As Bishop Kemme visits our parish this weekend, I would like to reflect with you on the significance of his visit in light of the Church’s understanding per the Code of Canon Law (the Catholic Church’s collection of norms organizing and providing for us as the People of God) and this Sunday’s 1st reading from the Book of Exodus 17:3-7. Bishop Kemme is making his five-year (quinquennial—see canon 396 of the Code of Canon Law) pastoral visit to the Church of the Blessed Sacrament. He comes to our house just as God commanded Moses in the first reading to “Go over there in front of the people.” Moreover, the priests of the parish are to be present with the Bishop this weekend just as God told Moses to stand “with some of the elders of Israel” as God provided for the Israelite’s thirst. Ya, it’s not a weekend off.
The Code of Canon Law contains an entire section on the role of the Bishop in his Diocese—canons 381-430. While in canon law school in Washington, D.C., we spent nearly a month of class learning about the office of Diocesan Bishop, namely, his rights and duties in light of pastoral service to the People of God. In regards to the care of souls, one canon (norm or law) is especially important relative to the success or failure of the Bishop’s ministry. Canon 387 of the Code requires the bishop to be “an example of holiness in charity, humility, and simplicity of life, he is to strive to promote in every way the holiness of the Christian faithful according to the proper vocation of each.” This leads us back to the ministry of Moses and another similarity with the office of Diocesan Bishop. Moses was a man of humility. Numbers 12:3 states “Now the man Moses was very humble, more than anyone else on earth.” If you have been to the Cathedral here in Wichita, you know that Bishop Kemme has a chair (cathedra) in the sanctuary of the church. The inscription above the chair contains his episcopal motto, humilitas, which is Latin for, you guessed it, “humility.”
Moses was charged on behalf of God with serving the people in their need. The people were thirsty. We know that Moses worked a powerful miracle with the aid of a staff. God told Moses, “holding in your hand, as you go, the staff with which you struck the river. . . Strike the rock, and the water will flow for the people to drink.” You will notice that Bishop Kemme will also be holding a staff in his hand. As he celebrates Mass, the staff represents the sacred power and jurisdiction that he has been given to shepherd the people of the Diocese of Wichita. Just as Moses was given sacred power to quench the thirst of the “grumbling” people, so the Bishop has been given a sacred power to direct us to that water which quenches not the body but the soul. This water is spoken of in today’s Gospel of the Samaritan woman, as Jesus tells her “whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst.”
God could have worked the miracle for the Israelites without the intervention of Moses. One Divine thought and rivers of fresh water would have appeared. However, God did not act in this manner. He worked through his servant Moses. Similarly, God could have provided for the spiritual needs of Christians in many ways, but he chose a distinct way through the sacrament of Holy Orders, the fullness of which is received by the Diocesan Bishop. In light of God’s saving and loving plan, we give thanks for Bishop Kemme and this special visit to our parish. May we find our thirsty souls quenched through his sacred ministry.
Ad majorem Dei gloriam,
Rev. John F. Jirak