I have a work colleague who has established a practice at the end of each year of setting an intention for the coming year with a single word. He has been doing this for many years. An email from him goes out to his staff around Christmas time with the subject line WOTY – Word of the Year. This end of the year email has become highly anticipated by all who receive it. In the text of the email he reveals his chosen new word and describes his hopes for his team and their work for the coming year. Fortunately for me, over the years my colleague has sent me this email, too. I have been inspired by the thought he has put into this one word and how this one word will guide their work for the next 12 months or so. In case you are curious, his word for 2024 is FOCUS.
Until this year, I really never gave much thought to setting my own intention with a one word guide. Until this year…
Without going into detail, 2023 was a particularly challenging year for our family. Tragic loss, illness, heartache, worry… it was unrelenting. I found myself longing to see 2023 in the rearview mirror. Like Job in today’s first reading, the nights were filled with restlessness and even hope was elusive at times. I know this experience isn’t unique to me or to our family. Suffering and heartache knows no bounds. From time to time, we all know struggle and what it feels like to be brokenhearted and sometimes even full of despair. So… considering “everything” what would my intentional word be for 2024? I played around with a few words like peace; perseverance; strength. Then the word “healing” came to mind and I just knew it was right. So, for a little over a month, I have been consciously reflecting on what it might mean to be a healing presence for others and how I might open myself for greater healing in my own life.
Psalm 147 says it all. “God heals the brokenhearted.”
Today’s reading from the Gospel of Mark gives some insight into the nature of healing. Don’t you love the image of Jesus with Simon’s Mother-in-law? Picture it in your mind. Jesus enters their home, hears of her fever and then reaches out and takes her hand in his. She didn’t pull her hand away but allowed him to grasp it in such a way that he could help her up. In that simple action, the fever left her. While none of us wants a fever, a fever is our body’s way of fighting off infection – the sickness inside of us. In that intimate moment of human connection healing happens. Inner healing happens in a very simple, yet profound expression of compassion, human touch, and helping one up to regain their place in the world. In this case healing is an action-packed word. It insinuates relationship. Peter’s mother-in-law is restored; healed so that she can resume her life; free of whatever held her down.
Certainly, each one of us could use a dose of healing in our lives. You know where that is inside of yourself. Our whole world needs healing, too. Brokenness and division is everywhere. Can we take the very human interaction between Jesus and Simon’s mother-in-law as a model of how to be a healing presence wherever brokenness resides? Will I see the “fever”; allow myself to be moved with compassion in such a way that I reach out and help to lift up? When I am in need of healing, can I see the hand reaching toward me and take it to be helped up? Can I remember the love of God within reminding me that God heals the brokenhearted?
Let me close with these words from a beautiful book entitled The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World featuring a dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Both men experienced tremendous personal pain and hardship throughout their lives but share with the world a powerful sense of purpose and hope.
They say, “Discovering wholeness, healing, and joy do not save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily, too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet as we are healed and discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreak without being broken.”
Perhaps you will share with me an intention for healing in 2024.
Mary Anne Sladich-Lantz
Mary Anne Sladich-Lantz
Mary Anne has been a leader of Mission and Formation for Providence St. Joseph Health for over 25 years. She has designed and implemented comprehensive formation programs serving the ministry’s executive leaders and caregivers. Mary Anne has also worked with the Ministry Leadership Center in Sacramento, CA which provided ministry leadership formation for five Catholic health systems, including Providence St. Joseph Health.
Mary Anne was born and raised in Anaconda, MT and graduated from the University of Providence with a BA in Sociology/Psychology. After working for several years with developmentally disabled adults, Mary Anne pursued a Master’s degree in Theology and Personal Spirituality from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA. She worked for many years as a Pastoral Associate in the Diocese of Great Falls/Billings, MT in the areas of leadership development, adult and teen faith formation, liturgy, spiritual direction/counseling and administration. In addition, Mary Anne served as a member of the religious studies faculty at the University of Providence. In her various roles within Providence St. Joseph Health, Mary Anne has worked with leaders, physicians and all caregivers on personal, spiritual and professional development in connecting the dots between personal mission and the organization’s Mission.
Mary Anne and her husband Reggie enjoy the great outdoors and the big sky of Montana. Cross country skiing, hiking, golfing and gardening with great intensity are favorite activities.
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