Glancing Thoughts

Doctor without borders

The international aid organization Doctors Without Borders has 27000 medical personnel in 60 countries, and they bring essential medicines and medical care to very many people who otherwise would go without.

The medical science they use comes from the Western industrialized countries. But no one supposes that there is something exclusivist or arrogant or intolerant about Doctors Without Borders for bringing this medical care from the West to the poor and sick in developing countries. On the contrary, in 1999 Doctors Without Borders won the Nobel Peace Prize for its work with the world’s needy.

There is an objective truth about what will heal people, and the fact that modern medicine comes from the industrialized West doesn’t alter this truth. Western medicine is prized around the world because it has a power to heal that nothing else does.

What Peter says about Christ in the First Reading is a little like this.  There is a sickness of the spirit as well as of the body, and it can lead to death too, a death of the spirit rather than the body. There is healing for this spiritual sickness. But, Peter says, it comes only from Christ. Christ has a power to heal that nothing else does. 

That is a lesson that the First Reading teaches. To some people, this lesson is worrisome, or worth rejecting. They think it is disrespectful to other cultures and religions.

But notice what Christ adds to this lesson in the Gospel. He has more than one fold of sheep, he says. In their varying countries, cultures, and ethnicities, all those who hear his voice and are glad of it form the different folds of sheep for whom Christ is the good Shepherd. All these differing folds together make up the one truly world-wide flock of the Lord.

And so there is one objective truth about what heals, whether the healing is medical or spiritual; and there is only one source for this healing. But, unlike modern medicine, the healing of Christ is not another monopoly of the Western industrialized nations. Whatever his social or ethnic group, whatever the way in which Christ’s voice comes to him and moves him, each person whose heart is stirred by the voice of the Lord is included in Christ’s one flock. 

The ultimate doctor without borders is Christ.


Eleonore Stump


**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson