By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — As of mid-December, the diocese listed 28 young men in various stages of formation studying for the priesthood. All but one attended the annual Mass and Dinner for Seminarians hosted by the Serra Clubs of Kansas City, at St. Thomas More Church Dec. 19.
Nathan Rueb is in his second year of Theology at the Pontifical North American College in Rome and wasn’t able to make it back to Kansas City in time for the Mass and dinner.
The Mass was celebrated by Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr., and concelebrated by several area priests, including Fathers Steven Hansen and Daniel Gill and newly ordained Father Olvin Giron. They were assisted by Deacon Ralph Wehner and Reverend Mr. Jonathon Davis, who will be ordained a priest in the spring. Deacon Davis sang the Gospel.
In his homily, Bishop Johnston first spoke of doors, the Holy Door whose shutting six weeks ago marked the closing of the Jubilee Year of Mercy; doors by which we enter or leave a room or a building, and people chosen by God to be doors by which God enters the world.
The Advent season, he said, is about paying attention to the door. The door to God is the person of Jesus — Jesus is the door. “Jesus says he’s the door. In John 10:9, Jesus says, ‘I am the gate (the door). Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.’”
The bishop then harkened back to the readings for the day, Judges 13 and Luke 1: 5-25. In the Judges reading, the wife of Manoah, who is old and barren is told in a visit from an angel that she will conceive and bear a son. No razor is to touch his head as he is to be consecrated to God from the womb and is to be the beginning of the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines. The son she would have is Sampson, a preview to John the Baptist, who is heralded in Luke’s Gospel, as Zechariah is visited by the Angel Gabriel and told his wife Elizabeth would bear a son. When Zechariah asks for clarification, Gabriel tells him, and then makes him mute until after the boy is born because he questioned the angel’s prophecy. John the Baptist is the precursor to Jesus Christ. Both women are examples of people God chose to be his door into this world, the bishop said.
They have a lot in common; both point to another woman, he continued, another unlikely door, Mary, the mother of Our Lord. And Mary had something in common with them — no, she wasn’t old, but she was a virgin and, as such, there was no humanly, physical way she could conceive and bear a child. But the virgin conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit.
All these women possessed a certain poverty, they were poor, yes, that was part of it. But they all had a certain physical poverty: they could not conceive a child. They also shared great humility, total openness and trust in God in their poverty. They were all utterly in poverty before God. This is something God asks of all of us, Bishop Johnston reminded the congregation, seminarians, bishops, priests, deacons and all the faithful.
“Our Lord was born in poverty and humility,” he said, then suggested looking at other figures in the Gospel. “The princes of the Apostles, Peter and Paul, didn’t really get it when while they were at their high point — strong and confident. In fact, when they’re full of themselves they usually miss what Jesus is talking about. It’s only when they are humbled that they understand Jesus. Peter, especially, has to sort of fail and enter into a type of poverty, humility before the Lord, before he can, in a sense, receive him. The same thing is true for St. Paul. He has to be knocked off his high horse before he can hear the Lord. He has to experience a paralysis, a physical and spiritual paralysis, a blindness, a deprivation of his senses, before he can actually experience Christ. That’s the irony of it.
“That’s what happens to us too,” he continued, “so we should be attentive all the time to this quality that’s needed for Christian life, if we’re going to allow Jesus into our lives. That’s the door he chooses for all of us … the door of poverty and humility. Those are the doors he enters.”
In conclusion, Bishop Johnston said, “Jesus comes to us in weakness, weakness as a baby, and weakness on the cross. Take note.”
Following the Mass, new members of the Serra Club were inducted and then the congregation, priests and seminarians trooped down to More Hall for the Serran Seminarian Dinner. There were speeches, tributes, much laughter and talk. In addition to the seminarians, Father Giron, accompanied by his mother and brothers and his host family, the Gallegos, attended.
A good time was had by all.