Have Salt in Yourselves

Healing JesusFor many years, people came to my parish for a service of healing. It is in the Book of Common Prayer.[1] The service includes the reading of Scripture, prayers, the Laying on of Hands, and finally anointing with oil. The basis for this service of healing comes directly from our Lord’s command to heal the sick. And from the Apostle James’ instruction to the sick, “They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up, and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.”[2]

Not everyone who came complained of physical illness. Many came to seek healing for emotional problems, healing for loved ones, and healing for the world. The result of this service of prayer, the laying on of hands, and anointing was, I hope, a new spirit in those seeking the comfort of the service. But also every week a new spirit rose in me. No longer isolated, the ill, the distressed, and the lonely brought their conditions and concerns to the church. Frequently, they learned that others shared their pain. Most importantly, I believe, the words of the service helped the petitioners to release their worries to God. The tactile nature of the service (laying on of hands and anointing) connected the physically and spiritually sick with another person. The problem or the fear found transference to another human being. Whatever the matter was, someone else knew about it and empathized with that touch. The petitioner knew they were the subject of communal intercession. I knew these prayers gave them strength to meet the challenges life had laid upon them.

John Donne

John Donne — Anglican Priest and Poet. No man is an island.

Healing the physical, emotional, and spiritual problems of others is a calling. Not everyone is called to put hands and anoint another, but all are called to be healers in one form or another. None of us is an observer of the world scene; that’s called stoicism. We cannot be Stoics. We live in the world; we are part of it by breathing its air and using its resources by bringing new life into the world. We move on this planet and stir its breezes and expel carbon dioxide into them. As John Donne wrote, “No man is an island.”[3] We are not observers, separated from the earth and the life that lives on it. We are active participants in creation, in conservation, and in exploitation. If you haven’t noticed, the world is broken, and humanity is in trouble. As the song promoting Coca Cola once proclaimed “We are the world” seems more and more appropriate.

Therefore, the calling to be a healer goes beyond the Sacrament of Unction, the service of healing and all that can be done by a priest. The calling to heal is part of every Christians baptismal ministry.

Healing includes:

  • Awareness. The world around us is part of the suffering universe. People are sick in the heart. Cities are crumbling. The country is unnaturally divided when it should unite in a common desire for the benefit of all. A person begins to heal the world by being aware.
  • Prayer. Praying for the sick seems to be a natural thing to do. We often say, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” But, do we care. Do we visit the sick, support programs that provide the care for the sick, the emotionally ill, the distressed, and despairing? Too often we turn the sick into a political issue and tell them to care for themselves.
  • Action. Action can be as simple as saying to Loveless, “I love you.” But always remember, love is a verb, not a sentiment. We best say, “I love you” by what we do. Further, our actions should and must be in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. All that we do in everyday life must reflect the love of God as demonstrated to us by Jesus. In other words, the world must see Jesus Christ in us and through us.
  • Rejoicing. Sing in rejoicing when we learn that our sick neighbor has recovered or has entered into the gates of larger life leaving behind pain and sadness? Think about the Prayers of the People.[4] All sorts of conditions are offered up for healing, but when we come to the Thanksgiving parts of the prayers, there is silence.
Brother Lawrence

Brother Lawrence in the kitchen at the Paris Monastery where he saw God in all people and his work.

Finally, in our desire to be healing agents in the Name of Jesus, we must be open to the action of God’s Holy Spirit. In this openness, we must avoid being euphoric but level-headed. God’s work is not done in swooning and attempting to demonstrate magical power, but in the day-to-day plodding of faithful service. Brother Lawrence, a French monastic of the sixteenth century, captured this premise by his life of useful service. He said, “The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees before the Blessed Sacrament.”[5] He did not have a miraculous vision, but rather a “vision of clarity.” This revelation of clarity led him to see the love of God around him in the simple things of life. This vision of clarity, God’s Holy Spirit at work, opened his eyes, his hands, his entire being to be God’s person, a prophet. In his simple life, he fulfilled Moses’ wish, “Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!”[6]

What is a prophet? In religion, a prophet is an individual who is claimed to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine. A prophet is said to speak for supernatural or divine, serving as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural entity to other people.[7] Like healers, all are not called to be prophets; that is speak for God. However, all can live a life in the Spirit of God. Such a life is one in which we set aside fear. Remember Jesus always says to his followers, “Do not be afraid.” Those who live by the Spirit of God are at peace and wish peace be a part of other’s lives; remember Jesus always greets his followers with, “Peace be with you.” When we share heartfelt peace, we are speaking for God.

Thus, those who are well seasoned and the salt of the earth, demonstrate the following qualities:

  • Awareness. We do not live in isolation. There is the world, and the world has its needs always before us.
  • Prayerful living. Like Brother Lawrence, always at prayer.
  • Action. Act in the Name of Jesus. Love is the keyword, and it is a verb.
  • Rejoicefulness. We rejoice as we are Thankful for the peace of God that passes all understanding.
  • Presence. We are all called to heal by our loving presence.
  • Transparency. Christ is seen in us and through us.
  • Fearlessness. As the faithful, we have no reason to fear the slings and arrows that come our way.
  • Peacefulness. We seek God’s peace for the world, for others, and be at Peace within ourselves.

If we can demonstrate those qualities, we can hear the words of Jesus more clearly, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”[8]

[1] The rite begins on page 453.

[2] James 5:14,15.

[3] John Donne (/ˈdʌn/ dun) (22 January 1572 – 31 March 1631) was an English poet and a cleric in the Church of England. He is considered the pre-eminent representative of the metaphysical poets. Wikipedia.

[4] Forms for intercessional prayers known as “The Prayers of the People” are found on page 383 of the Book of Common Prayer.

[5] Brother Lawrence, The Prayer and Practice of God.

[6] Number 11:29b.

[7] Definitions of Prophet: The Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia and The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary provided by Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prophet

[8] Mark 9:50.

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