Rite of Election – March 6, 2022
A month or so ago following a Mass that I celebrated in one of our parishes, a woman approached me as she was leaving church and asked if I had a moment to talk with her. I did and was both surprised and blessed by what she shared.
“Bishop,” she began, “a year ago this coming Easter, I was received into the Catholic Church. You remember what life was like a year ago, don’t you? After a frightening year confronted by the coronavirus, we were finally starting to see some light at the end of long, dark tunnel. Vaccinations were just being made available to those who wanted them. And at long last, we were starting to feel comfortable coming together in Church, at meetings and in public settings. But some of my family wondered if it was the best thing for me to get involved in our parish’s RCIA program, given all the concerns that we were facing. They wondered if it would be safe to gather in the cathedral for the Rite of Election.”
“Do you know something, Bishop? None of those things mattered. It took me years to decide if I should become a Catholic. And once the pandemic hit, nothing was going to stop me from taking that step. I thought that if we can’t fix the problems that our world is facing, I want God on my side. And I have never been happier or more at peace than I have been since I entered the Church. Please tell those who come together for the Rite of Election that I will be praying for them to see this as the best decision they will ever make in their lives.” … Pretty powerful words, don’t you think?
The same invitation – the same call from the Lord – that prompted that woman to assess the precariousness of life as seen through the lens of a once-in-a-century pandemic and to say “yes” to Jesus is addressed to each of us in our cathedral this afternoon – and especially to you, our catechumens and candidates for full communion in the Church.
This invitation is all the more compelling, given not only the challenging experiences that we’ve faced these past two years – but particularly what we’ve all witnessed over the past two weeks. The senseless, brutal attack by Russia upon the innocent people of Ukraine – fraught with suffering, death and destruction – remind us that for as capable as we may be in charting the course of our lives, we are not in control. Our lives and our well-being are ultimately in God’s hands – the same God who calls each of us this day to be converted, to trust and to discover the true and lasting source of our life and peace.
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!
That’s how God works! The scriptures are filled with reminders of how God has woven himself into his creation, engaging a people, working in and through unlikely individuals and events – never giving up – always faithful.
In today’s Gospel passage from Saint Luke, we hear of Jesus’ temptation by Satan in the desert. Implicit in this Gospel passage is the story of Jesus’ own life determining choices. Jesus confronts the temptations posed – says “Yes” to the call by his Father in Heaven – and goes forth to proclaim the Kingdom of God.
My sisters and brothers who desire baptism and who seek full communion – today, as your name is spoken and your name is written in the Book of the Elect, say “Yes” as God calls you forth to walk with him in faith. … In so doing, know that you do not walk alone. God is not only calling you – but all of us – to open our hearts to his life and love. Your presence here today, in the midst of so many challenges that have enveloped our lives, is a vital reminder to all of us of the power of faith and the reality of God working mightily in our world.
Undoubtedly, as it was for Jesus, the journey that you begin today will have its challenges. Yet, one thing is certain. Your election this day to become a part of the Church – to call yourself a Catholic Christian – does not merely result in membership in an association that seeks to promote a certain cause. To the contrary, it is a reason to celebrate. As Pope Francis has said so often, being a Christian leads to “joy … the joy of faith, the joy of having encountered Jesus, the joy that only Jesus gives us, the joy that gives peace.”
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 you 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.