The Wound Healer

Open Wounds

I understand wounds, especially post-surgical wounds.  As a registered nurse, I’ve worked in the field of dermatology for over 13 years.  While surgery is often a good thing and can resolve any number of health problems, I’ve seen many patients suffer from wound dehiscence, where the surgical incision breaks open.  The primary cause of wound dehiscence is due to either extreme stress on the sutures or ineffective suture placement.  The open wound thus exposes the underlying tissue below the surface of the skin.  When exposed, it becomes vulnerable to further bleeding, injury or infection. Therefore, cleansing and dressing the wound is of utmost importance in wound care.

Spiritual Wounds.

When I placed my faith in Jesus Christ it was like having a surgical procedure of my heart.  Having Him guide me and grow me deeper through the years has resolved many of my “spiritual health problems” i.e. poor self-image, insecurities, jealousies, selfishness, etc.

There has been one area in my life that I thought had been “treated” over thirty years ago.  I have recently acknowledged that it’s a wound that often opens and becomes inflamed and feels infected.  This seems to occur during times of stress and/or ineffective surrender to Jesus.  It feels like the wound is, once again, opening up from the underlying issue below the surface.

Each time this happens I do my best to “close the wound” by trying to give it to God and let it go.  Did you know that closure of an infected surgical wound can lead to more complications and failure to heal properly, deepening the injury?  Could that possibly be the same with a spiritual wound?

I realize that perhaps each time I’ve tried to close the wound, there seems to be a bit of bacteria brewing below the surface, even after washing and bandaging it so well.  The bacteria, however microscopic it may be, causes a recurring infection.  No wonder the wound keeps opening!

This spiritual wound issue of mine has affected me on and off for many years now.  A few years ago, I noticed the wound began to dehisce more frequently.  I would then spend a few hours each time trying to close it by crying, praying and “letting it go”, determined to keep it clean and disinfected.  But to no avail.  I couldn’t be free of the infection.  I just figured I’d let it be, clean it out with prayer and some fasting, and trust that God would deal with it each time it came up.  That’s all I could do… but it never went away.

Holy Wound Healing

I recently attended a “silent retreat” in Connecticut.  It had been highly recommended and I had to register 3 ½ months ahead of time to be assured of a room!  I’ve attended a silent retreat before, so I knew what to expect and I couldn’t wait!  I love experiencing God’s presence in the silence!  As I entered, I noticed that the retreat center was filled with the sweet Presence of God.  The sisters had prayed for each of us from the moment we registered until we left.  With each Sister’s presentation (the only time we heard a voice!) and in each Mass, the Holy Spirit clearly ministered to us as we waited on His deep work within us.  Every moment counted… and the silence was GOLDEN!

Following the last Mass of the weekend we had a Eucharistic Healing service.  This was a first for me and it hopefully won’t ever be the last!  The priest donned the humeral veil* which is a vestment shawl used to cover the priest from his shoulders to his hands.  It is used when the monstrance is held, which is the receptacle for the Holy Eucharist.  He covers his hands to show that he, the priest, is not the one blessing us by raising the Monstrance of Our Lord in the Eucharist.  It is Jesus Himself who blesses us as we kneel before His Presence, not the priest.

He then had us come to the altar, kneel before our Lord to receive His healing touch if we so desired.  We all did of course!  Earlier in the Mass, as the priest was describing potential wounds, I knew I wanted healing.   As he spoke I was already seeking Christ’s touch.  So as I approached Christ in the Monstrance, I was certain I would be healed!

I touched the veil, which I saw as the “hem of Christ’s garment” (Matthew 9:20).  I truly believe that Jesus Christ is in the Eucharistic Host so I knew He could touch my life.  As I knelt before Him in adoration, I was actually kneeling before the Heart of Jesus.  What joy and peace I received from Him in those few moments!

I looked up into the Host knowing that Jesus was there.  It was a most precious moment in my life and all I could do was say “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You Jesus!”.  There were no tears, no emotion, just an inner assurance that He had closed the wound.  I just knew it!   I returned to my seat in praise and worship of My Lord and My God!

I’ve had a few chances to “test” myself and that wound since the retreat and, not to my surprise, it’s no longer with me.  I am fascinated with and so blessed by Our Lord’s Holiness.  It’s Jesus who does the blessing and healing!

I touched the hem of His garment and He touched my life with His Healing Love!


