DOCTOR WHO?: A HOMILY ON THE MEMORIAL OF ST. AMBROSE, BISHOP AND DOCTOR
Many Catholics are more attentive to what the doctor in the hospital tells them than what the priest at the church tells them. They think more about their physical health than about their spiritual health. How did I know that. Sometimes, one way to get to know people is by observing their mistakes. If your name is John and your wife suddenly calls you Matthew, you will be worried and you will not rest until you know who Matthew is. Sometimes, when I go to visit the sick, whether at home or at the hospital, every now and then, the sick person will refer to me as ‘Doctor’, instead of ‘Father’. Then I know something is not right. Well, mistakes do happen. I know that.
But I find comfort in the fact that I should be a doctor too. There are two ways a person can become a doctor. The first is by becoming a medical doctor and the second is by obtaining a Doctorate degree. Every priest should be a doctor in these two ways. Jesus is our doctor in both ways, and so should the priest, who is a person throuh whom people encounter the daily coming of Christ into our lives. A priest who does not pay much attention to the sick, the blind, the deaf, the poor, the lowly, the opressed, etc would need to see a doctor himself. In the first reading, Isaiah speaks of a time when the deaf will hear and the blind will see. Jesus, in the gospel heals two blind men. This way, Jesus is a doctor like the medical doctor, and so should be the priest, especially when he visits the sick and gives them the sacraments of penance, anointing of the sick and Holy Eucharist.
But Jesus is also a doctor in the academic sense of the word. When a person obtains a doctorate degree, what it means is that the person is now an authority in whatever field they teach in. Jesus is the greatest teaching authority we have and before Him, all other teachers are like infants. After healing the two blind men, He gave them an instruction not to tell anybody about it, but no sooner did they leave there than they started proclaiming it. It means that as much as they accepted Jesus as doctor in the first sense of the word, they did not accept Him as doctor in the second sense of the world. Isaiah tells us that in His days, erring spirits will learn wisdom and murmurers will accept instruction. This is why a priest should spend at least three hours of his day studying. You cannot give what you dont have. A good teacher is someone who permanently remains a student. Whatever you have learnt in the seminary is only foundational. The people deserve to be taught in a way that will lead them the truth.
When I think of the church today, we have a lot of preaching but very little of teaching. In the catholic church, we often hear of a saint who has the title of doctor. That title is given by the church to a saint recognised by the church as someone whose teachings and writings have been recognised by the church as authentic. They are people who have contributed a lot to the life of the church through their teachings and writings. Before a university can confer a doctorate degree, it would be to someone who has contributed a lot by way of writing and teaching. St. Abrose whom we celebrate today fall into that category. He was a man of great learning and one remarkable thing is that St. Augustine was converted through the teachings of St. Ambrose. St. Augustine had struggled with his faith and none of the preachers of his time appealed to him very much. One day he was walking into the church when St. Ambrose was teaching, and from then on, he was no longer the same. Augustine met him one on one, and he became like a mentor to St. Augustine.
The church today needs more doctors, in both senses of the word. Whenever people make the mistake of calling me doctor, I dont get offended anymore. I take it as a reminder that Jesus was a doctor in the two senses of the word and if I am involved in the ministry of Jesus, then I should also be a doctor in both senses of the world. People should experience physical healing, spiritual healing, emotional healing and forgiveness of their sins. At the same time, people need to be taught. There are many Augustines out there, who find it hard to be convinced. What they need is a St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor.