On Saturday 29 February, a delegation from our Sint-Kwinten’s community went to Mechelen with Denise Bosman, who will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation on Pentecost Sunday. Joining Denise were her friend Jeroen, her sponsor, Katrien, and Fr. Bosco, John, Henri, Annemie, and Conrad as representatives of our community and as her supporters.
We were warmly welcomed at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center by Kristl Van Cleemput, assistant for catechesis, and Bishop Koen Vanhoutte, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels for the Vicariate of Flemish Brabant and Mechelen. We also met the eight catechumens and the other candidate for adult confirmation and their supporters.
After a round of introductions, during which the catechumens and candidates briefly articulated why they were seeking to be baptized and/or confirmed, the bishop gave a beautiful and inspiring catechism lesson, sketching a common thread in the life and message of Jesus, who with his newness continues to challenge and captivate people.
The bishop traversed the life of Jesus, stopping here and there to reflect on the events that left a deep and lasting impression on Jesus and his contemporaries.
After the quiet early years of his life, Jesus meets John the Baptist and, despite being without sin, joins the queue of those seeking redemption and is baptized. This extraordinary moment marks Jesus for the rest of his short life. A message is communicated here that had never been communicated before in history: “This is my Son, my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.”
But immediately follows the forty days in the desert, with the temptations of power, prestige, possession. Three times Jesus is put to the test by the seducer, but he clings firmly to the Word of God. For us too there are moments of temptation. Can we say ‘no’ during those moments, saying ‘yes’ only to the Word of the Father?
Then Jesus steps out of the silence of the desert, announcing: “the Kingdom of God is near. Yes, it is already here.” Suddenly the ancient promises are fulfilled: Jesus himself is the expression of the nearness of God in human existence. The sick are healed, those suffering from leprosy cleansed, the dead brought back to life. Jesus brings renewal. People are filled with wonder, and Jesus receives adulation nearly everywhere.
Still, here and there, some Jewish leaders begin to grumble: what about the Law and traditions? For Jesus, the Law remains essential. He even claims that he wants to live it more radically, but always from the loving heart of God.
Jesus proclaims scandalous Good News: Do not believe those who say that you, as a sinner, are abandoned by God. No one is excluded from the joy brought by Jesus. The Father loves and constantly renews all of his children. He never tires of forgiving their sins and welcoming them home. But Jesus has to come to terms with the fact that his message is not welcomed by all. This means that the Kingdom of God will not break out immediately. It will take time, it will take a long time, and calls for immense patience and trust.
Halfway through the Gospel there is a radical turn: some Jewish leaders want to silence Jesus, if necessary kill him. Jesus now spends more time apart with his disciples. The chosen one is about to become the outcast.
Jesus asks his disciples: “Who am I for you?” And he resolutely makes his way to Jerusalem. Three of his disciples are witnesses to the transfiguration on the mountain, where Jesus appears radiant as light, and the words of his baptism resound: “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” This is a time of confirmation, of encouragement for what is to come.
Then the anguish begins. On Holy Thursday, Jesus makes the meaning of his life clear in two gestures, the washing of the disciples’ feet and the Last Supper: serving, breaking, sharing, giving. This is also our vocation. On Good Friday, Jesus experiences what every human being goes through at the moment of dying, feeling lost and left alone: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Yet, in his suffering, Jesus makes the ultimate act of trust. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” The Father’s love is stronger than death. He confirms his Son: the Easter of the Lord!
At the end of the catechism lesson, each of the candidates received as a gift from Bishop Vanhoutte his just published book: “Op Adem komen”. It is a book for everyone who would like to learn to view God’s work through his Spirit.
We then all enjoyed a delicious lunch together, after which we departed with the words: “See you tomorrow in the cathedral for the Eucharistic celebration with the Rite of Election.”