By Tanya Connor
“It is not you who chose me; it is I, Jesus, who have chosen you.” Sunday, Feb. 14, Bishop McManus told people from around the diocese that Jesus is telling them this.
They are preparing to receive sacraments of initiation – baptism, Communion and/or confirmation – at the Easter Vigil, the Mass celebrated the night before Easter Sunday.
There are 251 of them from 41 parishes in the diocese and the College of the Holy Cross, according to Elizabeth A. Marcil, diocesan director of the Office of Religious Education. Of the 251, 136 are catechumens (people who have not been baptized, including 42 under age 14), and 115 are candidates (39 who were baptized non-Catholics seeking to become Catholics and 76 baptized Catholics seeking to complete their initiation). They are participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Part of that rite is the liturgy that is held at the cathedral with the bishop the first Sunday of Lent each year.
That liturgy is often called the Rite of Election. More formally it is called the Celebration of the Rite of Election of Catechumens and of the Call to Continuing Conversion of Candidates who seek to Complete their Christian Initiation. At that liturgy, the catechumens are called by name, by parish or college. They inscribe their names in the Book of the Elect and greet Bishop McManus, who declares them members of the elect. The candidates followed a similar process, without inscribing their names. Bishop McManus says the Act of Recognition over them and they greet him.
The bishop said in his homily Sunday that the Scripture reading from Genesis 2:7-9 and 3:1-7 explained how sin and death entered the world: Adam and Eve chose to become something they were not created to be. In the Gospel reading (Mt 4:1-11), the devil holds out to Jesus the possibility of becoming famous. But Jesus isn’t interested in that. He’s interested in doing God’s will, which involves going to the cross to give his life for the world. He is not seeking to be king, but Savior.
“Original sin changed our relationship with God,” Bishop McManus noted. Adam and Eve disobeyed God, but Jesus turned the tables by his obedience to God.
The bishop asked the catechumens and candidates what God was calling them to do with their lives, and gave his own answer. “It is always God who elects you and me for salvation,” unlike the political process, where people elect their leaders, he said. He told listeners God is telling them, “Repent and believe in the Gospel, that you may have abundant life.” “God will never force you to accept the invitation,” he said, adding that they are to accept it freely and joyfully.
“God bless you,” he concluded. “And welcome to his holy Church.”