[Homily: Mass at 48th Annual Convention of the Association of Philippine Medical Colleges Foundation, Inc. in partnership with Davao Medical School Foundation, Davao, Feb. 5, 2015.]
I think it is wonderful that we can begin this 48th Annual Convention for the Association of Philippine Medical Colleges Foundation in partnership with the Davao Medical School Foundation with a Eucharistic Celebration. At this Mass we can call upon the Lord to bless your goal to “enrich medical education through the use of modern educational technologies.” But, as at every Eucharistic celebration, we can together give the Lord thanks for our shared faith, for our shared redemption, for our shared hope, but perhaps especially today, for our doctors, our physicians, our nurses our medical technicians, and all those who labor in the healing profession to keep people like me healthy.
Recently, I was to give a talk to the national assembly of the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU). It was after a week of many engagements when I hadn’t been sleeping well. I was already in the Assembly Hall when all of a sudden my nose started bleeding. I had to leave the hall and retreat to a private room. Luckily, there was a nurse that could attend to me. Whatever I did, the bleeding wouldn’t stop. The nurse took my blood pressure. At 190/100 she told me my BP was “elevated” and if the bleeding wouldn’t stop they would take me to the hospital. Eventually, they did. At the hospital, they were prepared to take care of me. They brought down the blood pressure. They packed my nose and arrested the bleeding. The next day, I was back in the PAASCU General Assembly and able to give my talk. But when I returned the Davao the next day, the episode repeated, only the bleeding was more persistent. Again I was brought to the hospital. But this time, my physician, Dr. Jore Lacuesta, was at my side. They did all the things hospitals do to care for me, and gave me all sorts of tests to check out what was wrong with me. Eventually, especially through the hands of Dr. Romeo Valles, my ENT, they healed me. But not without Dr. Lacuesta telling me all the other things I needed to do to take care of my health. They gave me a new regimen of medicine, started me off on a new lifestyle, and taught me how to manage my stress better. That’s why I’m here this morning. At this Eucharist, I give thanks, we give thanks, to all who are in the healing profession. We give things that the doctors and scientists are forever in pursuit of better ways of healing, but also of better ways of caring for healers and of better preparing them for professional service.
At this Mass, as at every Mass, we recall Jesus. We might say his professional focus was preaching the Kingdom of God. His passion was to make the love of his Father for us all manifest, and he did this most poignantly in the Sacrifice on the Cross that we commemorate at this Mass. “I have come to bring life,” he said, “life to the full” (Jn. 10:10). He showed people that life without God, life estranged from the love of the father, cannot be a full life. He taught people that life with God that does not consider the needs of the other, especially the least in society, is ultimately void: “Whatever you do or not to one of these the least of my brothers and sisters, that you do or not do to me” (cf. Mt. 25:40, 45). He was a powerful preacher, who could look into the depth of a person’s personal life, and touch that person. That is why he was also a healer.
In today’s Gospel, there is reference to his sending out his apostles, the Twelve who were closest to him. In his power they “drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them” (Mk 6:13). When they actually cured the sick, it may have astonished the apostles, brought them to overwhelming awe. “I have come to bring life, life to the full,” Jesus said. So when life was suddenly diminished by illness, persons were suffering, and persons around the suffering persons were suffering as well, Jesus healed. Once, visiting the home of Peter, he found his mother in law sick with fever. “He touched her, and the fever left her. She got up and served him,” Matthew reports (8:15). That is not the kind of thing that could be kept secret. People from near and far looking for wholeness in life, troubled by the demons that plague a healthy life, approached him for healing. “When evening came, they brought him many possessed with demons. He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying; ‘He took our infirmities, and bore our diseases.’” (8:16-17). The Gospel narratives are replete with accounts of his healing. Last Tuesday at Mass, we listened to how Jesus cured a women who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years “and had suffered many things by many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not better, but rather grew worse,” Mark reports (5:25-26). She went up to Jesus and just touched his clothes in faith. She was cured, and Jesus consented to the cure because of her great faith. Meanwhile, news had come that the daughter of Jairus, one of the rulers of the synagogue, who had come to him to cure his daughter, had already died. He went nevertheless to the home of Jairus, found the child, but said, “Talitha cumi – Girl, I tell you, get up.” Mark reports, “Immediately, the girl got up, and walked. She was twelve years old” (5:42). All were amazed.
Of course, a physician today, may say all of that is just pious discourse to buttress the messianic claims of Jesus. He may insist that healing today is strictly a matter of science, medicine, and understanding and controlling natural laws of life.
But to a physician of faith, there may be insight that the power to heal, even as mediated by science and the sophisticated culture of the medical and healing profession, is a gift, a grace, a participation in the healing power not only of nature but of the Creator of nature. It is a gift that guides the mind of the healer, guides his or her hand, and helps him or her in the power of the Creator, according to the will of the Creator, to make whole. That is why I believe that even the best of doctors or the best of caregivers are among those who most deeply pray. They know the healing power of their skills, but they know their limitations. They do not presume to compete with God. Instead, with every healing, they give glory to God and thank him for his mercy.
Let us pray today in thanksgiving for our doctors and nurses and all who are part of the healing profession. But let us also pray in thanksgiving for our God who ultimately entered this world to heal it of its alienation from him. It is in this alienation that we learn to hate one another because of differing ways in which we survive in this world, because of the differing cultures of human life, because of differing colors of our skin, or differing ways in which we communicate, our differing tongues, our differing songs, even the differing ways we we call upon God. We hate, we harm, we injure, we kill, we bring war on one another; we blame each other for our mistakes, we call hell on others to preserve our petty heavens. In our unending suffering, we despair. This is why we are grateful for a God who does not give up on us, for a God who heals.
Especially today in the Philippines and in Mindanao, let us pray that he continue to heal. Let us pray that we might all participate in his healing power – and that he might “heal our broken land.”