Symposium for Catholic Medical Professionals
University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center
A. Let me begin with warm thanks for your presence here this morning and for the hospitality of St. Joseph Medical Center in welcoming this 6th Annual Symposium of Catholic Medical Professionals. And it is good that we begin this day by celebrating the Eucharist, “the source and summit” of our lives, including the work of heart and hand that occupies most of our waking hours.
B. This year’s Symposium is entitled, “Medicine, Mercy, and the Domestic Church.” Clearly, we are taking our cues from our beloved Holy Father, Pope Francis, who has declared this year to be a Jubilee Year of Mercy and who has made the family, the domestic church, a prime pastoral priority for his pontificate. As medical professionals, you daily perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy as you seek to bring healing, comfort, and peace to your patients. In practicing medicine holistically, you are also know something of the conditions in which your patients live and work. Sadly, far too many do not have the benefit of stable homes and families, but live in situations that are physically, psychologically and spiritually unhealthy.
II. Continuation of Jesus’ Healing Ministry
A. Jesus, Pope Francis tells us, is the face of the Father’s mercy. Taking our flesh, becoming one of us, dying and rising from the dead, Jesus reveals for us the merciful heart of the God who is love. And while he was on this earth, Jesus preached the Good News of God’s love and he applied the merciful love of his Father to the wounds of human existence. Throughout the Gospels we read how Jesus cured the sick, drove out demons, and even raised those who had fallen asleep from the dead.
B. Jesus was not a mere worker of wonders destined only to amaze his contemporaries. Rather, Jesus willed that his message of mercy and his works of mercy be transmitted through the Church to all of humanity until the end of time. For that reason, in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles we find the Apostle Peter performing the same kinds of cures that Jesus performed. First, in Lydda, he heals Aeneas, a paralytic. Peter does not heal this man alone; rather he says: “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and make your bed.” This powerful sign of Christ’s mercy brought many to faith. Then, about ten kilometers away, in Joppa, Peter raised Tabitha from the dead. By all accounts she was a good and generous woman, a true disciple of the Lord. Peter, in the Name of Christ Jesus, laid his hands upon her and she got up. Again, many came to believe in the Lord.
C. It is in Christ and in his Apostles that Catholic health care has its origins. Works of mercy and of healing are deeply woven in the Church teaching and pastoral life. Sometime healings occur which elude medical explanations but most often the Lord’s ministry of healing is continued by your work as Catholic medical professionals – by your skill and expertise as well as your love and respect for the gift of human life. Perhaps there are days you might wish you could just pray over a paralyzed child and have her rise instantly from her bed to the praise and glory of God. How we might want to bring back a patient who, by our human calculations, died far too young with far too much yet to offer. Even so, the Lord continually works through our efforts and ingenuity to accomplish his purpose, namely, our salvation.
D. Not everyone in your profession thinks of themselves as continuing the healing ministry of a compassionate Savior. It is a unique faith-perspective we share in the Church’s healthcare ministry. The medical procedures and techniques you employ may not differ from those employed by your colleagues who take, shall we say, a more secular view. What you bring to your profession, thanks to your faith, is a real sense you are agents of God’s merciful love for the patients you serve so well. By your kindness to them and their families, by your respect for human life, you have the capacity, as did the Apostles, to win many over for Christ.
III. Source and Summit
A. Of course, none of this is particularly easy. The medical-moral teaching of the Church expresses deep respect for human life. But the world sometimes looks at these teachings as arcane and unnecessary. I think of the many stresses you face in the changing landscape of healthcare as well as the tremendous demands made upon your time and energy. And by the time you see many of your patients, the news is not good. I’m sure it takes a lot of you to apprise patients and their families of bad news. It is easy for those in healing professions to become weary, even to suffer burnout.
B. In the midst of our busy and demanding lives, yours and mine, we sense, do we not, the need for sustenance – food, of course, the respect of colleagues, the love of our families and our friends – but we also sense the need for a deeper, spiritual nourishment of spirit and body. In the Gospel Jesus speaks to us of that kind of nourishment when he says that he is the Bread of Life – his Word and his Body are the nourishment of our souls. When taught about the Bread of Life and his relationship with his Father, many decided to leave Jesus and return to their ordinary way of life. But Peter asked, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!”
C. Even we make our own Peter’s ministry of healing, let us also make our own his profession of faith in the Eucharistic Lord, seeing in the Mass, the celebration of the Eucharist, “the source and summit” of your calling to be agents of mercy, of healing, of comfort. May the Lord nourish and transform you inwardly, day by day, for the beautiful but demanding profession to which he has called you, and may God bless us and keep us always in his love!