By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — The weekend of March 3 – 4 was an important one in the Diocese of Kansas City- St. Joseph. A smiling Bishop James V. Johnston Jr., gazed around the Cathedral, noting the numerous catechumens — men, women, boys and girls, who would shortly climb the steps to the sanctuary and sign the Book of Enrollment, declaring their intention to be baptized Catholic during the Easter Vigil. Almost the same number of men and women, having already been baptized Christians, as candidates will enter into full communion with the church during the Vigil.
In his homily, Bishop Johnston reminded the catechumens and candidates that the Rite of Election and Enrollment of Names marked an important moment. “You … are concluding the lengthy time of formation of mind and heart and now you will begin the more intense preparation for the sacraments of initiation.”
In fact, during the three Rite of Election celebrations, two at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception March 3 and one at the Cathedral of St. Joseph March 4, 167 catechumens signed the Book of Enrollment and 190 candidates, by their presence, declared their intention to complete their preparation to receive First Holy Communion and be confirmed. Each candidate was presented to the bishop, who greeted and spoke with them.
Baptism is celebrated at all ages, the bishop said, because of the size of God’s love, which is infinite. “God calls us all, at all ages and at different times, to enter into his household. We heard this in the first reading from Ezekiel, in which God promises to give us a new heart and his own spirit, thereby making us his own. He says this will come about when ‘I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you will be clean from all your uncleanesses … (Ezekiel 36:25).’”
He explained that God wants each of us to enter into this new life as soon as possible, which is why infants are welcomed. But God’s grace works later in life for many, so the Church has a special Rite of Initiation for adults and older children to prepare them for Baptism.
He also said that the candidates, those already baptized, would make a profession of faith and “then receive the fuller outpouring of the Holy spirit in Confirmation, and the Lord’s Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist.”
A fellow priest the bishop once lived with often commented that ‘everyone has a story,’ usually after opening the rectory door and listening to a homeless person, down on their luck, seeking money. “The reality is, however,” Bishop Johnston said, “every one of us does have a story. A story that is uniquely ours, a story we live by and through which we try to make sense of things.
“Sometimes the story is confusing and doesn’t make sense,” he continued. “Sometimes it’s confusing. Sometimes we don’t see it correctly. This is why meeting Jesus is so important. He is our light in the darkness. He says so in our Gospel reading today, ‘I came into the world as light, so that everyone whom believes in me might not remain in darkness. (John 12:44-50)’”
Jesus gives our story true meaning and purpose. Without him, we are groping in the darkness. Yet it is not so much that Jesus enters our story, but rather we enter his by way of the sacraments. They insert us into God and his very life.”
One young boy will soon be entering Christ’s story. Six-year old Fernando Corral-Morales will soon step into the light of Christ through Baptism during the Easter Vigil, at St. Sabina Church. Joining him in this celebration will be his mother Margarita Morales-Florez, as well as godparents Brett Briscoe and Diana Morales. His excitement was contagious. In a way, Fernando will be celebrating two birthdays one week apart: baptism, his birth in the light of Jesus Christ, followed by his 7th birthday.