Homily from the Rite of Election, Sunday, March 13, 2011
For many of you, this is the first time that you have been to this cathedral for a liturgy. This is my first time, too, the first time that I have been in the main part of the Cathedral for a celebration. I am a bit unsure of the layout of this place. This is also the first time that I have ever celebrated the rite of election as a bishop so if I make a mistake, please forgive me. All of this is going to take some getting used to but I’m sure over time and through many future celebrations it will all become very familiar to me. Ritual bears repetition. As we participate in something over and over again, it becomes familiar to us and we are soon free from having to worry about what comes next. Ritual frees us to be able to plug ourselves into the deeper meaning of what it happening. So, as time goes on, by participating in the ritual celebration of the Church’s sacraments and becoming more and more familiar with the rites of the church, we are able to easily move into the deeper reality of prayer, worship, and an encounter with the real presence of Jesus Christ.
Catechumens and candidates, at the end of this season of Lent you will be invited to join us in our faith and share in the full celebration of our worship life. Many of you already attend Sunday Mass with your family or friends. Many of you have been to a Catholic funeral or wedding. Many of you have probably spent more time in church than many who bear the name Catholic. But after you are baptized or make a profession of faith in the Catholic Church and are confirmed, you will participate for the first time in the sacrifice of the Mass and the reception of the Eucharist. You will celebrate the first of what will be many celebrations of the Eucharist. Soon, it will become very familiar to you and as it does so, Christ will become more familiar to you as you become what it is you receive, the Body of Christ. All of us here in this cathedral rejoice with you and for you.
To the Catechumens, yours is a full journey of conversion from unbelief to belief. You have received the good news, the gospel. You know, in the ancient world, the “good news” or in the Greek, the “euangoulion,” was in its original sense an announcement by the king or the emperor that war was over. Runners would be sent to the far reaches of the empire or kingdom and they would announce the good news that the king was victorious over his enemies. So when at the very beginning of Mark’s Gospel, we read, “The beginning of the gospel (the euangoulion) of Jesus Christ (the Son of God)” we are, in effect, hearing the announcement of Christ’s victory, His victory over sin and death, the victory of good over evil. Catechumens, you have heard the good news and have responded to this announcement by saying, “yes,” to it, “yes,” I want to share in that victory, “yes,” I want to align myself and configure myself to that victory in the person of Christ, “yes,” in baptism, I want to die with him in the tomb of the waters and rise with him in the rebirth of faith. In these final few weeks, I invite you to ponder Christ’s victory and its meaning for all of creation and the newness of life that awaits you.
To the candidates for full reception into the Catholic faith, my fellow Christians, in the past you have heard the “good news” announced with a different voice than that of the Catholic Church. You have heard many good words of encouragement and Christian faith within your families, friends, and other churches and faith communities. But now you have heard a different voice announcing the good news, the voice of the Church, and in a few weeks, you will make a profession of faith and join the Roman Catholic Church. You will be anointed in the sacrament of Confirmation and participate at the Eucharistic table where you will receive the resurrected and glorified Body of Christ, substance, soul, and divinity. You, as will the catechumens, will become members of the Church, founded by Christ, maintained through apostolic succession, lead by the pope, the successor of Peter himself and we are glad for you and for the Church. You will enrich us with your presence,
My brothers and sisters in this cathedral who already bear the name of Christ as Roman Catholics, pray with me and Archbishop Beuchlein over these final weeks of preparation for these catechumens and candidates. They are already our brothers and sisters in our shared humanity. They will soon be our brothers and sisters in our shared faith. To those of you who have been and continue to be their teachers and guides on the path to faith, thank you for all that you do and know of our prayers for you as well. And finally, to the catechumens and candidates, keep up the good work of the good news. May God who has begun his good work in you bring it to conclusion.