Today, we celebrated the Rite of Election at St. Mary’s Cathedral for catechumens and candidates from several parishes in the Diocese of Cheyenne. It was so good to have people from Gillette, Casper, Glenrock, Wheatland, Laramie, Cheyenne and other places. The homily for the Mass is below.
God often touches our hearts in surprising ways. I recently read a story about Pope Francis that describes how God surprised him with grace as a teenager. He was almost 17 years old and was walking to meet his girlfriend and other friends from school. As he walked past a church where he often prayed, he felt inspired to go inside and something amazing happened. He said,
“I saw a priest walking. I didn’t know him; he wasn’t one of the parish priests. And he sat down in one of the confessionals. I don’t quite know what happened next, I felt like someone grabbed me from inside and took me to the confessional. Obviously I told him my sins, I confessed . . . but I don’t know what happened. . . . Right there I knew I had to be a priest; I was totally certain. Instead of going out with the others, I went back home because I was overwhelmed. Afterward I carried on at school and with everything, but knowing now where I was headed.”
How often God touches us to draw us into a relationship. Over the years, how has God touched your heart? That question is not only for catechumens and candidates. It’s for everybody – all of you who are Christians, the leaders of RCIA, godparents and sponsors, deacons and priests. How has God taken the initiative to befriend you? How has he chosen you?
It happens in so many different ways. While out in the beauty of nature, we are filled with awe. We realize how awesome God is as the Creator of such magnificence. In my early twenties, I liked to ride my horse to the State Park five miles south of our ranch. The Little Moreau River carved deep ravines into the land. It was a picturesque area where I experienced God in nature.
God is constantly speaking to us in the beauty of nature, through forgiveness, by putting the right person in our path to help us in time of need. How has God taken the initiative to befriend you? How has he chosen you?
That is why you are here today. It is not so much that you have decided to enter RCIA or be a sponsor, but that God has touched your heart. Believe me, I would not be in the Diocese of Cheyenne unless God had chosen me. I’m not only saying that he chose me to be a priest or a bishop. I mean that he chose me to be a disciple. God initiated a relationship with me and kept nurturing it every day. God has guided my life, blessed me with forgiveness, protected me from death and spoke to me through the Scriptures. I am here because God chose me to be in a relationship with him.
The reading from the book of Deuteronomy describes God’s relationship with the Jewish people. This is the oldest and most important summary of Israel’s faith journey. It is an early Jewish Creed.
“My father was a refugee Aramean who went down to Egypt with a small household and lived there as a resident alien…. When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us, imposing harsh servitude upon us, we cried to the LORD, the God of our ancestors, and the LORD heard our cry and saw our affliction, our toil and our oppression. Then the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and outstretched arm, with terrifying power, with signs and wonders, and brought us to this place, and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Dt. 26:5-9)
That passage describes the gratuitous initiative of God toward the Israelites. This is why they refer to themselves as the Chosen people. Whenever we come to Church we should be aware of how God has blessed us personally, but also we need to be aware of God’s blessings to us as a whole people. The Israelites recited that creed as a testimony of how God chose them as a people.
We have inherited their witness of faith, and we add the great events of Jesus’ life. With today’s gospel we can say, “Jesus defeated Satan in the desert.” (Lk. 4:1-13). His triumph over the devil in the desert was a sign of his total victory over sin and evil at the crucifixion. As a people, we are no longer trapped in sin or controlled by evil.
First, think of all the graced moments in your life that led you here today. In every one of those are moments God chose you. Second, remember the biblical events where God chose his people – at the Red Sea, in desert when Jesus defeated the devil, at the Cross as he poured out his life, at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit infused the hearts of his disciples. In all those saving events, he chose us as his own.
The directions for the Rite of Election state this: “This step is called election because the acceptance made by the Church is founded on the election by God, in whose name the Church acts” (RCIA, #119). Our prayer is founded on the election of God. We are here today, to celebrate that God chose you – all of you, not only the catechumens and candidates, but every single person of faith. I will say: “Those who are chosen in Christ, come forward, together with your godparents.” (p. 67, RCIA) Then each person is called by name because God calls us by name. He establishes a personal relationship with each one of us.
The main attitude for us today should be a spirit of thanksgiving. Being thankful for God’s constant blessings. Thank God, then follow the final instructions from Moses in Deuteronomy. He told the Israelites to recite the creed of all the ways God helped them, then to say, “Therefore, I now have brought you the first-fruits of the products of the soil which you, O Lord, have given me.’ And having set them before the Lord, your God, you shall bow in his presence”(Dt. 26:9-10)
After you have remembered all the ways God has guided his people over thousands of years, place your basket of first-fruits before the altar and kneel in his presence. That is what we do in the Eucharistic Prayer. We bring up gifts of bread and wine as symbols of all God’s blessings. Then we kneel in thanksgiving and awe.