A very private devotion


Most of us feel a personal connection to a particular saint, a favourite feast day, hymn or psalm.

We can’t say why because it’s an inner connection, more about feeling than words.

We have prayer routines that suit that inner space.

What those routines are, will be like a preference for certain foods.

We know our own spiritual appetite and what nourishes us.

In catering for our spiritual needs, the church offers us a wide range of nourishment.

We start with Eucharist and then allow the presence of Christ Jesus to guide us. Because spiritual growth is all about movement, this guidance will keep taking us to new states of awareness.

My personal devotion

I’d like to share with you, a personal devotion that is connected to the celebration of Pentecost.

It won’t be meaningful for everyone, but some may find it helpful.

We know the Gospel reading and Jesus’s words to his disciples, “Those whose sins you forgive are forgiven and those whose sins you retain, are retained.”

Years ago, I read that the word translated as “retain” is a reflexive verb with a meaning of “holding to oneself.”

And this is what Jesus did, taking to himself, the sins of others. He could have been commissioning his disciples to do the same.

How church teaching interprets Jesus’ words, is also correct.

But the other meaning for “retain” provides a prayer opportunity for us all.

It invites us to closely identify with one who has failed, taking on his or her failure as our own, and handing it over to Jesus the healer who never turned anyone away.

‘Salvation’ is another word that can have two meanings.

  • Some think of it as being rescued.
  • Others understand it as being healed. ( Latin: salve )

Jesus was the instrument of God’s healing. He compared himself with the bronze serpent Moses lifted up in the desert for the healing of the people.

Jesus said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the son of man be lifted up.”

We believe his healing power is with us today and is readily available.

Sin is what wounds us and others. I don’t need to look far to see my own woundedness and the pain of the world.  Every day it’s in the news: people judging and people being judged. It is also in the human aspect of the church.

Let’s consider what it means to have a personal devotion to healing in the church.  We are all part of the church, one in its diversity, one in its beauty and its pain.  We can’t ignore the wounds because they belong to us.

They vary from the small scratches and irritations of pride, to the deep cuts and bruising caused by division.

It’s in our self-protective nature to separate ourselves from anything unpleasant, but that’s not the way of Jesus’ the healer.

Where do we start?

We begin with something Catholics know well –  the power of prayer.

We turn to prayer and claim the wounds of the church as our own. We take the pain upon ourselves and hand it all over to Jesus, expecting a miracle.

Miracle it is, and it happens within us. Jesus’ healing extends to the judgements we’ve made about those wounds. We feel release, a cleansing, and a love for the church as an undivided whole.

Like all of God’s graces, words are too small to describe it.

  • Joy Cowley is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and retreat facilitator.

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