White Mass

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October 27, 2020, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne

We gather for this White Mass during the Covid pandemic, after many difficult months when so many people have been, and continue to be, infected by the coronavirus. As members of the medical profession, you have confronted this health emergency with generosity and commitment. I imagine you have had many exhausting days. Even at risk to your own health, you have served the sick and the dying. We pray for you during this White Mass, for your wellbeing, your stamina, your professional expertise and your compassionate and loving care of your patients. I thank you for your commitment to your vocation and mission as Catholic physicians and health care workers, and for your witness to Christ through your self-sacrificing love in this arduous and complex situation. May the Lord strengthen you in your vocation, the Holy Spirit guide you and Mary, our Mother, intercede for you!

We heard in the Gospel two short parables of Jesus about the Kingdom: the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast. The meaning of these parables is clear. In the beginning, the Kingdom of God is small and hidden, like a mustard seed in the soil or the yeast mixed in flour. But it grows and becomes like a large bush or a loaf of bread. From inconspicuous beginnings, the Kingdom of God grows to embrace even the whole world. Jesus inaugurated this Kingdom on earth. The Kingdom was manifested in His words and works. Jesus performed miracles like healing the sick as signs of the Kingdom. He freed some individuals from the earthly evils of illness and death, but His main mission was to free people from sin and bring them to eternal life. Our Lord then gave the apostles a share in His authority and sent them out to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal. In you who are Catholic doctors, nurses and health care workers, the Lord continues His healing ministry. You participate in the growth of the Kingdom by your service to the sick and the suffering and your witness of faith, hope and love in your profession. You are particularly called to holiness through your work, the holiness that builds up the Kingdom of God on earth.

First of all, by your skillful, attentive, and loving care of your patients, you bear witness to the dignity of the human person created in God’s image and likeness. Inspired by the Gospel and your Catholic faith, you recognize and promote their dignity through your devoted medical care. You do not see or treat your patients as objects, as physical machines, but as subjects, as persons of body, mind and spirit. You recognize their infinite value. You respect the inviolable right to life of every human being, from conception to natural death. You recognize that every human life is sacred and, therefore, your reject the evils of abortion and euthanasia. In the face of new technologies that afford new means of procreation, you recognize that “what is technically possible is not for that very reason morally admissible.” You place new medical and scientific knowledge at the service of the integral well-being of human persons, insisting on the sacredness of human life at every stage and in every condition. In doing so, you are witnesses in society to the moral truths of our faith. You are proclaiming by your actions the demands of the Gospel of Jesus. You are proclaiming His Kingdom. You do so also by serving the poor, those who cannot afford the health care they need and have a right to receive as human persons.

We heard in our first reading today the famous passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians about how marriage is to be an image of the spousal love of Christ and the Church. It is a great mystery, St. Paul writes. He exhorts husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the Church and wives to respond with love and respect for their husbands. For you who are married, your Christian vocation and duties begin there and in your families. It then extends to your profession. In both, it is primarily a vocation of love, self-giving love in imitation of Jesus. I imagine that’s why you entered the health care profession: out of love, to serve people, to heal people, to comfort people, to alleviate their suffering. Our faith teaches us that love is the highest standard of care. In the Church’s Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care, we bishops state that “Christian love is the animating principle of health care.” 

The Church has often pointed to the Good Samaritan and his actions as a paradigm for health care professionals. Out of charity, you take time to stop and care for the wounded person left for dead on the side of the road. The Samaritan did this out of charity, out of love. In his new encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis places the parable of the Good Samaritan at the center of his reflection about human fraternity and social friendship, at the center of the renewal which the world needs. In your caring for the wounded and the dying, the sick and the suffering, you are instruments of God’s love for them. When you care for them like the Good Samaritan did, when you love these neighbors, you are also loving God. You are serving Christ who assumes the face of a suffering brother or sister. “I was sick and you cared for me,” Jesus says in the parable of the last judgment. Remember that you are serving Christ in every patient. And you are giving praise and glory to God in your care for the weak, the ill and the dying. You are promoting the growth of His Kingdom.

In your work, you not only refrain from doing evil, from things like abortion, direct sterilization, assisted suicide, and sex reassignment, you also discern what to do to serve the health and life of the patient before you, what is medically and morally sound. You discern how you can not only not harm your patient, but how you can promote and protect their well-being, alleviate their pain and assist them in their physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

My brothers and sisters, the Kingdom of God was definitively established through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. We are privileged now to participate in that sacrifice through the Eucharist. His sacrifice becomes our sacrifice. We offer our lives and our work with Jesus and His sacrifice. His Body and Blood nourishes and strengthens us. It revives our love, enabling us to live our vocations faithfully and fruitfully. Here we have a foretaste of the heavenly glory of God’s Kingdom. And here we receive a medicine greater than any medicine you can ever prescribe: the medicine of immortality. May Jesus in the Eucharist always be at the heart of your Christian life and your holy vocation! Like the newly beatified teenager, Blessed Carlo Acutis, may always being united to Jesus be the program of our life!