The Rites of Election that we celebrated at our cathedral church and at St. Catherine in Ithaca at the beginning of Lent were, as they always are, experiences of grace and joy.
People assembled with a lively sense of faith. Our catechumens experience a deepening desire to be joined to the dying and rising of Christ, and to his body, the church, through the sacrament of baptism. The candidates, already baptized and open to God’s word in their lives, seek full communion with us.
For the rest of us gathered with them — spouses, family, pastors and pastoral leaders, sponsors, friends, bishop — their enthusiasm and openness are beautiful gifts. They are always a reminder and an invitation to a renewed awareness of the treasure of faith we have been given. Their presence and ardor also remind us that we no less than they have the privilege and duty to prepare for the gift of deeper life in the Easter feast.
The Rites of Election always lead me to an appreciation of the bonds of faith and charity that unite us. The congregations at the Rites of Election are filled with people who have influenced each other in mighty and deep ways. Catechumens and candidates have no trouble responding when I ask them before the celebration, "What led you along this path?" or "Who most influenced you in your choice to be here today?"
Inevitably they respond in these or similar ways, "My grandmother has prayed for years that I would find faith" or "I always have admired the work of the parish on behalf of the poor. They made me curious to know what was behind that" or "My fiance’s faith inspired me to explore an attraction to the faith for a long time."
That kind of influence and inspiration goes both ways. I couldnít tell you how often or in how many ways sponsors, pastoral ministers, family and friends speak of how our candidates and catechumens inspire them. Those preparing for the sacraments of initiation help the rest of us look at the sacraments in a new light, to appreciate what treasures they are in our lives. They remind us of the importance of prayer, and often inspire us to give higher priority to that important part of the Christian life. And I think that they also help us to see and appreciate more deeply the daily and loving service of our faith communities to sisters and brothers in need.
During the remaining weeks of Lent these catechumens and candidates will continue to pray and study in preparation for their full initiation at the Easter Vigil. I encourage you, in the words of the Rites of Election, to hold them in your prayer and affection as we continue our journey with them.
In addition to that, I invite you to remember and to pray for during this holy season those who in God’s plan have helped you to grow in your faith and to become the person you are today. Lastly I encourage you to include in your prayer and affection those in your life who rightly look to you for support, encouragement and understanding. This kind of awareness helps us to be grateful for gifts received and to be alert to ways in which we can freely share with others the gifts with which God so graciously has endowed us.
We donít live the Christian life in isolation, dear friends. We thank our catechumens and candidates for their reminder that God calls us to do all we can to strengthen the bonds of faith and charity that identify us as disciples of the Lord.
Peace to all.