By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — “Every life matters.”
That’s the essence of the Gospel that Jesus entrusted to his priests to give to his people, Bishop Robert W. Finn told hundreds of people, including nearly every priest serving in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, gathered at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for the annual Chrism Mass March 26.
Just before blessing the three oils — Oil of the Catechumens, Oil of the Sick and Oil of the Chrism — that will be used in sacraments and rites during the next year throughout the dioces, and just before leading the priests in a renewal of vows, Bishop Finn reminded the priests and congregation that the church must always love as Jesus did and not bend to a “cynical and dismissive world.”
“The response of some people to being challenged with the truth might be at times to attack and lash out,” he said.
“If someone is hurt, even when there is a real injustice, the human reaction may be to punish and condemn,” he said. “Forgiveness is not often or readily our response to hurt.”
But forgiveness and healing is the way of Jesus, he said.
“Jesus Christ, ‘Christos’ Anointed One, calls, forgives, heals, renews,” Bishop Finn said.
“This is the Good news entrusted to his priests. Like Christ, the spirit of the Lord is upon us, to bring relief to the poor, liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed,” he said, citing Luke 4: 18.
“We can add: the healing of racism, welcome and assistance to immigrants, the conviction that every life matters. This is the Gospel, the Good News of salvation. And this is our work,” Bishop Finn said.
Bishop Finn rejoiced that nine new priests will be ordained before the next summer has barely begun with the Holy Chrism consecrated that night.
Seven of them, Deacons Bryan Amthor, Joshua Bartlett, Ryan Koster, Gabriel Lickteig, Jorge Andres Moreno, Luis Felipe Suarez and Curt Vogel, will be ordained on May 23.
Two more, Deacons Alex Kreidler and Andrew Mattingly who are finishing the seminary studies in Rome, will be ordained on June 27.
But Bishop Finn that thousands more will be baptized, confirmed, and receive the Anointing of the Sick with the oils, and churches will be consecrated with it.
“Days like this sometimes cause us to wonder how it is that God called us,” Bishop Finn told the priests.
“Why did he call me? Why did he consecrate us out of so many? Were we more perfect and holy?” he said.
The priests already know the answer, Bishop Finn said.
“We know all too well our own weaknesses and unworthiness,” he said. “But God did choose. The church confirmed the call and in an act of faith — perhaps a leap of faith — we came forward.”
But their day of ordination was a beginning of a lifelong commitment to God, his church and his people, Bishop Finn said.
“Ennobled with so great a trust, you and I, my brothers, must determine each and every day to live in greater conformity to the sacraments, the signs of salvation, that are ours to offer,” he said.
“We must be more faithful, more obedient, more pure, more humble, more charitable — ever more priests, ministers of God,” Bishop Finn said.
The world hungers for Christ, the bishop said.
“Brothers, they come to us and they want to see Christ!” Bishop Finn said.
“We will bring them to Jesus, and also we must help them know Jesus Christ in us,” he said. “How extraordinary that we would be ‘alter Christus,’ other Christ, or as one modern said says, we must be ‘ipse Christus,’ Christ himself. For this we are anointed, marked out, consecrated, ordained. How odd of God to choose us.”
But that lifelong commitment requires nothing less than a lifetime of dedication to Jesus.
“Clearly we ourselves must know him, must strive to know him,” Bishop Finn said.
“Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. Is he the beginning and ending of my whole and entire life? Does my work begin always in him and find its completion only in him?” he asked.
“We are priests of the world, but we must be ministers and cooperators in grace, supernatural grace,” he said.
“We cannot see and think only as the world sees and things. We are not just doers of good deeds, but priests and ministers of the New Covenant,” Bishop Finn said.
By worldly measures, the job is impossible.
“How well we know that we cannot solve the human challenges that face us and our people these days. Rather, often all we can do is accompany our people in caring love. We can help them persevere, to live with a supernatural outlook,” Bishop Finn said.
“We cannot change and fix all past hurts, but we can live on the side of hope,” he said.
“We operate by reason of our vocation in the realm of renewal. We have a deep and profound truth to share: That Jesus is resurrection and new life,” he said.
“Jesus knows and points out sin and evil. He calls us most soberly to repentance, to a change of heart, a change of habits, and he restores that which without him, we could never hope to recover,” Bishop Finn said.
Bishop Finn also expressed his gratitude, during this Year of Consecrated Life, for the women religious and the priests of religious orders who serve the diocese.
“I ask you to live with the zeal and dedication of your founding charisms,” he said. “Let the sign of your consecration be obvious to all you encounter. Let your community life be a model of the live and love of the Most Holy Trinity.
“Teach the truth with the unwavering faithfulness to the church’s teachings. Put Christ first. Do this and you will be giving a great gift to the church and the world,” Bishop Finn said.
Bishop Finn also noted that this year, the celebration of the Chrism Mass fell just the day after the Feast of the Annunciation.
“God could have saved us, I suppose, in many ways,” he said.
“But he chose to be born of Mary. He made Mary necessary to his saving plan. Mary’s ‘Yes,’ to God, her humility, purity, obedience, her love brought Jesus to the world,” Bishop Finn said.
“Mary, Mother of God, Mother of the Church, Mother of priests, pray for us. With St. Joseph, watch over our diocese,” he prayed.