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HOMILY: On the Feast of St. Luke, Pray for Christian Physicians to Stand Strong as Faithful Witnesses

By Deacon Keith Fournier
October 18th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

St. Luke still "sends his greetings" through his sons and daughters who carry on his noble profession today. They follow, as he did so well, in the footsteps of great Physician, the Lord Jesus Christ. To all Christian Doctors, thank you. Stand firm in the faith and "be not afraid"!

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - In his tenderly written letter to the Colossian Christians, the Apostle Paul sends the early Christians greetings from his friend, travelling companion and co-worker in the Gospel, the "beloved physician" named Luke. He writes these words "Luke, the beloved physician sends greetings." (Colossians 4:14) On October 18th, in the Calendar for the Latin Church, we commemorate the great Evangelist and author of the Gospel which bears his name, the "beloved physician" named Luke.

The Feast of St. Luke is extremely important in the cultural decline in the West when physicians are finding themselves on the front line in the struggle to defend the dignity of every human life against abortion on demand. If the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, with the HHS Mandate, proceeds, it will place our beloved Catholic and other Christian physicians on the front line of the spiritual and cultural battle of our age. 

It will also call them to heroic virtue in imitation of one of their Patrons, St. Luke. On this day "White Masses" are offered for Physicians around the whole world. We should remember them at every Mass.

St. Luke was "beloved" in many ways to the Apostle Paul as a friend and a co-worker in the mission. However, clearly it was his identity as a physician which is given primacy in the greeting found in this passage. Jesus himself was and is the Great Physician, the One who brings healing to our wounds. So it is that all who continue the work of healing participate in his saving work. All healing comes from God.

Christian physicians participate in the Lord's healing work in an even more profound and special vocation which is rooted in their Baptism. They are incorporated into the very Body of Christ and capacitated to continue His mission. Historically, the Catholic Church is the fountain and source of the entire health care industry as we have come to know it in the West.

The Body of Christ on earth continues the redemptive mission of her Head, Jesus Christ, until He returns. This mission is lived out in a special way by Christian physicians who offer healing and compassion to all men and women. They demonstrate a special love of preference for the poor. The Church has always understood the care of the sick as a participation in the continuing saving work of Jesus Christ her Head. That is why it is important on this Feast day to pray for and honor our physicians.

St. Luke is not only the author of the Gospel which bears his name but this companion of St. Paul is most certainly the author of the Acts of the Apostles. Because of his extraordinary writing skills, he was often pictured in the many artistic renditions which have been made of this beloved physician as a painter with a brush. He was, as are all good writers, a painter with words.

This "beloved physician" became a veritable paint brush used by the Third person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit, to leave us with a Gospel and an account of the early missionary work of the Church which has informed our faith for over two millennia. His inspired words have motivated millions throughout history to carry on the saving mission of the Lord.

On this Feast we need to pause and consider all that our own "beloved physicians" give to each one of us. I thank God for the Doctors I have known. I thank Him especially for Physicians like "Dr. Denton", of the "Ask Dr. Denton" columns on Catholic Online.

He, and others like him, live a unity of life by integrating their Catholic Christian faith into the very heart of their vocation as a physician. We should pray fervently for Catholic and other Christian physicians who are already being persecuted in our own time-  and pray for those who may soon be.

With the advance of the culture of death, these special men and women, the contemporary companions of St. Luke the "beloved physician", are being pressured to kill innocent children in the womb through procured abortions or face the loss of their income and professional status. Theirs is a very real form of martyrdom.

This noble profession preceded the birth of the Christian Church. It was properly esteemed throughout the entire world. In Greece, the original oath which was derived from the Law of Hippocrates contained these clear words:

"I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art."

Sadly, in our age, this oath once required of every physician has been changed. The newer version is infected by the nihilism of an age which has lost its moral compass.

St. Luke shares the honor of being a Patron for all Physicians with the martyrs Cosmas and Damian. Those two beloved physicians were executed in the city of Cyrrhus in Syria about 303. This martyrdom occurred under the reign of one of the many tyrants, the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

Cosmos and Damien were twin brothers who became physicians in order to offer that vocation to the Lord. They were called "the holy moneyless ones" because they offered their healing services to anyone free of charge. The witness of their holy lives and their martyrs' deaths is recounted in the Eucharistic canon (Prayer #1) of the Latin Church.

Who knows, for some of our contemporary Catholic and other Christian physicians, they may soon face an invitation to embrace an entirely different way of practicing their healing ministry in order to not participate in the culture of death. If this were to occur, we must support them with our prayers as well as our participation in an alternative medical system which promotes the Culture of Life.

St. Luke still "sends his greetings" through his sons and daughters who carry on his noble profession today. They follow, as he did so well, in the footsteps of great Physician, the Lord Jesus Christ. To all Christian Doctors, thank you. Stand firm in the faith and "be not afraid"!

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