Rite of Election – February 18, 2024 

A few weeks ago, I was at a meeting in Saint Louis, Missouri, on the campus of Saint Louis University.  One afternoon, as I was walking back to the hotel where I was staying, I approached a bakery that I had noticed earlier in the day.  A poor soul was sitting in the cold on a bench in front of the establishment. From the looks of him, he was likely homeless.  As I continued to walk in his direction, the door of the bakery opened and another poor man walked out into the cold, clutching a paper bag.  He headed immediately to his friend seated on the bench and carefully pulled out a large cookie that he placed in his friend’s hand.  By this time, I was just a few feet away from the two men.  As I passed them by, I couldn’t help but turn around to notice that only after he was certain that his friend had something to eat did the second man sit down on the bench and pull out of the paper bag another cookie for himself.

While this entire encounter took only seconds, I won’t soon forget it.  Although they weren’t the only street people that I saw during those couple of days that I was in Saint Louis, these two souls, weighed down by the cold and their apparent lack of resources, touched me deeply.  

It was pretty obvious that the two men were the recipients of the shopkeeper’s kindness.   But what struck me most was the demeanor of both men.  One man simply waited to see if the two would be fortunate enough to receive any baked goods that day.  And the other chose to take care of his friend first, sharing what he had received before taking care of himself.

Maybe I’m making too much of this simple encounter of two poor souls.  But for me, what I was privileged to experience was a holy exchange.  I didn’t do anything, but I felt that God was present – not only providing his poor with food through the generosity of others, but also in the selfless sharing that took place between two men who clearly cared for each other.  God was present, caring for these souls and calling them, in some mysterious way, to something more.

My friends, God speaks to us in so many different ways, doesn’t he?  In unexpected events like what I just described, in the beauty of creation, in the many lives that are woven into our own, in the words of sacred scripture and particularly in the sacraments of our Church, God is continually present, speaking to our hearts and calling us to his life. 

And God is present here today in your life and in mine.  He’s speaking to the deepest recesses of our spirits reminding us that yes, we are all given the opportunity to enter into his life and love.  While we might not be able to wrap our arms around the ocean, we can enter it, can’t we?  Just so, while none of us can comprehend the mystery of God, we can enter into it and so find our peace. 

God is calling us to journey with him into the unknown – to forge with him a deeper and more intimate relationship of trust and love – and, in turn, to proclaim that relationship through the love and service of the lives that he gives to our care.

My sisters and brothers, and especially you, our catechumens and candidates, don’t discount for an instant the power of this moment in your lives.  Jesus is speaking to you today, inviting you to a relationship with him – calling you by name to follow him.  He is inviting you to walk a path that leads to a life of meaning, purpose and peace.  He is saying, through his invitation, that your life – with all its struggles and joys, with all its blessings and challenges – has a unique place and role to play within his plan. 

It’s possible that you see logic in the events along your journey that have brought you to this place today.  But it’s just as possible – like the two poor souls I talked about a moment ago – that you can’t quite understand how or why God called you to this moment.  Yet here you are!   …  And amid such thoughts and questions, we hear the words of Jesus: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.” 

The scriptures are filled with reminders of how God has worked in creation, always engaging a people, calling them to himself, working in and through the events of their lives, never giving up on his creation – ever faithful, ever present. 

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, God places his hand on your shoulders today and chooses you to participate in his Kingdom.  Through the touch of your godparents and through the affirmation of the Church, 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 call by his Father in Heaven – and immediately goes forth to proclaim the Kingdom of God.

 The journey that you begin today will undoubtedly have its challenges.  Jesus faced them and so will you.  The cost of discipleship can be great.  Yet, one thing is certain.  The journey will lead you to discover meaning, hope and life if you trust deeply in God’s plan for you – and if you serve generously, making the pattern of Jesus’ life your own.

My sisters and brothers who desire baptism – who seek full communion – we, the Church, pray with and for you and, above all, thank God for your presence among us.  …  Your “yes” to the Lord’s call this day reminds us that we are all responsible to lead lives rooted in the life and mission of Jesus.  …  Your presence here today is also a powerful reminder of just how much we need each other.  Yes, God is calling you, just as he called me.  But he is calling us to walk together within the Church – the community of believers – his body on earth. 

May each of us give thanks to God this day for the gift of Jesus and his saving grace.  …  May you, our candidates for full communion, 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 in our midst, boldly proclaim your faith in Jesus as you inscribe your names in the Book of the Elect and take you place with all 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.