*The priest himself does not bless the people.  Rather the priest holds the Blessed Sacrament Who is the Lord Jesus Christ, and Christ Himself directly blesses the people.  Again, it is  not the priest who blesses in the person of Christ, but Christ Himself that blesses us.  In order to signify that he is not blessing the people, the priest covers his hands with a humeral veil which drapes over his shoulders and covers his hands.  The humeral veil has its origins in the Jewish prayer veil used by Jewish men and undoubtedly worn by Christ our High Priest and His Holy Apostles. – Taylor Marshal http://taylormarshall.com/2012/03/why-does-priest-veil-his-hands-during.html

 

Behind the Scenes

May.

This is the month dedicated to our mothers!!  My mom and my mother-in-law have both passed and I can only celebrate the wonderful memories I have of them both.

An interesting connection struck me the other day as I was praying the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. What are the Luminous Mysteries?  They are detailed biblical accounts of Christ’s life.  As we ponder His life in these mysteries, it can only bring us closer to Him, especially as we meditate upon them while we pray to Jesus.  One of these jumped out at me the other day.  It was the one that beautifully portrays the relationship between Jesus Christ and His own mother.  What most impressed me was when Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding feast. But it wasn’t the miracle that Jesus did that caught my attention that day.   I was intrigued as I imagined the intimate dynamic surrounding the relationship between Jesus and His mom during that time in history!

This Mystery, taken directly from John 2:1-12 is summarized as follows:

  • Jesus, His Mother and his disciples were invited to a wedding in Cana.
  • During the wedding feast the wine ran short.
  • Mary turned to Jesus and said: “They have no wine.”
  • Jesus replied: “What would you have me do? My hour has not yet come.”
  • Mary said to the waiters: “Do whatever He tells you.”
  • There were six stone water jars, each holding fifteen to twenty gallons.
  • Jesus bids the waiters to fill the jars with water, and then to draw some out and take it to the head waiter.
  • The water was miraculously turned into wine. And the waiter acknowledged its better quality.
  • Because of Mary’s request, by working behind the scene, Jesus performed His first miracle!  How awesome is that?

What struck me as so important was the role that Mary played in Christ’s first miracle.

I wonder what would have happened had she not asked for His help…

She knew there was a need for more wine, and she mentioned it to Jesus.  She knew that He could help so she proceeded to tell the workers: “Do whatever He tells you”.

Then a miracle took place.

The head waiter, who could have been embarrassed or ridiculed because of the lack of wine, was actually given credit for something that Jesus did for him because His mother was working behind the scene.

After I became Catholic, I realized I had to confront my own issues with the Virgin Mary.  I had, as an Evangelical Christian, clearly judged people who were devoted to her.  I thought they worshiped her and that, to me, was heresy!  However, I was soon to discover that no one in the Catholic church worships Mary!  The only One being worshiped is Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God!  What a relief that was for me because I just couldn’t understand why anyone would worship anyone by Christ Himself!  So many (myself included!) have mistakenly believed that Catholics worship Mary.  She is never worshiped, but she is venerated as Christ’s dearly loved mother.

Why, then, do so many people I know who love Jesus with all their heart have a close relationship with Mary?  What does that mean?  I couldn’t understand it.  These friends aren’t crazy nor are they brainwashed, so I was compelled to find out more; what was, and is, her current relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ?  After all, they’re together in heaven!  She carried Him in her womb and gave birth to Him!  She’s his mom!  And apparently, when she spoke, He listened! He heeded her word that day at the wedding feast at Cana, and that kept the poor head waiter’s job intact!  They must’ve had a genuinely close relationship as mother and son while He lived on this earth!  !

“Do whatever He tells you.”  There was authority in her voice and it appears that she had some pull because Christ listened to her and heeded her word.  She’s been known by Catholics to go to Christ to urge Him to work things out for His creation.  This is true intercession.  That’s what she does:  she intercedes to her Son Jesus Christ on our behalf and then tells us: “Do what He tells you….!”

I find this intriguing.  I have been overwhelmed by the many stories I’ve heard from my friends’ own experiences with the Virgin Mary.  Every experience they’ve shared with me has always connected to Jesus Christ and His purpose for them.  Mary serves her son Jesus,  always behind Him, never in place of Him.

Believe it or not, I have come to understand and depend on the role the Virgin Mary plays in our world today, and more personally, in my own life!  I have had several encounters with her from my own life.  I am saving them to be shared in a future blog!

Does Mary actively consult Jesus in today’s world?  Does she work behind the scenes on our behalf like she did back at that wedding?  She led the workers to Jesus, and that’s what she does for us.  She leads us to her son!

That is her role today.  I ask her to intercede for me to Jesus about anything at all, and before ya know it… it’s done!  She goes to Him on my behalf and I can truly say that it gets done through Christ my Lord!  Another mystery of the Catholic Church, but a most beautiful one at that!

