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Letter from Archbishop Listecki - "Practicing the Basics"

August 8, 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am always intrigued by the healing of Naaman, the army commander of the king of Aram (2 Kings 5). Naaman contracted leprosy and obviously it was a death sentence. A captured little girl who was a household servant refers the house of Naaman to the prophet in Samaria. The King of Israel received a request from the King of Aram, to heal his commander of this dreaded disease. Thinking he has no power over life and death, and also fearing that this was a ploy to enter into a conflict, the King of Israel tore his garment.

However, Elisha the prophet, hearing of the King of Israel’s distress, came forward and stated, “Send him to me so that he may learn there is a prophet in Israel.”

When Naaman arrived with his coffers of gold, Elisha told him to wash in the river of Jordan seven times, and he would be healed. Indignant Naaman went away angry, thinking what this one river has that is so special as opposed to many rivers in his own country. Why wouldn’t Elisha just call upon his God, wave his hand over him and heal him?

The text of the passage said that Naaman‘s servants reasoned with him. Wouldn’t he have done something extraordinary if the Prophet Elisha asked him? So why wouldn’t he do something simple and mundane as to wash, if this is what the prophet asked? He did so, and was made clean.

Naaman returned to Elisha to state, “There is no God in all the earth except in Israel.” Elisha refused the treasure that Naaman wanted to bestow upon him. Instead, he sends him in peace.

There have been many times that I have been asked as a priest, “What should I do to develop a relationship with the Lord?” My question in return is, “Tell me what you’re doing now.” “Well, I go to Church sometimes,” they respond, “and I pray when I can.”

Well, it is simple. First, go to Church every Sunday. It’s a priority; no ifs, ands, or buts. You must go to Church every Sunday without fail. When you are in Sunday Mass, don’t pray for yourself; pray for the needs of others. If they are married, I tell them to pray for their spouse, their children, co-workers and friends.

Second, go to confession. Don’t “try” to go — go! Do it. Make a good examination of conscience.  Any priest worthy of his priesthood would be glad to assist. If not, it tells you something about the priest; he will not be your spiritual guide. Then, continue to make confession a regularly-scheduled occurrence. I would suggest every other month to start. You will find the more you receive the grace of reconciliation, the greater your awareness of the need in your life for healing.

Sin is a lot more prevalent than we care to imagine. If you think, “I don’t have that many sins,” think about the fact that St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta went to confession every week. How many of us would claim that we are in less need of confession than Mother Teresa?

Third, pray five minutes every day at a set time in the morning and evening. Take last Sunday’s Gospel or the coming Sunday’s Gospel, select a few themes and meditate on them. (If you want something helpful and enjoyable, listen to Two Guys and a Gospel.) If you are more adventurous, try saying the rosary, or at least a decade of the rosary, every day.

When I offer people these suggestions, I am often surprised that people will respond. It sounds too simple; maybe I should go to an ashram, a sweat lodge or a mountain hermitage.

Of course, my response is simply that maybe you should try living your faith and practicing the basics. We all love the exotic. Like Naaman, we want the spectacular, or are told that we must experience the extraordinary.

But God places at our disposal the simple elements for our spiritual life. Are you serious about healing? Are you serious about developing a relationship with God? He’s waiting for you to take your faith seriously. Remember, God is not in the earthquake, the wind or the fire, but instead, in the gentle whisper that directs us to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.     

We Are One,

Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee

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