Honoring our Medical Angels
Feb 15, 2018
A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him "If you wish, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him "I do will it. Be made clean."
How often in desperation when dreadfully sick or diagnosed...we throw ourselves at the mercy of our care-givers...hoping, pleading begging to be made healthy or begging for those we love who are ill to just be ok?
Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him. That contact was just as compelling as his cure. The leper perceives in Jesus a compassion, a “pity” like nothing else. It was forbidden to touch a leper for in doing so one made oneself not only unclean spiritually but ran the risk of contracting the awful disease oneself. What Jesus did by touching the leper is unprecedented and gutsy to say the least...but is that not what Jesus did in becoming human?
He was not a Bubble Boy Savior who erected a force field around Himself to protect Himself from the diseases, illnesses and suffering that come with being human. In becoming human, he embraced the totality of our humanity not in sinning...but actually becoming sin itself. As Saint Paul shockingly says: For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin,n so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
Jesus absorbed the full impact of sin with His body. For lest we forget, every illness, suffering, disease and death is the result of sin: for as Saint Paul further reminds us...the wages of sin are death. But Christ in paying off that wage ransomed us back...provided the cure by extended to us more than just His hand to touch and heal us...but His entire body with every last drop of blood in it that we might be forever healed of all pain, dying and death: Thus providing our suffering with redemptive value, meaning and purpose.
From the Book of Hebrews we hear: 10For it was fitting that he, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering.
The one who bears the sore of leprosy shall cry out unclean unclean. He shall dwell apart making his abode outside the camp. We know that there is a tendency for illness to stigmatize especially when the illness is mental or mention these three letters HIV. We feel as though we are removed further and further away from the common company of people and society and deeper and deeper into the darkness of our pain.
There is a terrible vulnerability that comes with illness. One is completely at the mercy of one’s care givers. But Jesus remains ever in solidarity with those who cry out with the leper in their pain and isolation. Jesus was at the mercy of His executioners, allowing Himself to experience the ultimate vulnerability by being nailed naked to a Cross, unable to move, unable to cover Himself.
Going to a hospital or nursing home...we feel as though we are sent into a bitter exile away from the comforts and peace of our homes and those who live there...we feel stricken more so in our minds and hearts than our bodies...especially with the awful added weight of feeling as though we are a
burden to those we love.
This too in His Compassion...His Passion in fact Jesus gets...alienated like a criminal and leper, Jesus is purposely crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem the City of God as explained in Scripture:
The bodies of the animals whose blood the high priest brings into the sanctuary as a sin offering are burned outside the camp.h 12
Therefore, Jesus also suffered outside the gate, to consecrate the people by his own blood.
Therefore let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us* and persevere in running the race that lies before us 2while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.a 3Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.
Like passing through a hospital in order to get well…we must pass through Calvary in order to remain well forever. Suffering is inflicted not as a punishment but is endured in and through Christ as an enduring cure for sin and death and enduring remedy of peace, joy and perfect health.
When we go to a doctor they prescribe medicine...when we go to the Divine Physician...the medicine He prescribes is Himself...in a sense, He exchanges the condition of his body with our own...taking upon Himself in that scourged, beaten and bleeding body all our ills...He also provides us from that same body the ultimate blood transfusion to heal us through and through...He took the bread and broke it...
His body broken upon the Cross and says take this all of you and eat of it...this is my body which is given up for you...my blood poured out for you. We know the staggering statistics of how costly medicine and health-care is and how quickly it can bankrupt a household. But there is no more costly cure than the death of God on the Cross whose blood is the cure all of all suffering and death. As Saint Peter reminds us:
Conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your journeying,k 18realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct not with perishable things like silver or goldl 19but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb.* If we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.f
And how amazingly in solidarity with the power and experiences of Jesus Christ are those whose lives, talents, skills, profession and studies we celebrate and honor today? Every day...Doctors, Nurses, first responders health care aides are up to their eye-balls in germs, bacteria, viruses, pain, dying and death. How similar in spirit and practice to this insight from Pope Francis:
“The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.”
I will never forget some years back I had the opportunity to visit the Shrine of Lourdes in France during the summer. It was announced that there was going to be an outside Mass in the Field.
When I arrived there weren’t too many people...that is until I heard the loud din of what sounded like cars on a busy highway. From the hospital, there came out guerney after guerny, wheel chair after wheel chair...armies of others with crutches, canes, slings, head bandages. You would think that one had pulled a fire-alarm to empty out the hospital.
But these people weren’t in any danger...like the leper, they were coming to not only see Jesus Christ but to have Him touch them in the Holy Eucharist. There it was...the field hospital after battle.
And perhaps more impressive were the countless young people, students on summer break from all over the world who came to Lourdes to volunteer all smiling to help care for the sick. But most impressive of all...as though wearing the liturgical vestments of a Priest for Mass were the doctors and nurses in their scrubs, gowns, lab coats etc.
As the Priest holds the precious body of Christ in His hands, how often do these Medical Personnel hold the precious lives of their patients in their expert hands...distributing to them the compassion of Christ by way of this gifted expertise? Never before had the fullness of redemption been more visible than at that Mass.
That Christ because He has a human body wanted to redeem every micro fiber of our being both body and soul. Christ would rise from the dead not as a ghost or apparition but with our entire body inside and out restored, renewed and perfectly healthy and glorified.
As Scripture states and as I saw that day: We do see Jesus “crowned with glory and honor” because he suffered death that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.f
The personal experience of sickness and suffering can make one acutely aware of the tenderness and goodness of another...as in those whose lives, talents, skills and profession we celebrate today and everyday. As Jesus insists when delivering His teaching on the Corporal or Bodily Works of Mercy as the litmus test for our entry into eternal life:
When I was sick you visited me...whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me...Each Hospital Bed its own Cross...each hospital and waiting room its own Calvary where like Sentinel Virgin Marys and Saint Johns beneath the Cross of Christ...Medical Personnel stand offering their support, encouragement and power to heal.
We greatly value the service they render to us and to our families in helping us overcome illness and maintain our health. And even those of us who are not in the medical field are aware that these days medicine is an especially demanding calling: not only in the knowledge and skills needed in the rapidly changing fields of medical technology, but also because our country is unsettled and divided over the best way to deliver medical care to the many of our fellow citizens.
Add to that the many challenges in the vast field of medical ethics and the challenges medical professionals face when they allow their religious faith to influence their practice. So it is important that these good professional men and women of faith pray with us and equally important that we pray with them and for them.