I believe Mary has been misunderstood by so many, including myself!  She works behind the scenes by aiding her Son for the redemption of the world.

Why wouldn’t I want to look to my Lord through His mother’s eyes in order to know that I should “do whatever He tells me” to do?  What an incredible act of trust and confidence I have in Jesus Christ through her!  It’s because I seek Him continually, especially in the Holy Eucharist.  I am also guided by His mom and seek her help as well!  And she then turns to me and says, “Do whatever He tells you.”

The result?  Peace and freedom in Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God!

Fear is Pride in Disguise

I’ve always struggled with insecurity, fear and a poor self-image.

About fifteen years ago one of my daughters, in her late teens, explained to me her problem with pride.  I had no idea she struggled with it.  She told me that pride was manifested in her life through fear and shyness, with additional insecurity about having to share in a group setting.  She went on to say that both her insecurity and fear were forms of pride.  Whenever she felt fear in that setting, it always had to do with the concern of what other people thought of her.  As she shared this with me I recognized myself described in those words.  That has been an issue in my life forever, but one I never defined as such.  I was so grateful for that revelation from my own flesh and blood, and more than half my age to boot!

This past year has been a positive life-changing one for me in areas I had no idea I needed!  One such area is how Christ has humbled me to my knees as I’ve come to recognize more deeply how very much He truly loves me! This is hard to explain, because I’ve always thought I’d known His deep love.  As an adolescent, I called Jesus as “my best friend”, then found myself “falling in love with Him” as the years moved on.

It’s a different now.

Yes, for my entire life I’ve struggled with a poor self-image and multiple fears and insecurities.  My mom often gave me “minty white stuff (Maalox) for my tummy” when I became overly anxious.  It didn’t help that I’ve struggled with ADHD all my life as well.  When I was a missionary I had to speak to both small and large groups.  I’d pray like crazy before doing so, as I would become overwhelmed with fear and nervousness, in English as well as in Spanish!

What most recently impacted me in a negative way was having to read God’s Word in front of some of the large congregations we were a part of before becoming Catholic.  Since Gary was the pastor of Justice and Care, he would be asked to visit different parishes of that denomination from time to time.  I went with him and at times was asked to read the scripture passage.  I could never pinpoint it, but my nerves would get the best of me.  I had so much fear!  It gripped me ways I couldn’t control.  I’d even ask Gary to pray against Satan’s attacks on me!  Thankfully, by time I had to do it, I was in victory once again.  Whew!  What a life!

The Mystery

So, the unexplained mystery as to why all that changed when I became Catholic is beyond me! I am shocked at the peaceful, calm and composed manner in which I read God’s Word now.  I simply can’t explain the difference!  I believe it’s because I daily receive Jesus Christ – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – in the Holy Eucharist. That’s what makes me different now. I have a new confidence because of His sweet Presence.  I surprised myself when I practically begged to become a Lector before the classes were to begin.  I couldn’t wait to read God’s Word to His people!  A Lector is a person who reads both the Old and New Testament passages and Psalms during the Mass celebration.

“May the words of my mouth

and the meditations

of my heart

be pleasing to You,

my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Psalm 19:14

 As a pastor’s wife and missionary, I always felt like I had to do everything just right.  I made it all about me!  So, when my daughter mentioned her fears that seemed to create an inner pride issue, it made perfect sense!  My fear made everything all about me.  Isn’t that what pride actually is?  It revolves around one’s own perspective and inner sense of worth.

The woman who trained me to be a lector told me that my job was to “prepare the way for the reading of the Gospel as if I were John the Baptist announcing Christ’s coming!”   That was most powerful!  It took the pressure off me worrying what others thought of how well I read!  Now I’m just the forerunner for the priest who reads the Gospel.   For me this is a high honor and privilege and a service to my Lord.  Before it was me trying to make sure I was making a good impression.  Now that doesn’t matter.

That’s the difference.

Why?  It’s a result of my love-relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I can’t explain it any clearer than that.  I’m in love with Jesus and His love for me in a way I’ve never known before.  It’s the most beautiful and profound mystery of my life these days.

Every day at church I pray the Psalm 19:14 prayer.  I know beyond a shadow of doubt that as I ask God that the words of my mouth be pleasing to Him, I know He hears and answers me and does a beautiful work deep within me, removing any potential fear of man.  As I approach the podium to read His Word I have no fear.  No anxiety.  No jitters.  It’s surprising and at the same time, a relief!  I want only to please my Rock and my Redeemer, and I know that as I ask for His guidance as I read His Word, He will do exactly that!

My confidence is in my King!  He has changed me from the inside out and I’m so very grateful, as much as I cannot fathom the mystery of His Love and His Presence in my life!

