By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
LEAWOOD, Kan. — It’s one powerful sacrament, Bishop James V. Johnston told the congregation of a few hundred.
Sometimes the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick helps restore physical health. But it always brings the spiritual grace of joining physical suffering with the choice of Jesus Christ himself to endure it and conquer death, he said at the 20th annual Mass for the Anointing of the Sick.
“Go to Jesus,” Bishop Johnston said in his homily at the Mass, a joint project on the third Saturday of Lent of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas since 1997, and always held at the disabled friendly Cure of Ars Parish.
“Go to Jesus. That’s likely what they said frequently in Galilee. Those words are still good advice,” he said.
“We know God can heal and forgive. But we know God can do even more when we unite our agony with his love,” Bishop Johnston said.
The annual Mass is sponsored by the Order of Malta, a lay knighthood order that has served the church through its service to the ill for more than nine centuries. Each year the Mass attracts hundreds from both sides of the state line who receive Mass from the concelebrating bishops as well as priests from both dioceses.
It was first celebrated by the late Bishop Raymond J. Boland of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Kansas City, Kan. Archbishop Emeritus James P. Keleher in 1997as a way to draw attention to the importance of one of the church’s seven sacraments, but also as a sign of the growing unity between the two dioceses sharing a metropolitan area — a pledge both bishops made when they were installed in the two Kansas Cities on back to back days, Sept. 8-9, 1993.
Bishop Johnston, installed last November in the Missouri see, took another opportunity to tell a Year of Mercy congregation of the healing love of God’s mercy.
“Visiting the sick, consoling the sorrowful — these corporal and spiritual works of mercy are incorporated in the Sacrament of the Sick,” he said.
He recalled the day’s first reading from Job, who cried to the heavens for the answers to explain his suffering.
“This is the voice of humanity,” Bishop Johnston said. “It is our voice, or will likely be our voice at some point in our lives.”
The answer that Job was seeking is that there is no answer. “We don’t know the answer to the mystery of suffering,” Bishop Johnston said.
But we do know that God hears, he said.
“God is not indifferent to suffering. God is moved by our suffering,” Bishop Johnston said.
So moved was God that he took human form in his son, Jesus, to join us in our suffering, he said.
“This mercy of God is fully revealed in Jesus. He took on our suffering on himself in solidarity, to redeem it and offer it to our Father as atonement for our sins,” Bishop Johnston said.
“The mercy of God is not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality in Jesus,” he said.
“Jesus gives us the privilege of joining him in our suffering. Jesus gives us the privilege of joining him in the act of redemption,” he said.
“He transforms our suffering by his love. Our sufferings in Jesus are no longer meaningless. If united in him, they become an act of love that destroys evil and its effects, and we receive the grace to sustain us in our suffering,” Bishop Johnston said.
“In this Holy Eucharist and Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, let us go to Jesus to be fed, to be forgiven, to be strengthened,” he said.