The answer to the challenges of life
Once again, it’s a blessing to have our catechumens and candidates and their sponsors together this afternoon in the mother church of our diocese, this beautiful cathedral, to conduct the Rite of Election and Ongoing Conversion, marking the beginning of the final stage of preparation as you seek to join us as a fully initiated member of the church, celebrating life in Christ.
Jesus, we are told in the Gospel today, was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.
I have a lot of different memories going way back into my childhood about the season of Lent. It definitely was, Lent was an important time of the year in our family. I remember going to Stations of the Cross, soup suppers, and confession more often. I can remember of course giving something up for Lent — no meat on Fridays, fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and giving up snacks between meals, candy, or desserts. And I can also remember that those small sacrifices always brought on temptations. Without fail as soon as we give something up, we want it more than ever. I remember cheeseburgers being kind of captivating on the Fridays of Lent for some reason. I’m not even that big a fan of cheeseburgers, but it was a Friday during Lent, and it was forbidden fruit so to speak.
When we give something up, we’re going to want it more than ever and that experience of temptation because of our sacrifices during Lent, is a hallmark of the Lenten season. Certainly formally so of this first Sunday of Lent in both the first reading and the Gospel. Then of course Saint Paul’s beautiful reflection in the second reading from Romans, the comments on those two great texts of the Bible — the fall from grace, the temptation of our first parents Adam and Eve, and Christ’s victory over temptation in the desert.
During the season of Lent, our Catholic way of life intentionally has us engaged with temptation. Why? Like the immunizations we received as a child or the flu shot we may receive every fall as we enter into winter, the season of Lent introduces, or reintroduces to us a little bit of something that will come along later in a much stronger form so that we can be ready to fight it off. Giving up things during Lent teaches us how to overcome temptation with God’s help, making us spiritually strong enough to know how to overcome temptation when it comes around in a much more serious form.
And just to review, you might remember temptation has three different sources. It comes from these three things. All of our temptations come from the fallen world, that aspect of the world that rejects God and attempts us to live for ourselves. To seek pleasure and wealth and honor and power. The world fallen, tilted away from the Lord, tries to lead us away from him as well. So that’s the first source of our temptations.
The second is the flesh, meaning fallen human nature. Our passions often conflict with what is right and just after original sin when we experience an inordinate pleasure or even self-love.
The third source of temptation is the devil, the evil one, who’s featured so prominently in the readings on this First Sunday of Lent. The devil’s temptations we experience as a voice within us seductively suggesting lies to us. “You’re not good enough. You’ll never be good enough. She’s not worthy of forgiveness. You can’t trust God.”
Suggesting to us falsehoods so that we can internalize them over time and be led astray. This is a whispering voice that’s more personal than the temptations of the world or the flesh and certainly deploys as much as those other sources of temptation as possible as well.
On this First Sunday of Lent, we see what is at stake in the battle against temptation. We see our first parents Adam and Eve, tempted by the devil, fall to his temptations. The serpent tempts them with a lie, and they eat from the true tree of the knowledge of good and evil and all hell breaks loose. Real damage is done to human nature and to the world. But we also have as an antidote our passage from Matthew where Jesus is tempted by the devil in the desert after forty days of fasting and prayer. His temptations are to satisfy his physical hunger, to show off his divine powers, and to selfishly grab for worldly power. Jesus, the new Adam, resists temptation and the devil leaves. A very dramatically different outcome than the temptations of our first parents.
You and I need to battle with temptation. God allows it in our lives so that our “yes” to him can be strong and complete. And we have much more help in battling with temptation then sometimes we realize. You see those of us who have been, have been baptized into Christ and anointed with the Holy Spirit in confirmation and been given the great privilege of receiving the Lord — body, blood, soul, and divinity — in the great mystery of the altar. That means that as we battle with temptation, Jesus is in us and with us and for us. We now live in him. That’s the reality that our catechumens and our candidates for full communion are yearning for. The Lord of course is watching over you as you battle with temptation as well. But there’s nothing like the grace of the Sacraments of Initiation in our walk of living in Christ and making our pilgrimage through this world with all of its challenges. It is exciting for the church to hold out to you catechumens and candidates, this reality of living in Jesus Christ.
