Bishop: Be like Jesus, don’t shun the leper

Bishop Carl A. Kemme delivers his homily at the White Mass for health care professionals Sunday, Oct. 9, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita. (Advance photo)

Bishop Carl A. Kemme said Jesus’ embrace and healing of the lepers in the Gospel story was a guide for those attending the White Mass Sunday morning, Oct. 9, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita.

“What Jesus did that day for those ten lepers was nothing short of extraordinary,” the bishop said. “First, they were Samaritans, foreigners, but not just foreigners to Jews, those who were despised by Jews. A self-respecting Jew would have ignored these kinds of people, but Jesus saw them as human beings in need and he took pity on them – which they begged for.”

The sick make us uncomfortable

The sick, like lepers, may frighten or make us uncomfortable, Bishop Kemme said.

“We might even blame them for being sick, for not taking better care of themselves or being more cautious about life so as to avoid physical illness,” he said. “But Jesus never did this. He was often found with the sick. If he wasn’t teaching or instructing the apostles and the people about the Gospel or in prayer, he was busy touching the sick, interacting with them, and healing them.”

Not only should we be mindful of the sick, the bishop said, we should pray for them.

Pray for the sick, visit the elderly

“Do we pray for the sick in our daily prayers, especially if we know someone who is ill? How readily do we visit someone in the hospital or nursing home? These visits are like medicine for their hearts and souls. This is how we can support the healing arts of those who offer their service as a profession – especially those who do so under the watchful care and guidance of the church.”

The White Mass invokes God’s blessings on physicians, healthcare workers, and medical school students. It is so named because of the white coats worn by healthcare professionals. (A Blue Mass for first responders and a Red Mass for those in the legal profession were celebrated in September at the Cathedral.)

Bishop Kemme opened his homily by asking the Lord, through the intercession of St. Luke, evangelist and physician, to bless all health care professionals as they “undertake the critical service of being the Lord’s healing hands in the world today.”
The Diocese of Wichita is blessed to have Ascension Via Christi serving the diocese with its hospitals in Wichita and Pittsburg, he said.

Bishop thanks the health workers

“In the name of the entire diocese, I thank all who labor and serve in Ascension Via Christi Health System here in Kansas for their dedication to offering health care with respect and consideration to all the teachings of the Catholic Church regarding the inherent dignity of every human person. I applaud Ascension Via Christi as well for their extraordinary service to the poor of our communities, who are served in our hospitals as a gesture of solidarity and charity. Thank you to the leadership of Ascension for this commitment.”

Bishop Kemme briefly spoke about St. Gianna Molla (1922-1962), a wife, mother, physician, and devout Catholic who always served the sick in view of the teachings of the church.

“During the pregnancy of her last child, she developed a condition in her uterus that rendered her in exceeding physical danger if she brought the baby to full term,” the bishop said. “She was advised to obtain an abortion, which she refused. The child was delivered by Caesarian in good health, but shortly afterward Gianna died. She literally gave her life for her baby, who today is alive and well, herself a doctor promoting the values of life around the world.”

Pope John Paul II canonized Gianna Berreta Molla in 2004.

Bishop Kemme closed his homily by urging healthcare workers to continue in their careers of healing not driven by profit or the demands of the secular culture or deterred by irrational fear or hesitancy to be with those who are ill, “but inspired by Jesus himself, a great friend and servant of the sick, reaching out our hands, our hearts, our life saving and improving medical techniques and procedures that acknowledge the dignity of the human person to bring about in their healing and wholeness.”

We give thanks to the Divine Physician who healed us and made us whole from the spiritual leprosy of sinfulness, he said.
The White Mass was celebrated with the cooperation of the St. Gianna Guild and Ascension Via Christi.