I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
What does 560 + 60 + 2000 yield? It is the equation of blessing. On Sunday, March 5, during the Rite of Election, I had the privilege to witness 560 individuals, from 60 parishes and missions throughout the nine counties of the Diocese of Orlando joined by 2000 family and friends, who elected to become Catholic at the Easter Vigil on April 15. These catechumens, the unbaptized who are preparing to become Catholic, are participating in a journey of generations before them – the journey of encounter with Jesus in his public ministry on earth, accompanying him through His Passion and Death, coming to understand Real Presence through the Eucharist and profound gratitude for the Triumph of the Cross, everlasting life. This is not a journey chosen for them; this is a journey on which they chose to embark, with courage of the Holy Spirit and steadfast in their ‘yes’ to the Lord’s call, “Come follow me.” They are blessed and are our blessing.
“Election” as we use this term, is not like a governmental election where there is a vote. As we read in Genesis 12, I will make of you a great nation, “election” refers to the idea of “the chosen people.” In Israel’s early history, God chose a people and established a covenant with them. Christians believe that God continues to choose people, now through the covenant of Baptism. The Rite of Election thus establishes the names of those who will enter the new covenant through the Sacraments of Initiation.
The Elect are not alone in this journey. We accompany them as the community of faith, already chosen people by virtue of our Baptism. In our accompaniment, we pray with them, assist in their formation, and join with them on the Easter Vigil as they become members of the body of Christ, the community of faith through the Sacrament of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion. I encourage you to learn the names of The Elect in your parish or mission and make their name great through prayer, just as God promised the people of Israel.
What I also see in this equation is the beauty of the gift of each one of you who have invited The Elect to follow Jesus. You may not remember the invitation; it might have been an act of kindness extended to someone, a mark of faith upon his/her spirit. You may have invited a friend to Mass because they were visiting you at your home. It could have been a casual conversation or your daily living as a prayer to God. However the invitation, it is inspiring to realize 560 individuals listened and acted because of your witness, your evangelization.
Pope Francis says of evangelization, “to evangelize is not only to convince, it’s to give witness that Jesus Christ is alive. And how do I give you this witness? With your flesh, with your life. If your heart is burning from love for Jesus Christ, you are a good evangelizer.”
Recently, I blessed a baseball field at Bishop Moore Catholic High School and it was dedicated as the Joe Skinner Field in memory of this young man who died of leukemia. Joe Skinner was a good evangelizer. His greatest throw was his faithfulness in God to those he met. His best catch was the people of God. But Joe’s evangelization didn’t just happen. It was formed by his parents and family, blossomed through the gift of the Sacraments, and nurtured through a Catholic school environment.
Mr. Henry Fortier, Superintendent of Catholic Schools and Ms. Latrina Peters-Gipson, Principal of St. Andrew Catholic School, brought forth the light of Christ to people throughout the country as they participated in a round table discussion with President Donald Trump about the blessing of Catholic education. Good evangelizers.
The Elect, Joe Skinner, Henry Fortier, Latrina Peters-Gipson,You. Beloved. God calls us to a holy life, not according to our works, but according to His design. During this Lenten season, may we seek to live as God calls us that we may be named beloved.