23 October 2007

Of The Beloved Physician.

My homily for the St. Luke's Day Mass at the Church of the Holy Communion:

St. Luke
Lk 4.14-21

oday we give thanks for the witness and the prayers of St. Luke, the Evangelist and chronicler of the Apostolic Church – Luke, whom St. Paul refers to as the “beloved Physician.”

It is interesting, in light of St. Luke's medical vocation, that in this lesson we have just read, the first public teaching from Jesus that Luke records, he presents Jesus to us a healer, albeit in broad terms. Our Lord takes for his first sermon text the 61st chapter of Isaiah: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim release to the captives and the recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

Luke the beloved physician shows us Christ the Great Physician. In fact, as Luke presents it, immediately after this sermon in Nazareth, Jesus goes on something of a healing spree. He heals a man diseased in his mind, possessed by an evil spirit. He heals St. Peter’s mother-in-law of a high fever (no word from Luke as to whether Peter’s feelings were mixed). And after that, Luke tells us that “all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them.

We may ask, why? To be sure, these miracles of healing, public and verifiable as they were, had the function of authenticating the authority of Jesus as God’s Son, as the Messiah coming into the world. But they don’t just tell us who Jesus was and is, they tell us what he came to do. He did not come to accomplish some airy-fairy enlightenment and liberation of souls from the body’s prison house. No, he came to redeem and heal the entirety of God’s creation, chiefly God’s own image-bearers, human beings, body and soul inclusive.

This means that physicians and those in the healing and health-care professions have the high privilege of joining Christ in his work – of becoming, as St. Paul says, “God’s fellow-workers” in the great task of redemption.

Of course, physicians must do so in a way that is necessarily limited. The redemption that Christ accomplished in his crucified, dead, risen, and ascended Body is not yet consummated in our bodies, though some day it will be. We will be like him, St. John says, for we shall see him as he is. In the meantime, things fall apart. Peter’s mother-in-law died eventually. Even Lazarus returned to his tomb for a longer visit. And the best a physician can do is to apply a temporary fix. But even that is a glorious thing, because it is taken up into Christ’s work.

And even beyond that, Christ has told us that when we minister to the sick and suffering, when we ease pain and provide comfort to the last and least, we do it to him. Mother Theresa said that when she and her sisters went to minister to the dying poor in the streets of Calcutta, they did not go to do social work, but to adore Christ in the least of his brethren. The call to healing – to binding up wounds and setting captives free – is ultimately a call to adoration, adoration of him whose body was broken that we might be made whole.

O come, let us adore him.

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