The Lord is my Rock,

my Fortress and my Deliverer;
    my God is my Rock,

in whom I take refuge,
    my Shield and the Horn of my salvation,

my Stronghold.

(Psalm 18:2)

 

The Divine Nutcracker

When I was a child, my family and I would sit around our dinner table, especially during the holidays, and crack almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts, and then of course, enjoy eating the nut inside!  We used those old nutcrackers that can be found in any antique store today.

Jesus works at “shelling” us in unique ways.   He uses a specific nutcracker unique to each of us to draw us out of the shells of prejudice and judgment of others!  And the nutcracker He uses is not an antique, even though His ways have been around since the beginning of time!  Jesus is quite up to date in proving Himself to us!

“It’s all about Jesus.”  That was the theme of a discussion I had with someone last weekend at a Spirit-filled mini retreat we had at my church.  A new friend and I were sharing how we so desire to see harmony and peace take place among all believers, no matter their background or experience.

The potential joy and peace that we could experience in Jesus Christ on every side of this issue is like that of the cracking open of a nut, shell and all.

As followers of Christ we have great potential for caring for one another more deeply.  It saddens me to see how we hinder, without fully knowing it, this unity of believers.

We are, in a sense, a variety of nuts (pun intended!).  People want to be with us.  They see Spirit of God within that attracts them to Him, and they want to be a part of our lives.

Do we resemble nuts in other ways as well?  Are we tough on the outside regarding other areas like patience and compassion towards others?   Whether we admit it or not, we probably all have developed tough shells in that regard.  This certainly has been a part of my life!

God is revealing to me more “nuts” in my life that need cracking open, and I am beginning to allow Him to use His Nutcracker on me in the way He so chooses.

I’ve become more aware of the “shelling” process that God wants to do in my life.  I feel like He has cracked open and exposed layers of prejudice and misconceptions I’ve not even known I had.  He uses an extracting tool that is gentle and allows me to see more clearly what He wants to remove in my life.  They are areas He wants to change in me, and as I daily partake of His Divine Presence, I sense an openness to Him I’ve never known before.

God is the only One who can shed me of my hardened shell and bring me sweet freedom in Him!  He is so gentle as He cracks open the shell.  He removes fear, confusion, misconceptions and struggles using the extracting tool of His Word and His Presence.  It’s never an enjoyable experience, but when the entire nut is finally extracted, the shell is tossed aside and that  brings freedom!

There is joy in this experience of God working on my shell, cracking it open and gently removing the meat within.  I’ve recently been able hear and handle God’s voice of conviction more clearly as He daily nourishes me in the Holy Eucharist!  He keeps me focused on Him and His prodding throughout the day more than ever before in my life.  It’s new.  It’s different and it’s so refreshing!

Because He has pried open my shell and I’m beginning to see areas I need to change, I am also saddened as I look around my world.  There are those who search for peace in ways that rarely bring them the lasting peace that comes from Jesus Christ Himself.  These folks also resemble nuts: they have thick, hard-to-crack shells with an inside that is complex and difficult to extract.

I see the pain and angst in the eyes of the drug addicts and dealers I walk by every day, the disabled homeless man with whom I try to talk when I see him, my neighbor who was kicked out of her apartment, and men and women stressed out from their jobs who fight for a seat on the subway!  This is minor compared to the immensity of the needs in our world today.  But my heart bleeds for them.

How can I share the surpassing love that Jesus has for them in their difficulties?  How can He be the healing and loving Nutcracker in their lives?  How can He break open that hardened exterior that might be saying “there is no God because if there were, why am I stuck in the middle of this shell of pain and turmoil?”  What shell in my life does God need to crack open for me to be a part of the lives He so desperately wants to save?

Sweet Jesus, show me the way.  May my once hardened shell be softened more and more toward those You love.  May their hard, sealed walnuts become more like almonds with softer shells that You can open and extract unhealthy meat within.  You alone can do that.  Show me how to assist You in this.

I, as earlier posted, had a nutshell that was hard on the outside regarding Catholicism even though I deeply loved Jesus on the inside.  When I finally allowed Jesus to “shell” me, I have come to understand and love the Catholic church, thanks be to God!  So, needless to say, the hardest nut needing to be cracked in my life to date was my prejudice toward Catholicism.

But now that most of the meat has been extracted from my anti-Catholic nut, God is working on extracting more nuts in my life … ones that I haven’t even been aware of.  I’m grateful that, as He works on these areas of my life, I choose not to run from the Nutcracker, but instead, to willingly hand Him the extractor and allow Him to clean me out!