By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — They are doing God’s work when they work for justice for their clients.
But they are also called to promote God’s love through compassion and mercy, Abbot James R. Albers told the members of the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Kansas City Oct. 30.
Gathered at the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park, the Catholic attorneys from both sides of the state line attended the annual Red Mass for members of their profession, celebrated by Kansas City, Kan., Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and concelebrated by Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn and the abbot.
Delivering the homily, Abbot James spoke of how appropriate the Gospel reading of the Parable of the Good Samaritan was for the Red Mass.
“In the commissioning we have received, we are called into not only a relationship with God, but a relationship with our fellow man, and at times this results in the difficult task of loving those who are difficult to love,” Abbot James said.
“In our Gospel, the Lord tells us that he does not want us to love every now and then,” he said. “He wants us to love him completely, and doing so by loving others, and in fact he goes so far as to offer us the image of the Samaritan who ministered to the man who fell victim to robbers.”
In that parable, Jesus is giving the message to “Love me by loving your neighbors, your family, your colleagues, your clients. Love me by loving the most defenseless and vulnerable. Love me by loving those who have no one to defend them, and love me by loving your adversaries.”
“We cannot love God if we are holding a grudge with someone,” Abbot James said.
“We cannot love God if we attempt a selfish love. We cannot claim that we love someone when we’re in fact just using another person to satisfy our own needs,” he said.
“The only love that God knows is sacrificial love,” Abbot James said.
Love of God and love of neighbor are inseparable, the abbot said, and the “widest possible meaning” must be given to “neighbor.”
“Christ’s definition of neighbor goes beyond our families and neighborhoods, also including our enemies, our opponents, our rivals, those sitting on the other side of the aisle,” Abbot James said.
“And the definition extends even wider. He includes those we have not met and do not know, and maybe do not want to know,” he said.
“He includes people at the farthest corners of the globe, people outside our area of comfort, people whose culture and way of life are quite alien to us, caring for the modern day equivalents of widows and orphans, the defenseless and the endangered, the lonely and the brave —those who protect so valiantly our freedoms,” Abbot James said.
“Jesus’ definition of neighbor is challenging us to serve not only those whom we think deserve our help, but also those who need our help,” the abbot said.
“He includes the prisoner, the drug addict, the homeless, the criminal,” Abbot James said.
“Among our neighbors are the unborn, the elderly in care homes, the disabled, the mentally ill, and those with severe learning disabilities,” he said.
“Among our neighbors are those with whom we disagree ideologically, politically, within the scope of faith, and intellectually,” he said. “God includes those who are at timesvery difficult to love.”
But serving others is only part of love, Abbot James said.
“We are also called to lead them into God’s grace,” he said.
“We must not offer compassion that fails to bring those we seek to help into a conversion toward the truth and mercy of God,” the abbot said.
“We must share the relationship we have with God, not compromising the gift of his mercy and truth,” he said.
“It is the truth of faith, hope and love. It is the truth where all our actions are focused on God. It is the truth that helps us to freely do his will. It is the truth that allows us to fathom God and to speak to him. It is the truth that gives us the courage to turn away from our sins toward the mercy of God,” Abbot James said.
“It will be nourished in our personal prayer, and ultimately our life in Christ will be the fruit of our relationship with his bride, the church, from which we receive the very gift of himself in the Eucharist,” the abbot said.
“It is in this Eucharist that we find the communion we search for and desire,” he said.
“And so we ask the Lord in this Eucharist to send his spirit upon you as you strive, as we all strive, to live that intertwining of faith and our work by loving the Lord with all our heart, mind and soul, and our neighbor as ourselves,” Abbot James said.
At the end of the Mass, attorney Chris Kopecky presented the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Kansas City’s highest honor, the St. Thomas More Award, to Bill Quatman, senior vice president and general counsel of the engineering firm of Burns & McDonnell.
In addition to a double career as an attorney and architect, Quatman has also served the church and is known internationally for his work in preserving Christian shrines in and around the ancient city of Ephesus, including the modest home that tradition holds was the last earthly home of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
Quatman also served on the diocesan tribunal that promoted the sainthood cause of Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey, born of a wealthy family who served the poor as a Sister of Charity in Turkey, and was responsible for the re-discovery of Mary’s home in the late 19th Century.
Quatman’s grandfather, George B. Quatman, established the foundation to preserve the shrine, and Bill Quatman and his family have expanded that work to include such sites as the Apostle John’s Basilica and Tomb; the Church of Mary, site of the Council of Ephesus; the Cave of the Seven Sleepers; the tomb of St. Luke; the Cave of St. Paul, and several churches in Turkey.