One of the most transforming spiritual practices simply involves noticing the blessings of our lives. The voices of our culture insist that we focus on what we lack or what could go wrong. No matter how gloomy the outlook may be, it’s always possible to ground ourselves by focusing on a blessing. When that becomes a habit, we’ll find ourselves more connected with God and open to the work of the Spirit.
In the church we celebrate blessings regularly: gathering with God’s people, joyfully singing together, sharing the Body and Blood of Jesus, welcoming newcomers and thanking people who have touched our lives. As a priest I’m called to pronounce God’s blessing, and it’s always an honor. Praying with people before surgeries and anointing them for healing, making the sign of the cross on people’s foreheads at the communion rail, blessing a couple after their marriage, saying the 500-year-old words “The Peace of God which passes all understanding…” all mean a huge amount to me.
But there is one blessing I offer which is even more special. Each time a baptism is celebrated, a priest anoints the Candidate’s forehead with special oil blessed by the Bishop and says, “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.” What an awesome privilege to make God’s unconditional love and acceptance visible in that way!
In one sense that blessing connects with the ministry of a Bishop. When baptized people claim their faith in a new way, they can receive a special blessing from their Bishop by being Confirmed (as adults or youth) or Received as Episcopalians (after being Confirmed in another denomination). Those terms may be unfamiliar but this is the idea: after a period of preparation the Candidate renews the promises made at Baptism and is blessed by the Bishop.
On Sunday, November 1, when we’ll be celebrating the Feast of All Saints, Bishop Rob O’Neill will be visiting St. Timothy’s. If there are people among us who are interested in taking a step forward in their faith, our Bishop will be pleased to offer special blessings on that day.
Is it possible that could be for you? If you’re at a new stage in your spiritual journey… if you’ve come to St. Timothy’s after being a Roman Catholic… if you’re curious about being part of a small group of people who talk about faith… if you have more questions than answers… you might want to reflect and pray about this.
Dennis Haugh and I will be meeting with a small group of people after church twice a month, beginning in May and continuing until the Bishop’s visit. We’re curious who will join us, what their concerns will be, how the conversations will develop. There’s one thing we know for sure: every person who takes part will be a special blessing for the group.