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At the Rite of Election

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

March 4, 2015

Bishop Terry R. LaValley’s homily at the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion ceremony held March 1 at St. Mary’s Cathedral

One of the highlights of my pilgrimage to the Holy Land last Advent was our visit to Mt. Tabor, although, it was also among the scariest legs of the journey.  We couldn’t take our spacious tour bus up the Mountain of the Transfiguration because the road was so narrow and the turns sudden and sharp.  Instead, we had, I swear, a lunatic cab driver take us at breakneck speeds up the mount - sometimes it seemed on two wheels at the many hairpin turns.

I could understand, that if our driver were around during Jesus’ time, not even His dearest friends Peter, James and John would have had the courage to accept Jesus’ invitation to accompany Him up the mountain. 

Jesus was especially close to these three men.  I wonder: did He need their support and companionship on this particular occasion?  Did they accompany Him for His benefit or theirs or ours?

Peter, James and John saw with their eyes, for the briefest moment, what God requires of the eyes of faith.  What Christ offered them was the possibility of human transfiguration.  God asked them, as He asks us today to believe in human transformation.

The Transfiguration was not only God’s invitation to Peter, James and John to see literally what heaven was like.  It was, for them, God’s invitation to see momentarily what the kingdom of heaven on earth can be like for all who choose to believe in the transformation of humanity through faith.  

We are a people of hope, yes, even in the midst of such hatred, terror, poverty and suffering in our world today because, as a community of believers, we choose to believe in the transformation of humanity.  Genuine faith has that kind of power!

Each and every one gathered here today, fellow pilgrims all, know that a pilgrimage works best with companions to share the journey. Ours is a journey of hope shared. 

Dear candidates and catechumens, you have responded to the Lord’s call and embarked upon the journey of faith with fellow pilgrims from your parish family.  Your eyes and hearts of faith share the experience of responding to God’s invitation to follow Him up the mount of life. 

We know that many times Jesus went off by Himself to pray.  He even taught us that when we pray, we should go into our room and shut the door and pray to the Father in secret. 

On the other hand, Jesus, also emphasized the value of praying with others.  He said:  “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Mt.18:19-20)  Jesus Himself prayed publicly, often in synagogues or in the Temple.   

The greatest prayer we have is the Eucharist, when Jesus blessed bread and wine at the Last Supper and changed it into His Body and Blood.  Jesus told his apostles, indeed all of us:  “Do this in memory of Me.”
How could we ever do what He told us to do if we didn’t come together in prayer?  Jesus showed us and taught us that we should pray both in the privacy of our own hearts and that we should pray, worship, with one another.                

It seems today that many people have given up on communal prayer.  Many say they pray on their own.  This is good, but Jesus has shown us, by His example and teaching, the value of praying with others. 

Those who think they don’t need to go to “Church” to serve and worship God should know that the word “church” in Greek means “a gathering” or “an assembly.”  How can someone say I belong to this gathering or this assembly without ever gathering or assembling?

The Church teaches that we have a serious obligation as Catholic Christians to come together with Jesus on the Lord’s Day to pray together, to offer together to the Father the perfect sacrifice that Jesus gave us at the Last Supper. 

People sometimes say, “I don’t get anything out of going to Mass.”  The question could be asked, “Do we pray only to get something?”  Don’t we also pray in order to give something—to give God ourselves, our worship, our love?  When we seek to give something is often when we get something.

I know that Peter, James and John prayed with Jesus many other times, but this one time, something powerful happened.  If they hadn’t been with Him, they would never have had the experience.

St. Francis tells us: “It is in giving that we receive.” It is through the giving of ourselves that our transformation is possible.

Until such personal transformation takes place, until we possess the readiness to change, not just say the words, but have the will, our world will continue its indifference to God and religion. 

As we journey through life, let us be mindful that we do not walk alone.  We walk with a transfigured Jesus who will suffer and die.  We walk with a loving God for whom resurrection, and not suffering and death, is the final destination.  We are, after all, an Easter People! 

As Church, we walk with each other and follow Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  And, that, my friends can make all the difference in a troubled world.

What a day of blessing for the Diocese of Ogdensburg.  Lent has begun with much promise and hope.  With the continued guidance of your parish’s RCIA team and staff, please make these days of intense prayer a privileged time of personal encounter and shared joy with Jesus Christ.

Thank you for coming to our St. Mary’s Cathedral this afternoon to be counted among the elect.  Your presence this day brings such joy to all of us.  I pray that, as you continue your pilgrimage of faith, that you safely manage all the hairpin curves that you encounter on your journey with the assurance of God’s grace and the companionship of fellow travelers.  May God be praised…forever may God be praised!        

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