On Sunday, February 18, I celebrated the Rite of Election at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. It was a joyous celebration for all of us and most especially for the 40 catechumens who will receive the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. Eighteen parishes participated in the Rite of Election. The homily I preached on that occasion is printed below.
Candidates awaiting full incorporation into the Church through the reception of Confirmation and Holy Eucharist at the Easter Vigil were received in their local parishes. During Lent, please join me in praying for our catechumens and candidates.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, welcome to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the Mother Church of the Diocese of Syracuse. What a wonderful sight, on this the First Sunday of Lent, to see our cathedral filled with men and women of deep faith.
Today is truly a blessed and joyful day in the life of the Church in our diocese. Our catechumens are in the final stage of their preparation to receive the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist at the Easter Vigil. Coming from the four corners of our diocese, they are here today to express publicly their desire to be one with us in celebrating the great mysteries of our faith.
My dear catechumens, the Rite of Election is a significant step for you. The word “election” as we use it in the Rite of Election is a literal translation of the Latin word “chosen.” Many beautiful scripture passages refer to God’s call and choice of His people and individuals. The Book of Deuteronomy speaks about God’s choice of Israel: “You are a people sacred to the Lord, your God; he has chosen you to be a people peculiarly his own. . . . He set his heart on you and chose you” (Dt 7:6-7). The prophet Isaiah says, “I have called you by name” (Is 45:4). Paul reminds the Ephesians, “God chose us in him before the world began, to be holy and blameless in his sight, to be full of love” (Eph 1:4). The Gospel of John notes God’s initiative: “It was not you who chose me, it was I who chose you” (Jn 15:16).
God has chosen you to share in His life and His mission. In a few moments, I will ask you, “Do you wish to enter fully into the life of the Church through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist?” You will answer, “We do.” This is your public and formal response to God’s invitation. Your response, however, cannot be a one-time “yes” to the divine initiative. As you enter fully into the life of the Church at the Easter Vigil, you will repeat your “yes” and in the days thereafter you must continue to respond to God’s call.
While the Rite of Election celebrates your call to baptism, the rite also reminds all of us of our call to live the grace of our baptism. Most of us here today were baptized as infants and do not remember our baptism. Our parents and godparents spoke for us on that day. As we grew older, however, we not only learned about our faith but we came to know Jesus in a personal way. The “yes” of faith marked the beginning of a wonderful relationship of friendship with the Lord which gave meaning to our lives.
During the final days of your journey to the Eater Vigil and the reception of the sacraments, know that you do not travel alone. You travel with the prayers and support of your family, sponsors and the entire community of faith spread throughout the seven counties of our diocese. Your journey reminds all of us of the gift of our baptism. Quoting Pope Francis: “What a grace it is when a Christian truly becomes a ‘Christopher,’ a ‘bearer of Christ’ in the world. If we would be faithful to our baptism, we would spread light and hope. We would pass on to future generations reasons for life” (General Audience, February 8, 2017).
Lent has a somber tone. The call to conversion is clear. The three traditional practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving call us to self-denial and sacrifice. “Repent and believe in the Gospel” is the path we are encouraged to embrace. Despite this subdued tone, Pope Francis encourages us “to take up the Lenten journey with enthusiasm. . . . If, at times, the flame of charity seems to die in our own hearts, know that this is never the case in the heart of God! He constantly gives us a chance of loving anew” (Lenten Message, 2018). Embracing the “chance of loving anew,” we keep our eyes “fixed on Jesus who for the sake of the joy that lay before him endured the cross” (Heb 12:2) for us. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13).
Dear catechumens, these are the final days of your preparation to receive the Sacraments of Initiation. May your hearts be filled with the joy of anticipation and confident hope. Know that God has chosen you, called you by name. He loves you. But know too that the journey of faith lasts a lifetime. We can never rest on our laurels so to speak. You — and all of us — are called daily to grow in our knowledge and love of Christ, to live our faith as worthy disciples, and to share our faith with others.
I pray that our Blessed Mother, under her title of the Immaculate Conception, our patroness, accompany you on your journey of life and faith. May she keep you in her maternal care and lead you ever closer to her son.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.