by Allan Panozza
During a spell in hospital, at a time when I was suffering from severe weakness after undergoing open heart surgery, I had a discussion with a nurse who was on duty in my ward. She happened to notice that my Bible lay open on the table beside my bed, and she asked me about my belief in God. She told me that she possessed “healing powers,” and she offered to massage my feet so that energy from her would be transferred to my body.
It became increasingly obvious to me as our discussion continued that this lady was immersed in New Age philosophy. After identifying herself as being a former Catholic, she then went on to share with me her belief in reincarnation. This lady meant well, and was no doubt motivated by kindness as she sought to help me in my need. However the source of her power came from within herself, and being like all human capability is only finite and can have no lasting effect. Incidentally, she did not get to massage my feet!
Abiding in Jesus
Jesus was very specific about how important it was for the Apostles to remain in close relationship with Him if their ministry was to bear fruit. At the Last Supper he likened Himself to a vine and them to the branches of that vine. “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
I had a simple example at my own home of what Jesus meant. One day I noticed that a climbing vine that grew in a garden plot beside the house had begun to entwine itself around a downpipe.
It had climbed to a height of about five metres and had almost reached the roof of the house, so I took some pruning shears and cut through the main trunk of the vine. A few days later I noticed that the lush green foliage was beginning to dry out, and within two weeks the vine above the cut had withered right away, and even though it still remained attached to the downpipe, it was now lifeless.
This little example in my own garden prompted me to reflect on how vital it is for me to remain attached to Jesus. How can I make sure that I will always remain this way? The answer is simple!
I must spend time with Him. Supposing a husband sees his wife only occasionally, spends no time alone with her, rarely speaks to her, but professes that he loves her. Would we not say that he is deluding himself? Should not marriage between two people be an intimate relationship which will grow and blossom in proportion to the time and attention they give to each other? Our relationship with Jesus should be based on the same principle. He is the source of power in our lives, and we cannot expect to draw on that power in ministering to others if we do not stay in deepening dependence on Him. As we grow in that relationship we will become increasingly aware of His constant presence in every moment of our lives, and we will be empowered to draw freely upon His divine resources rather than having to depend on our own limited capabilities.
Hearing God’s Voice
During my years in the Renewal I have been called upon many times to give talks or to minister in Prayer Groups or at Conferences. On occasions I have found that although I have spent much time in preparing material for the talk, I have also been acutely aware that there was an absence of power in my actual presentation. On the other hand I have discovered that the more time I spend in prayer before the event, then the more evidence of God’s power is present. In fact I have even found myself standing before a group of people, but suddenly am prompted from within to speak in an entirely different way to that which I had intended. It has been especially at these times that I have been aware of an anointing of the Lord upon what I am doing.
I now make sure that my most important preparation for any form of ministry is to spend time with Jesus beforehand. In exercising His own ministry Jesus gives us clear evidence through the Gospels that He spent much time in close relationship with His heavenly Father. I am sure that if He had selected the twelve apostles from a merely human process of discernment the choice might well have been different. Instead we are told that He went into the hills alone and spent the night in prayer before He chose the twelve (Luke 6:12–16).
I know in my own life that despite all my best intentions it is still difficult to find daily time for prayer. My own preference is to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, which I am able to do because I live close to a small Mass Chapel within my parish. I have found from personal experience that the best time to set aside for being with the Lord is early in the morning, so this means rising a little earlier than usual to spend that time in prayer. Of course, the most powerful form of prayer is to attend Mass frequently or daily if possible, and to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist. Frequent reception of the Sacraments is a certain guarantee of coming into a deeper relationship with Jesus.
Using the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Through the Release of the Holy Spirit we are empowered to use the Gifts which we have received through our sacramental Baptism and the other Sacraments of the Church. These Gifts of the Holy Spirit were very evident in the life of the early Church, and should be considered as being normal within the Catholic Church today. If we are to minister as Jesus did we need to have courage, and to step out boldly in faith, using the Gifts of the Spirit just as He did. Whenever Jesus encountered sickness or physical ailments of any kind He saw them as being an extension of the kingdom of Satan, and He never hesitated to set that person free both spiritually and physically. Because of the weakness of our own human nature we do not have the wisdom to discern as Jesus did. It is precisely for this reason that I come back again and again to the necessity of spending time with Jesus if we are to have the power to minister in His name.
Jesus at Work
During the short time in which I have been writing this article I have encountered four testimonies of miraculous healings which have occurred through the power of prayer. A lady with glaucoma was instantly healed during a rally at which she was given a Word of Knowledge that her eyes would be healed. At the same event, a baby girl with terminal illness who lay close to death in hospital was healed and is now perfectly healthy.
A lady in my own parish who was pierced through her eye by a garden stake faced blindness but has been healed through prayer, much to the amazement of the specialist doctors. A neighbour with terminal cancer and pronounced beyond medical help has now returned home substantially healed. Each of these healings is directly attributable to the ministry of prayer by a faith community, and this faith is in accordance with the mind and the heart of Jesus when He instituted the Church.
My Own Ministry
Unless the Lord shows me otherwise, I have come to a point in my own ministry where I will always pray for total healing of the person irrespective of the gravity of that person’s condition.
If I am to hear the Lord speak to me in such situations, it will only be if I am in close relationship with Him. If I am to minister like Jesus, I will allow myself to become more like Him.
The opening prayer from the Mass of this week seems to sum this up more eloquently than any words of mine:
Father in heaven,
Form in us the likeness of your Son
And deepen his life within us.
Send us as witnesses of gospel joy
Into a world of fragile peace and broken promises.