The Lenten season reminds those of us who have been living this life for a while, of the great gifts we have received and puts our attention back on the Lord so that we do not simply think about our own resources but seek to live more completely, always in him. We as initiated members of the church are part of his body now. As such we are one with him, who chose to be tempted and who by his divine power overcame the tempter and his false promises. Jesus’ victory over temptation in today’s Gospel is for us. In Jesus Christ we can, by God’s grace, leave the old Adam behind and become truly a new creation.
And so, my prayers for you catechumens and candidates as you enter this final stage of preparation, to join us in this life in Christ. My challenge to all of you already initiated, to remember which you have received and to live out of that reality but now we live in Christ, and he lives in us.
The answer to the challenges of life is really more Jesus. Jesus himself is the answer but in our daily walk to say “yes” to him more completely each day. We are so excited for our candidates and catechumens that this reality can be yours. Today in a very special way I pray that God’s protection is given to you as you make this final preparation, and that we all might say “yes” to Christ more completely during these Lenten days and that much more formally at the great Easter Vigil that awaits us after this season where we remember the grace of baptism, the grace of the Holy Spirit sealing us in confirmation, and the wonder of receiving Jesus in the mystery of the altar.
Rite of Election — Affirming the intent to join the Catholic Church
“At the beginning of Lent, which is the time of the proximate preparation for the sacraments of initiation, the election or enrollment of names is celebrated. In this rite, the church hears the testimony of the godparents and catechists. After the catechumens reaffirm their intention, the church passes judgment on their state of preparation and states whether they may go on to the Easter sacraments.” (The Rite of Election, 1978, ICEL)
When an adult chooses to join the Catholic Church, they begin a program can the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Those participating in RCIA spend time in prayer, discernment, and reflection while being introduced to all aspects of Catholic teaching, beliefs, and practices. According to Father Leo Hausmann, vicar general for the diocese, there are formal rites and stages to the RCIA process – the pre-catechumenate, followed by the catechumenate. The Rite of Election marks the final phase of preparation to receive the sacraments of initiation (baptism, first communion, and confirmation) usually at the Easter Vigil.
“The Rite of Election is important to mark the beginning of a new phase called the Period of Purification and Enlightenment and the catechumens are now called ‘the elect’ or ‘the illuminandi,” he explained. “The Rite of Election closes the period of the catechumenate.”
On February 26, at 3 p.m., Bishop Peter Muhich, will celebrate the Rite of Election at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help with catechumens present from many parishes throughout the diocese symbolizing the unity Catholics have to their bishop and the Universal Church.
“Participating in the Rite of Election at the Cathedral was so powerful to me,” said Amy Julian, who became a full member of the Catholic in 2001. “Seeing all those people from all those parishes, who were making the choice to come into the Catholic Church, it dawned on me that I was a part of something that was so much bigger than I had realized.”
Following the homily, a delegate from each parish responsible for the initiation of the catechumens presents the elect to the bishop and those in attendance. The catechumens inscribe their names in the Book of the Elect at the cathedral, affirming their intention to join the church. The church, then in turn, “elects” these catechumens to receive the sacraments of initiation.
The Rite of Election will also include the Call to Continuing Conversion for persons who are called candidates in the RCIA process. Candidates are those who have been baptized in other Christian traditions and now seek to become members of the Catholic Church. Candidates may also include baptized Catholics who had no instruction in the faith and are now preparing for Eucharist and confirmation.
“It is important for us to support the catechumens and candidates by praying for them as individuals and as their local parish,” said Father Hausmann. “A card or word of encouragement is also appreciated by these catechumens and candidates since this is an involved process at which they have been working hard. Share with them your joy that they will be joining the parish family and share with them your personal story of why the Catholic Church is important in your life.”
The Mass will be live streamed to the diocesan website and the diocesan Facebook page (facebook.com/DioceseofRapidCity).