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Bishop LaValley’s homily for the Rite of Election 2011 held March 6 at St. Mary’s Cathedral
We begin our Lenten season with the familiar Gospel story of Christ’s journey into the desert, a pilgrimage He makes to prepare Himself for His public life and ministry. 

A review of the history of our Church quickly indicates that pilgrimages are part and parcel of our journeys of faith.  Fatima, Lourdes, Rome, Medjugorje, and the Holy Land have long been special prayer destinations for the faithful.  Each year our Diocesan Serra Club leads us on a special pilgrimage for Church vocations.  Every summer the Knights of Columbus lead a beautiful pilgrimage to St. Anne’s Shrine in Isle La Motte, Vermont.  Many of our families are pilgrims who make regular visits to St. Joseph’s Oratory and St. Anne d’Beaupre. 
We know that there is a difference between a tour and a pilgrimage: a tour is for vacation, seeing new lands and getting to know new cultures, enjoying new foods and, for the most part, a time for rest and relaxation.  A pilgrimage, on the other hand, is for the spiritual life, for getting in touch with God and with oneself through a more focused prayer experience.

As we listen to this story of Jesus in the desert we recall that the desert has always held a certain mystique for the Jews.  It symbolized a closeness to God and a certain distance from worldly affairs.  Prophets spent considerable time in the desert.  Elijah went on a pilgrimage to the desert when he was discouraged. Amos went and wanted to stay.  Isaiah trekked to the desert to prepare for a visit from God.  John the Baptist came out of the desert to announce to the world that Christ has arrived.It is interesting to note that all the events, miracles, cures, and works in the life of Christ take place publicly, where people are present and where people can pass on the events for the Scripture writers to record.  But for these forty days, however, Christ is alone in the desert.  We can presume that He told His disciples of the temptations He encountered while in the desert for the specific reason that the lesson is an important one.

Simply put: Jesus’ temptations in the desert remind us that life is a trial and that a whole host of temptations (all based on one of the three faced by Jesus) are vying for our attention each and every day.It is within this desert experience of Lent where we can become more aware of our own sinfulness and personal weakness in overcoming temptations that threaten our total trust in God.

Our 2011 Lenten desert pilgrimages can help us identify our hungers that yield to temptations that distance us from God.

As we reflect on our relationship with God this Lent, Jesus challenges you and me to address our deepest hungers and greater needs. What does the heart really hunger for?  It’s certainly not bread.  It hungers for the food that doesn’t perish—the very Word of God.

The Word of God has the power to nourish us.  It nourishes us with the bread of meaning, the bread of hope, and above all the bread of love.  I hope that you are able to take advantage of your parish’s Lenten Longings program where that hunger for the Word can be nourished as you study and pray over St. Matthew’s Gospel. 
We are so grateful that each of you present this afternoon is seeking to satisfy your hunger for something that will more than fill your belly.  It will nourish your soul.  Each of you, coming from a different walk of life and from a different part of our North Country, has responded to the Lord’s call to nourish your whole self from the Table of the Word and the Table of the Eucharist, as members of the One Body of Christ.  God has chosen, has elected you to come forward and you have so generously responded to that invitation.

This is truly a blessed day for the entire Church of Ogdensburg.  Lent has begun with much promise for us.  Historically, this time has been set aside by the Church for your preparation for the Easter sacraments.  With the guidance of your parish’s RCIA team and staff, please make these forty days of pilgrimage of faith a privileged time of personal encounter with the God who has loved you into existence.

Thank you for coming to your Cathedral Church this afternoon to be counted among the Elect.  Your presence here brings joy to all of us.  I pray that you find nourishment for your thirst and hunger for God each time you join your faith family in prayer and worship.  Let us continue to be formed by a loving God Who desires that we place our total trust in Him. May God be praised…forever may God be praised.

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