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St. Luke the Evangelist went from healing the body to ministering to the whole person.
Once he believed the Good News, he could never go back.
“Christ, the Divine Physician, taught him to be a servant of the healing arts, not a master,” stated Father Daniel Merz, pastor of St. Thomas More Newman Center Parish in Columbia.
“When St. Luke realized that we are body and soul and that we’re not created just to die, he understood he had to work for healing the soul, as well as the body,” the priest stated from the ambo of the Newman Parish Church.
It was the parish’s inaugural St. Luke Health Care Mass, celebrated on Oct. 18, the feastday of the patron saint of doctors, nurses and all who minister in the health care profession.
Masses with a special blessing were celebrated at 7:30 a.m. and at noon to accommodate people working different shifts.
Father Paulinus Aneke, associate pastor, presided at the morning Mass, Fr. Merz, pastor, presided at noon.
Deacon Mike Berendzen, director of Columbia Catholic Hospital Ministry, assisted.
Preaching the homily at both Masses, Fr. Merz spoke of St. Luke as a learned man whose command of the Greek language is unmatched in all of Scripture.
St. Luke’s Gospel and his Acts of the Apostles make up about one-fourth of the New Testament.
Luke’s Gospel reflects its author having found something wonderful and wanting everyone else to have it, too.
Luke’s unbridled joy is evident throughout his writing — including his exclusive account of Jesus restoring life to a widow’s only son and of His parables of the widow celebrating having found her lost coin, and the forgiving father who runs to embrace and welcome his repentant son.
“He was someone who encountered the Lord and was overwhelmed by the gifts of God’s love,” said Fr. Merz.
While Luke never met Jesus in the flesh, he did have an encounter with Christ, perhaps through St. Paul’s teaching.
“And his life changed forever,” Fr. Merz stated.
The greatest healing
St. Paul refers to Luke in the Letter to the Colossians as “the Beloved Physician” — one who showed caring and love and stood by Paul when everyone else had abandoned him.
“St. Luke passes on to us what he learned from the Divine Physician — from the Risen Christ — that the greatest and most important healing comes from being LOVED,” Fr. Merz stated.
That’s an important lesson for any person of faith who ministers to the sick.
So is the understanding that physical death is not the worst outcome, “because death is not the end,” said Fr. Merz.
He noted that ordained clergy are often engaged in a different kind of healing, but priests and health care workers are subject to some of the same perils.
“Both of our ministries can be exhausting and draining and dangerous if we start to think of ourselves as the masters and not the servants,” he said.
He pointed out that people seeking help are always God’s beloved children, and He entrusts professionals in physical and spiritual healing to care for them and never neglect their dignity and their sovereignty.
“And that’s not always easy, because those beloved children of the Father aren’t always grateful,” the priest noted with a chuckle.
But God is always there to help.
“We need to ground ourselves again and again, first as servants of the healing arts, but also as servants of the healing that goes beyond only the body, beyond only what we can see,” Fr. Merz stated.
He promised the Church’s continued prayers for all people who are affiliated with the healing professions.
“Thank you for the healing that you offer of body, mind, heart and soul,” he said. “Thank you for your attention to the dignity of those you serve. And may the Divine Physician minister to your hearts and souls and bodies as you minister to His beloved children, day in and day out.”
Deacon Berendzen said he was happy with the turnout for this year’s St. Luke Masses and hopes they will become an annual tradition.