Continuing conversion: God isn’t done with usBy: Bishop Edward M. Rice
Rites of Election
I offer a special thanks to our priests, catechists, and directors of our parish RCIA programs for their work in sharing the faith. I recently spent two special afternoons celebrating the annual Rites of Election: one on Feb. 18 in St. Agnes Cathedral, Springfield, and the other in St. Mary Cathedral on Feb. 25. Most of our parishes gather at these two events to present to me those who seek to be baptized in the Church at Easter as well as those who have been baptized in another Christian faith but who seek full communion with the Catholic Church at Easter through the Sacraments of Initiation.
“Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?” That is the opening verse of a song that I’ve come to really enjoy entitled, “The Summons,” a Scottish Christian hymn written by John L. Bell and Graham Maule. The song basically outlines the consequences of responding to the Lord’s call. The words of the song remind us that when we respond to God’s call our life will never be the same. We will end up doing things we never thought we would do. The Lord’s call will take us to places we would otherwise never go if left to ourselves.
“Will you come and follow me and never be the same?” “Will you leave yourself behind if I call your name?” This is the beginning of discipleship. And make no mistake: when we say yes and respond to the Lord’s invitation, there will be consequences.
This was true in the life of the fishermen from Galilee whom Christ first called, Peter, James, and John, and it was true for all the apostles. They left their nets and their families and all that was familiar to them to become fishers of men. The call of Christ Jesus had consequences in their lives. As our Lord extended his invitation to come and follow him, he challenged each one of them to walk in his footsteps, pick up the cross daily, and do as he does. The Rites of Election witness to us that Christ continues to call people to a life of faith, prayer, and service.
As “The Summons” continues, the words remind us that when we do respond to the call of Christ, we will help the blind to see, set prisoners free, and even kiss the leper clean. By following Christ, we will reshape the world around us and build up the kingdom of God: we will never be the same.
Jesus invites us to a new way of living that involves embracing the cross and risking the rejection of the world. It is a call to love in action which liberates others. It is a summons, also, to self-discovery and to the faith within each one of us that for some has been hidden and dormant until now.
The song ends with a prayer for strength to follow and “never be the same.”
“Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name/Let me turn and follow you and never be the same/In Your company I’ll go where Your love and footsteps show/Thus I’ll move and live and grow in you and you in me.”
Universal call to conversion
The call of Christ, the call to conversion, is what brought all of us together the afternoons of the Rites of Election. It’s a call that’s been issued throughout the centuries. The call Christ issues to both those who will be baptized, our catechumens, now the “Elect,” and those Candidates that are already baptized who seek full communion in the Church through a Profession of Faith and the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist is the same call of continuing conversion He issues to each of us. Along with them every one of us—whether a recent convert or a lifelong Catholic—is being summoned to something bigger, something better, something greater than ourselves through Christ Jesus.
Along with the Elect and the Candidates who are answering the Lord’s call to join us at the Eucharistic table this Easter, may the good Lord continue to draw all people to Himself in faith and repentance. May we walk untiringly in His newness of life.
As many of you are aware, our Catholic school elementary and high school students and all youth in our Parish School of Religion (PSR) and Confirmation preparation initiatives are participating in a special Lenten project to raise funds to build one micro-home for a chronically disabled homeless man or woman. So far we have raised over $7,000! This is a great start toward our goal in the first few weeks of Lent. Keep up the good work. My report on our efforts to combat homelessness is a good time for me to encourage all of us to be strong and faithful in your prayer, fasting, and works of mercy this Lenten Season. As always, I am privileged to remember each of you in my prayers.