The first Sunday of Lent marks a unique period in the spiritual lives of catechumens – men and women who will receive the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. Annually on this day, the Church celebrates the Rite of Election, the solemn occasion on which those seeking to join the Catholic Church conclude their time as catechumens and begin their final period of intense spiritual preparation for Baptism, Holy Communion and Confirmation.
Bishop Ronald Gainer celebrated the Rite of Election for 54 catechumens, joined by their godparents, sponsors, catechists and families, on Feb. 21 at St. Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg.
In the solemn celebration, catechumens – those who have not yet been baptized – are declared as the Elect and the Church recognizes their desire to respond to God’s call to be his sons and daughters.
“The choice we celebrate today is not simply your act of the will to embrace the Catholic faith. We celebrate God’s choice of you, and your growing awareness, your increasing consciousness of that call,” Bishop Gainer addressed the catechumens in his homily. “You will be called Elect today because you respond to God’s election – the movement of His will toward you, choosing you and drawing you in this new direction in life.”
During the Rite of Election, a book containing the names of the Elect from each parish are presented to the bishop by the parish coordinator of adult education, who also reads the names aloud. The catechumens rise and stand with their godparents, who attest to their preparedness to receive the Sacraments of Initiation, and the catechumens are entrusted to their spiritual care of their godparents. In the act of Election, the bishop formally declares the catechumens to be members of the Elect to be initiated into the Church at the Easter Vigil.
This year, 54 men and women from 27 parishes were welcomed as the Elect.
In his homily, Bishop Gainer reflected on the day’s Gospel account (Mark 1:12-15) of Jesus’ temptation in the desert.
“The Gospel shows us that Our Lord’s temptations, and the temptations that you and I face, are opportunities to deepen our self-knowledge and to express our true identity by making the right moral choices,” the bishop said.
“Temptations always lure us to a false good. When temptations press us and push at us, we find out who we really are by how we respond,” he continued. “Jesus feels the deepest temptations from the Devil, who pushes him to get off-center, to be distracted from his true mission, to act independently from his father’s will. Instead, Jesus chose to let His Father’s love dominate, to let His Father’s will prevail.”
“This holy season of self-denial and spiritual growth is our yearly opportunity to put aside diversions and distractions and be brutally honest with ourselves about our identity as women and men who have already, or will soon, die with Christ and rise with Him to new life in baptism,” Bishop Gainer said. “By God’s gracious gift, this is our yearly opportunity to deepen our identity and express it with greater clarity and deeper zeal.”
“As we journey to Easter in joyful confidence, let us resolve to allow the Spirit to lead us into the depths of our own hearts, and allow the ‘yes’ of Christ to His Father to fill us and to resound in our every word, our every deed,” the bishop said. “Together, may we grow in understanding the riches hidden in Christ and live lives that witness to the salvation given to us in the Easter Mysteries.”
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness