This first Sunday of Lent begins a week of particular joy in our local church. In four ceremonies — two at Sacred Heart Cathedral one at St. Mary’s, Canandaigua, and the last at St. Mary’s, Elmira — we celebrate the Rite of Election.
At those rites women and men, girls and boys from all parts of the diocese are formally elected as candidates for the Sacrament of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. Some of our catechumens will be baptized at Easter. Others of our candidates already baptized will be received fully into the communion of the Catholic Church.
Whether they are catechumens or candidates, all of our friends at their election will be beginning an especially graced time in their journeys of faith. The church asks them — through their observance of Lent — to prepare in a special and deep way for their participation in the Easter mysteries.
To me that invitation has always seemed a difficult one, but — ultimately and always — a very gracious and life-giving one. I don’t find it easy to face my need for repentance. It’s all too real and deep within me. But, I believe and delight in the loving mercy shown to me by the Lord. As the Lord invites our catechumens to be transformed in the waters of baptism, so he invites us who share his life through baptism to be renewed in that life at the Easter celebration.
The classic ways in which the church calls us to observe Lent are through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. There seems to be a clear logic in all of that. The three call us to be mindful of our relationship with God (prayer), with neighbors (almsgiving) and ourselves (fasting). The thought is that through simple quiet, ordinary human acts we open our minds and hearts to right relationships with God and neighbor. We also come in touch with the needs and new possibilities that stir in all of us.
Let me encourage you on this first Sunday of Lent to be intentional, specific and practical in determining how you — in solidarity with our catechumens, candidates and all in our local church — decide how you will make your Lent a time of special preparation for the celebration of the Easter feast and the renewal it brings.
I asked you to be specific and practical in thinking about forms of Lenten observance. Let me conclude with some specific suggestions that might get your wheels spinning. You might consider:
* participating in your parish’s Lenten retreat
* extending a hand of welcome and friendship to a new neighbor
* reaching out to someone from whom you have felt estranged
* reading an article about children in poverty
* spending time with the Sunday readings in preparation for the liturgy
* saying the rosary once a week and/or teaching your children that prayer if they do not know it
* participating in Operation Rice Bowl
* becoming aware of and participating in your parish’s outreach activities
* reflecting on the difference between what you want and what you need
* sending a long-delayed letter of appreciation to someone who has somehow helped you
* visiting people at a nursing home near you
I look forward to praying with you during this holy time.
Peace to all.