Saturday, October 18, 2014

White Mass

St. Luke
My homily from the White Mass our parish held last night:
We come here tonight to recognize the unique aspect of healing that was so important to Jesus' ministry. When we read the Gospels, as we have them proclaimed to us day after day and week after week, one of the most prominent things we see Jesus doing is healing people. When Jesus walked this earth, it became abundantly clear that he wasn't concerned only with their spiritual well-being, but he cared for their physical health as well. So many stories in our gospels show us Jesus healing someone who was sick, or bringing to life someone who had died, all just because they said, "Jesus, help me." Now, I think Jesus cared primarily for their spiritual health and eternal life, he died to give us eternal life, but he still cared deeply about the present situation of the people who surrounded him, and he still cares deeply for the us, and the sickness and disease that plagues our life down to the present day. He cared for people's health.
And you who work in health care, no matter what aspect, you who are gathered here have been called to participate in this special healing ministry of Jesus through the work you do in our world. Thank you for this work. Thank you for responding to the Lord's call to heal and to care for the sick and suffering of our world. This tradition of the White Mass (since white is the traditional, or at least stereotypical, color of doctors' and nurses' uniforms) started in about the 1930s with the Catholic Medical Association. It's held now because tomorrow is the feast of St. Luke, and St. Luke is the patron saint of doctors and physicians because tradition tells us that he himself was a doctor. The Catholic Medical Association and the White Mass is the culmination of a whole lot of ideas and realizations about health care, and I think the bottom line is this: inasmuch as the goal of health care is to give and restore life, the source of all health care, and the inspiration for all who work in it, must be God the Author of Life. Again, if the goal of health care is to give life, then the inspiration for all of it must be the Author of Life.
Tradition says Luke was a painter too
So what do we learn about our individual roles in health care if we turn to the Author of Life for instruction? Well if we turn to our gospel for this mass, we learn that Jesus is the one who sends. Just like Jesus sent the apostles to preach his word, he has sent you to to continue his healing in the world. And for the apostles, the instruction to carry no money, no sack, and no sandals was an invitation to trust the Father to provide. Similarly for you, as the Lord sends you out to heal, he invites you to trust him, because you are working in a very difficult field and so it is very important that you rely on God to help you with this work. Because he wants to help you, he wants to support you in this holy work that you do.
So for the Lord to support you, make sure you are on the Lord's side, make sure you are on the side of life. This past week, a story surfaced of a young newlywed woman who has a very painful terminal cancer, and so she announced her intention in a YouTube video of ending her life with prescription medicine in a matter of weeks. Most have praised her for this decision, calling it courageous, and only a few have recognized how far this has strayed from the Author of Life, and how far this misconstrued idea of a dignified death has strayed from the Jesus who suffered to the point of death for the ones he loved. Debates continue to rage in our country about abortion and contraception, they're commonly referred to as "rights," and few can recognize how far these ideas have strayed from the Author of Life. Once healthcare is working against life and the Author of Life, against Jesus who embraced suffering, then it can no longer be called care. I'm not sure what you call it, but once medicine seeks to work against life, it can't be called health care. These are big issues, and sometimes we may want to think they are far from us here in Sheridan, Wyoming, but I suspect they're closer than we'd like to admit. We who want to be Catholic have to be unconditionally and unapologetically pro-life. This world we live in today needs us to be pro-life.
So in your professions, in your beautiful and lofty callings, make sure you stay on the side of God, the Author of Life. And we in the Church are here to help you. Whether your profession calls you to deal with the really difficult issues I just mentioned, or whether your profession just leaves you feeling exhausted and worn out, we're here to help. Let us talk with you, let us pray with you. Your role is often times the role of Luke in our first reading from St. Paul. Paul in this letter is recounting the various people who have worked with him and have now left him. Demas left, Crescens, Titus, and Tychicus have all left him. Alexander the coppersmith did him a great harm. Don't know what that's all about. But Paul says "Luke is the only one with me." Often in the midst of the suffering that people experience when they come to you, they feel alone, and you are the only one with them. Let them see the love of Christ through the work that you do. Let them see, through the work that you do, that there is indeed a God and he does indeed love them, and through that you will perpetuate the healing ministry of Jesus Christ.

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