By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
LEAWOOD, Kan. — Especially since 2004, when Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and Bishop Robert W. Finn came to Kansas City’s twin dioceses, four bishops are usually on hand as the Order of Malta annually sponsors its Mass and Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
Not so on March 10.
“I’m the only bishop around today,” announced Kansas City, Kan., Archbishop Emeritus James P. Keleher as he began the Mass with an explanation that Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Raymond J. Boland was under the weather, and that Archbishop Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., and Bishop Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph were in Rome, making their “ad limina” report to the Vatican required of bishops every five years.
But that dampened the day not a bit for the people who came by the hundreds for the sacrament of spiritual and physical healing.
And nor did it bother Archbishop Keleher one bit, who was supported by more than a dozen “brother priests” from both sides of the state line.
In fact, Archbishop Keleher seemed to relish with the zeal of a freshly ordained parish priest the opportunity to celebrate Mass and confer the sacrament on a very special group of people — the sick and the suffering.
Nor was he the least bit shy in reminding them that whatever they are going through, no matter the outcome, Jesus is with them.
In his homily, he urged those who came that day, many of them in wheelchairs, to “become aware of Jesus’ presence here today in the tabernacle, in the readings we just heard from Scripture, in the sacrifice we will offer on this altar, and in the Eucharist we will consume.”
“Whatever crosses you still bear,” Archbishop Keleher said, “he will give Eucharistic strength to carry them.”
Archbishop Keleher told the congregation that the Gospel story for the Mass of the young men lowering their paralyzed friend through the roof to Jesus so that he may be healed was a story of faith.
“They knew that whenever you are in the presence of Jesus, wonderful things happen to your body and to your soul,” the archbishop said.
But before Jesus miraculously healed their friend’s body, he told the crippled man that his soul was healed.
“The first thing he did was forgive the young man of his sins because of his faith,” Archbishop Keleher said.
Likewise, the archbishop said the Sacrament of Anointing the Sick is not just about the body.
“We come today because we are in the house of the divine healer,” Archbishop Keleher said.
“He will heal your emotional feelings, and he will heal your soul,” he said. “Remember, that is Jesus’ first purpose in coming here — that he may heal our sins.”
Jesus also left the faithful the nourishment they need to bear the burdens of life, Archbishop Keleher said.
Recalling the first reading in which Elijah, fleeing Jezebel who swore to kill him, fell despondent in the desert and prayed for God to take his life. As he slept an angel appeared with a hearth cake and water, then encouraged Elijah to rise and make a journey of 40 days to meet God at Mount Horeb.
As the divine food sustained Elijah, thus it is with the bread and wine consecrated into the body and blood of Christ at every Mass, the archbishop said.
“One of the beautiful things that happens with the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation is that we are strengthened to bear the burdens of life” on our journey to God, he said.
“Let us pray that he may continue to heal us, inside and out,” Archbishop Keleher said.