Rite of Election – February 21, 2021 

A year ago from these very days, we were just beginning to get a sense of what the coronavirus was, let alone the impact that it would quickly have in our lives.  Look where we’ve been in the last twelve months.  It’s been a challenging time, to say the least.

For all that we’ve experienced in the past year, for me, one of the most powerful images of hope that I can recall came on the evening of Friday, March 27th, on the threshold of the Fifth Sunday of Lent.  Perhaps some of you remember Pope Francis walking alone into an empty, rain slicked Saint Peter’s Square for an extraordinary time of prayer and blessing people of Rome and of the entire world.  Reflecting upon the passage from Saint Mark’s Gospel that found the disciples in a boat that was being tossed about by an intense storm and Jesus, asleep, with them in the boat, Pope Francis recounted the words of our Savior to his frightened followers, “‘Why are you afraid?  Have you no faith?’”  The Holy Father continued, “Lord, you are calling us to faith.  Which is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you.  Your call reverberates urgently: ‘Be converted!’, ‘Return to me with all your heart.’”

Brothers and sisters, this day, the Lord extends the same invitation to us: “Be converted!”  “Return to me with all your heart.”

This invitation is even more compelling, given the countless number of challenging experiences with which we’ve been faced during the past year.  Many of us have known physical and emotional pain, loneliness and, for some, the grief that comes from the loss of those we love.  All of us have come to realize that for as capable as we may be in charting the course of our lives, we are not in control.  That power belongs to God – who calls each of us to be converted, to trust and to discover the true and lasting source of our life and well-being.

My sisters and brothers, and especially you, our catechumens and candidates, today Jesus is calling you to such a relationship.  He’s inviting you to walk a path with him that ultimately will lead you to a life of meaning, purpose and peace.  He is saying, through his invitation, that your life – with all of its struggles and joys, with all of its blessings and challenges – has a unique place and role to play within his plan.  He’s sharing with you the same words that he shared with his disciples on the very night before he died, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.”

It’s possible that you have been able to see the hand of God at work in your lives for many years, ultimately bringing you to this moment.  But it’s just as likely – and perhaps even more so – that you can’t quite understand how or why God called you.  Yet, here you are!   …  And in the midst of such thoughts and questions, we hear the words of Jesus again: “You have not chosen me.  I have chosen you.”

That’s how God so often works!  The scriptures are filled with reminders of how God has woven himself into his creation, always engaging a people, working in and through unlikely individuals and events – never giving up – always faithful – ever present.  Before the world began, the scriptures tell us, God first chose the people of Israel to be his own.  Then, through Jesus, God chose a people to have a share in his Son’s life, death and resurrection and so to engage his mission for the sake of our world.

And today, my friends, you are called by God.  Your name will be spoken.  Your name will be heard.  And your name will be written in the Book of the Elect.  My dear catechumens and candidates, as he has done since the beginning of creation, God places his hand on your shoulders today and chooses you to participate in his Kingdom.  Through your godparents and through the affirmation of the Church gathered around you in this sacred cathedral, God calls you forth to walk with him in faith.  …  The initiative is God’s.  The response is yours.

In today’s Gospel passage from Saint Mark, we hear of Jesus’ temptation by Satan in the desert.  Implicit in this brief Gospel passage is the story of Jesus’ own life determining choices.  Jesus confronts the temptations posed – says “Yes” to to the call by his Father in Heaven – and immediately goes forth to proclaim the Kingdom of God.

My sisters and brothers who desire baptism and who seek full communion – say “Yes” to the Lord’s call!  …  In so doing, know that you do not walk alone.  God is calling you – and all of us – into the Church, the community of believers – his body on earth.  Your presence here today, in the midst of so many challenges that have resulted from the pandemic that has enveloped our lives, is a vital reminder to all of us of the power of faith and the reality of God working mightily – even and especially in the midst of a most unlikely time in our history.

May each of us, in whatever place along the journey of faith we find ourselves, give thanks to God for the gift of Jesus and his saving grace.  …  May you, our candidates for full communion in the Church, open your hearts to the Holy Spirit and to the power of Jesus who will fill your life through the Eucharist.  …  And may you, the Elect among us, boldly proclaim your faith in Jesus as you inscribe your names in the Book of the Elect and take your place with all of your sisters and brothers – young and old – rich and poor – saints and sinners … who have been called by God and chosen as his own this day.