This is our first White Mass here in Fort Wayne. It is truly a joy to celebrate this Mass for our doctors, nurses, and other health care workers today, the feast of one of the most beloved saints of the Church, Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, the Little Flower. And I am very grateful to the newly formed Catholic medical guild here in our diocese, the Dr. Jerome Lejeune guild. I pray that your mission and activity will promote the holiness of your members and be a great service to the Gospel of Life.
God desires holiness for each and every person in each and every walk of life. Christ pours out His grace upon us so we can live a holy life. The Second Vatican Council taught that “all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity.” Your work in health care, if carried out with faith and love, if carried out in the Holy Spirit, is a means to achieve sanctity. We see this in the lives of doctors who were canonized saints and in the life of Dr. Jerome Lejeune whom we pray will one day be beatified and canonized.
The Lord calls us to seek holiness within our state of life and within our professions, in our ordinary work in the midst of the world. It involves making sacrifices for God and for our neighbors. I think of the many sacrifices, especially of time, that you who are doctors make for your patients. But holiness requires more than your gift of time and your medical talents. It means “identification with Christ” and becoming part of his work of redemption. By imitating Jesus, the divine Physician, you are on the path to holiness. This involves the self-giving and sacrificial love revealed on the cross. It involves rejection of selfish ambition. It involves instead “holy ambition”: seeking excellence in your medical practice; putting God first in your life; and treating every patient, from the tiniest embryo at the beginning of his or her life to the frail elderly person at the end of life, with the love they deserve as beloved children of God.
Saint Therese, a beautiful young woman, was a saint of simplicity and love who shows all of us the path of holiness at the most important school we could ever attend, the school of the Gospel. She discovered that her vocation as a Carmelite nun was to be love itself in the heart of the Church. She shows us “the little way” of children who confide in God the Father with “bold trust.” The heart of her message, her spiritual attitude, is an example for all of us. She invites you and me to live in the heart of the Church as disciples and ardent witnesses of Christ’s love and mercy. The “little way” of Saint Therese teaches us the importance of making every action, no matter how seemingly inconsequential, one done in love. Every visit you make to a patient is an opportunity to take a step on the path of holiness by your words, your attentiveness, your compassion. We shouldn’t equate holiness with great outward deeds, though some may be called to those, but instead, as Mother Teresa once said, little deeds done with great love. Your treating every patient as Jesus, seeing Him in the sick and the suffering, is paramount for your growth in holiness. Your doing your work with love and devotion, as well as professional diligence and care, is necessary. I think of the nurse who loves his or her work and truly cares for his or her patients. The nurse who wants to help each and every one of them in their particular situation. If the nurse did his or her work tasks with little effort and half-heartedly, being sloppy about dispensing medicine or not careful in following the doctors instructions, would such actions reflect a soul that wants to glorify God in all things? Of course not. A holy nurse and a holy doctor desires to do every task to the best of his or her abilities.
Holiness does not consist only of our prayer life, essential as that is.
It consists in the totality of our lives. It means fighting lukewarmness, both in our prayer and in our work. We must not be careless in our prayer life or in our professional life. I invite you to see your medical work as a way to heaven. Offer your work to God every morning. See everything you do as a holy act, as an opportunity to give glory to God. And never allow your faith to be compromised by participating in so-called health services that are immoral, even if promoted by some who have bought into the growing culture of death in our society. Be apostles of life and witnesses to the sanctity of human life. Maybe you’ll experience rejection by colleagues for refusing to prescribe contraception, perform sterilizations, or participate in abortions. The Christian on the path to holiness cares more about faithfulness to God’s commands than the affirmation and praise of the world. Just think of the example of Dr. Jerome Lejeune.
Today’s Gospel is a gem of spiritual wisdom. When the disciples asked Jesus: “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?”, our Lord placed a child in their midst and said: “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.” Is this not the greatness of Saint Therese, the Little Flower? Her “little way of trust and love” was the way of spiritual childhood. She abandoned herself like a child into God’s hands, with a trust that was inseparable from the strong and radical commitment of true love. She lived the greatest love in the smallest things of daily life, thus bringing to fulfillment her vocation to be Love in the heart of the Church. Therese died (at the age of 24) on the evening of September 30, 1897, saying the simple words, ‘My God, I love you!’ looking at the Crucifix she held tightly in her hands.
The center of our life and the life of every Catholic community is the Sacrament of Divine Love that we now celebrate, the Holy Eucharist. “In her last Letter, on an image that represents the Child Jesus in the consecrated Host, Saint Therese wrote these simple words: “I cannot fear a God who made himself so small for me!. . . I love him! In fact, he is nothing but Love and Mercy!” The Blessed Sacrament, the sacrament of charity, is Jesus’ gift of Himself to us, the sacrament that makes present his love for us to the end, the offering of his own Body and Blood. My brothers and sisters, we draw our life from the Eucharist. Truly blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb! May the Lord Jesus strengthen you and all who serve in the medical profession. May you bear witness, like Saint Therese, the Little Flower, to the love of Christ, the love that urges us on in our journey to the Kingdom!