How Our Tuition Gets Paid for Life

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At Christianity’s dawning, the man we now know as St. Luke was a boy who felt an “Unknown God” calling him to be a man of medicine. And according to Taylor Caldwell’s novelization of this saint’s life (Dear and Glorious Physician), “Lucanus” started to know that Unknown God through the traditions of the many faiths surrounding him as he grew. Yet when he prayed, the boy instinctively called this God “Father.”

This is the same kind of intimacy Mother Teresa of Calcutta, one of the 20th century’s great saints, felt while she served the poorest of the poor—just as Lucanus did throughout his ministry as medicine man and man of God. She knew this Unknown God as all of humanity is invited to know him this fourth Sunday in Advent: Emmanuel—God with Us.

Emmanuel can be a mission field that beckons your service in several ways: from abroad (as it did for St. Luke and Mother Teresa), from your own backyard, or from within your home’s four walls. Wherever you find your mission field is God’s Kingdom. Serving in each one requires a courage that’s freely given for as long as it’s needed. But that courage has been supported throughout our faith’s history, as Sunday’s readings indicate—starting with the reassurance the prophet Isaiah gave Judah’s King Ahaz (Is 7:10-14):

Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.

Paul gives the Romans the same assurance about King David’s descendant that Isaiah and all the prophets gave people in their own mission fields: that God would be among them, and known by a memorable name—

—to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 1:1-7)

Joseph, Jesus’s own earthly father, needed the same reassurance earthly kings and peasants received through the “Unknown God’s” prophets and angels:

Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt 1:18-24)

It is at that point the “Unknown God” received a name that would fertilize mission fields starting in the home of that Holy Family and expanding throughout all earthly kingdoms among people responding to that name. The advent of each mission, great and small, begins as a calling linked to the gifts God gives each of us.

We close with the calling St. Luke received, as imagined by Taylor Caldwell’s novel but known to happen in real life among saints-in-training—as fameless as you and I, and famous as Mother Teresa. At the point of young Luke’s calling, his Roman master, Diodorus, asks the boy, “What are your desires?”

“To find the Unknown God, Master, and to serve Him, and in His name, to serve man. I can best serve man as a physician, which is my dear desire.”

Knowing the cost of attending the medical school in Alexandria, Lucanus is nevertheless confident the Unknown God will provide.

“So, this Unknown God is also a banker?” Diodorus asks. “Will he also require interest?”

“Most certainly,” the boy responds. “My whole life.”

–Tom Andel

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