have read any of my reflections in the Spirit in the past five years, or perhaps hear one of my sermons, you will very likely have heard me talk about thanksgiving and gratitude.  This is because I believe that a life of giving thanks is fundamental and appropriate human response to the grace of God.  If you’ve come to me for spiritual guidance or come to pray the Daily Office at the Cathedral, or maybe even attended a Cursillo retreat, you’ve probably heard me talk about the need for us followers of Jesus to take on a ‘Rule of Life’.  Now, sometimes, people hear that phrase and suppose that the Church is asking for an impossible amount of our time and attention, but that does not need to be the case.  How much time you spend on it doesn’t really matter, the important part is that it’s regular.  Even just a short prayer, if it’s worked into a daily habit, can become quite a powerful force in your life.  Like exercise, and a healthy diet, a daily habit of prayer has a cumulative effect — helping to build your spiritual and inner life a little bit each day.  People who work to do this faithfully often find not just better inner balance, but that it makes a difference in their physical lives and in their relationship as well.

Here, with a little help from some monk friends,  is a practical approach to growing a rule of life, beginning with just a short set of habits about saying ‘thank you’ every day.  Gratitude, like any other spiritual practice, is something we do, not just something we feel or think about. Like everything we do, we need to practice in order to get better at it. To practice gratitude, you don’t need a special mat to sit on, or an outfit, or an upgrade to your technology, or for things to be ‘just so’ before you start, you just need a minute or two.  What is enough is here and now. The Psalm verse, “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps 118: 24); taking some moments to offer thanks and gratitude consecrates our life and makes us real, because it makes us really available to the real presence of Christ, who is at work within us and around us – now.  Try it for a day.  Maybe more…

A DAY OF GRATITUDE

Waking up: Pray your gratitude.

“How shall I repay the LORD for all the good things He has done for me?” (Ps 116:10).
Start with gratitude. First thing in the morning is a great time to begin.  In just one or two of those moments you take for yourself every morning, let your imagination run a short list of things you are grateful for in your life.  Some of them may be obvious at first:  coffee (thank God for coffee), a hot shower, a new day, the people you will share this day with.  It certainly doesn’t have to be an exhaustive list, but do your best to be genuine in your gratitude and not snarky.  After a few days, you may start to notice the list changes, or perhaps some things on it stay the same every day.  Before you ask God for anything, say thank you for one thing or many things.

During the day: Listen for gratitude.

People you meet will say thank you to you today. Let them. (This can be a hard one!) It can be simply a polite encounter with a stranger, an intense meeting at work, or a casual conversation with a friend or family member.  They need to speak their gratitude; you need to hear it. Accept their thanks and let it nourish your spirit.  Respond to them, “You are welcome,” and mean it. And keep your ears open to hear God’s gratitude for you. There is no one else like you, and God – believe it or not – is immensely grateful for who you are and all the good that you do.  If you listen, you will find God’s gratitude even when people fail to be gracious.

In the evening: Express your gratitude to others.

People are easily taken for granted. Again this is true of strangers and intimate friends alike.  We take the shop clerk’s work for granted, we take the efforts of our family members for granted.  Take a moment each evening to find a way to express your gratitude to someone else.  You’ll change their day, perhaps change their life, by expressing your gratitude for who they are and what they do.  This activity tends to be contagious, and you may find that once per evening doesn’t feel like enough.  Listen to your heart as it tells you to be gracious and grateful to another.  Stop throughout the day and thank someone. Make an unexpected phone-call to say thank you for something that happened, even long ago. A handwritten note can be especially powerful.

At bedtime: Savor your life in gratitude.

Before you settle into your last routines of the day, or perhaps even as your head sinks into the pillow, take time to remember and reclaim what is good in your life. Gratitude means saying “Yes” to the life you’ve been given, to the hand you’ve been dealt. Accept the good gifts of life that actually are there, and let go of resentment for what is not there, or no longer there. Complete this day of your life by remembering and appreciating what has been good today.

 

 

All Hallows' Eve

~Fr. Michael

All over America, Halloween is a day for children to dress up, have fun, and get lots of treats from indulgent neighbors. Skeleton suits and zombie makeup are all in fun.  Some like to point out that the origins of this festival are not as fun, but have dark and sinister roots:  such as the Celtic Samhain festival and other pagan rites designed to blur the line between dead and the living, or to make sure the dead stay dead. Perhaps people who sentenced women to burn to death should be more horrifying to us than little girls running about in black dresses and pointy hats for a goof.

Blurring distinctions between the living and the dead raise horrifying issues. To begin with, it calls into question what life and death really are. Zombies and vampires are very popular today as creatures haunting us with this blurred distinction. The idea of being “undead” is a haunting but, somehow attractive thought for some.

Rites of and against the dead, encountered by anthropologists worldwide, express fear that the dead envy the living and, if they get a chance to break into the land of the living, they will destroy the life we cherish. That is, the dead are set up as rivals for life that has been made scarce. These anxieties speak of depth of rivalry experienced with other people, that we see them continuing even after death.

Christians have always had a different view:  The Crucifixion of Jesus is followed by his Resurrection.  The Risen Jesus appears not as a vengeful ghost but the forgiving victim; this opens up a whole different understanding of the dead. Christian martyrs who gave up their precious lives to witness to Christ were believed by the early church to be, not vengeful ghosts, but saints in Heaven actively seeking our good. Dante’s Divine Comedy is a particularly powerful vision of those living on earth and those living in Heaven supporting each other in prayer without resentment or rivalry.  The walls of ancient cathedrals are full of images in tile or glass or fresco of those who have gone before us worshipping at the same altar. 

For us, Halloween, or Hallowe’en, is the beginning of the great feast of the Church, All Saints’ Day which celebrates the victory of God in the final resurrection of his servants.  Our forebears in England kept the feast as All Hallows’, and the night before, the eve or even which began the feast was a time of reflecting on God’s final victory over the forces of evil, through those whom he has called to be his saints.  A good reflection for our modern times, whether we keep our porch light on or off on October 31st.

 

The Gift of the Kingdom

~Fr. Greene

There is only one simple qualification for being a disciple of Jesus: give up everything. That’s a pretty insurmountable obstacle. So hard is this qualification that earnest Christians have thought of many ways to soften Jesus’ words without washing all meaning and challenge out of them. It is often suggested that this qualification means we have to give up everything that comes between us and God. That is, if parents, children, spouses, friends, or fellow members of a community help us draw closer to God, we don’t have to give them up. The same would go for material possessions. Even monks and hermits have to use things in this world in order to live so we can’t give up having anything at all. The trick, it seems, is to use things in such a way that the work and recreation we do with them draws us closer to God rather than farther away. 

We could phrase this approach by saying that the problem is not possessions but possessiveness. God gives us parents, children, siblings, and friends as gifts. Likewise we should give each ourselves as gifts to other people. The things we use in the world are likewise gifts from God and should be treated accordingly. The problem comes when we prefer to take other people or take things rather than receive them. In such cases, the intensity of love we feel for others is actually possessiveness rather than love. Jesus gives his confusing direction to “hate” parents, children, siblings, and friends but it is to warn us not to be possessive of them. Taking people and things is the result of putting ourselves in competitive relationship with other people. When we compete with others, we have to win and a victory is something we earn, not a gift. This same competitiveness carries over to our attitudes toward possessions. We often want things that other people have or want to have things at the expense of others so that we can claim a victory over them. Competitiveness, however, is a bottomless pit. If we win one round, we always fear losing the next. If we have to have more than other people, or at least as much, we have to keep on accumulating more things no matter the damage our hoarding does to ourselves or others. In all this, the people we try defeat and our lust to win through possessions become stumbling blocks between ourselves and God. This is what we have to give up.

It sounds simple, but in the heat of daily battles, we find that the possessiveness born of competitiveness is very hard to renounce and it amounts to carrying our cross daily. If we can daily renounce our possessiveness, we will indeed receive everything from God and from one another as Gift.

 

Silence in the Church from a tract at Durham Cathedral

~Fr. Michael

As a child I was taught always to whisper or speak quietly in church, except when joining in acts of public worship, and only to speak at all other times when absolutely necessary. The church building was a holy place, where people came to pray and to wait upon God in silence, and to engage in chatter was to show both a lack of respect for God and a lack of consideration for other worshippers.

St. Basil, one of the great preachers of the early church, lamented people who “hurry to church, but when they arrive pay no heed to the word of God, but smiling and shaking hands with each other they turn the house of prayer into a place of endless gossiping. They miss the sacred opportunity to speak God's glory in his temple, and they are a distraction to their neighbors by turning their attention away from God to themselves.”

What is our purpose in coming to worship. We do come to enjoy fellowship with other members of the congregation, but that isn’t why we gather; rather, we come together to worship God. Basil puts his finger on the point when he draws attention to the two directions of worship. We come to listen to what God has to say to us, and to offer him thanks and praise for what he has done for us. True fellowship springs out of our common experience of worship. When, however, we focus our attention primarily on our meeting with one another, it tends to become more a meeting with like-minded individuals or friends than with fellow-worshippers, with all the dangers of exclusive groups within the wider congregation.  There is wisdom in the old adage: “Before the service talk to God; during the service let God talk to you; after the service talk with one another.”

 Most of us are so caught up with the multitudinous activities of daily life that we find we have to make some effort to “tune in” to God in church. A good way to begin is to respect the attempt of others to do so, and not put impediments in their way.

 

Service Schedule

DUE TO THE COVID-19 HEALTH CONCERNS ALL SERVICES AND ACTIVITIES HAVE BEEN SUSPENDED IN ORDER TO COMPLY WITH THE STATE OF WISCONSIN REQUIREMENTS AND THE HEALTH AND WELLBEING OF OUR COMMUNITY. 

Sunday
Rite II Eucharist – 9:00 am, Cathedral

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