A Gospel of Healing: My Inspiration in a Time of Discernment
A few Sundays ago, we celebrated the feast day of Saint Luke at Christ Church. The service’s readings and prayers were centered on the theme of healing in remembrance of Luke’s traditional identity as “the beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14). This celebration could not have come at a better time for me. Since June, I have been in the process of applying to medical schools and I had just begun to run out of steam to finish this process and submit my last few applications. For the weeks leading up to Saint Luke’s feast day, I had been struggling with the stress of completing applications as well as feelings of self-doubt and insecurity surrounding my decision to pursue a career in medicine. In the midst of working through that particular wave of application stress, I was extremely thankful for the message of Saint Luke.
By focusing on the concepts and images related to healing that are so central to the Gospel message, I was reminded of how excited I am to be pursuing a career in a healing profession. The message of Saint Luke brought me back to a mental space in which I could feel secure and joyful in the path that I have chosen through God’s guidance. The Scriptures reminded me of the importance of the healing professions in God’s eyes and the ways in which God works through physicians in particular. I was struck by the Ecclesiastics reading, part of which reads: “And he gave skill to human beings, that he might be glorified in his marvelous works… God’s works will never be finished; and from him health spreads over all the earth.” In response to this reading, I more fervently prayed to participate in God’s work of spreading health over the earth by studying to be a doctor.
Not only did the service provide me with energy and inspiration to continue on with my applications for medical school, but it also brought me into a space in which I strongly felt God’s healing presence in my own life. After church, some of my fears and anxieties that had been growing in response to the difficulties of the past several months had somewhat abated. I noticed that I felt significantly more at peace about my decision to go into medicine and felt less burdened by some recurring anxieties. After church, I continued to meditate on the service’s themes and messages, and I found myself thinking of the various ways in which I have experienced healing over the past few months at Saint Hilda’s House. Life in community has brought so much laugher, adventure, and friendship in these two short months, and these gifts have been like a balm for the residual anxiety I had been experiencing from my pre-med post-baccalaureate program last year.
The celebration of Saint Luke was also significant to me in that it invited me to revisit the book of Luke with a particular focus on Jesus’s acts of healing. While reading, I was drawn to the passages in which Jesus heals a Centurion’s servant, raises a widow’s son, heals a woman suffering from hemorrhages, and releases the Gerasene man from demonic possession. These images of restoring people to both physical and spiritual health took on new meanings for me due to my current situation of applying to medical school. For so long, the dream of becoming a doctor felt so distant, but lately the dream has become much more of a quickly approaching reality as I prepare to begin medical school next fall. Given this anticipatory stage of life I am currently living in, the Gospel stories of healing have become even more dynamic, compelling, and inspiring to me. Over the past few weeks, I have felt affirmation of my choice to go into medicine through God’s word in powerful ways, which I am very thankful for.
My rereading of Luke’s gospel also invited me to reflect upon my work at AIDS Project New Haven. As I revisited the story of Jesus healing a leper in chapter five, I thought about the ways in which this man’s reality was shaped by his sickness. Not only was he physically ill, but he was also subjected to shame and exclusion from society due to the stigmatization of his condition. The harsh stigma associated with leprosy during biblical times prompted me to think more deeply about the stigma imposed on people living with HIV/AIDS in our society. Since beginning my internship at AIDS Project, I have had the opportunity to learn a lot about the daily realities of living with HIV/AIDS, especially in the context of poverty.
In the past few months, some of the clients discussed the various struggles that they encounter due to the widespread stigmatization of people who are HIV positive or at risk. When reading Luke, I noticed how Jesus communicated his deep love and compassion for the man with leprosy by offering him physical healing, and thereby raised him out of a place of rejection and oppression. By reaching out, Jesus destroyed the barriers created by the stigma of leprosy and restored the man to his community; and through this example, Jesus asks us to do the same by showing love and compassion to those rejected by society. This year, I hope to live into this example at AIDS Project by taking advantage of every opportunity to serve and to love those who are affected by the social stigma of living with HIV/AIDS.