My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
As we begin the Season of Lent, the First Sunday of Lent is traditionally the time when we celebrate the Rite of Election, which is the ceremony for those who are to be baptized or to complete their sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil. All of these candidates are brought together to the Bishop and are charged with their final preparation for Easter in their baptism or completion of the sacraments of initiation.
On Sunday, March 1, the Rite of Election for adults took place with great participation from all over the Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens. Truly, this is one of the highlights of the year. This year, we have 112 parishes that are participating, which is a little more than half of the parishes who conduct the program of Christian Initiation. In all three cycles of the Liturgical Year, on the First Sunday of Lent, the Gospels narrate the temptations of Christ. How important it is that during Lent we understand the reality of temptation, temptations that come from our weakness, from others, and the spirit of evil himself.
Several years ago, I saw a survey which was done regarding the temptations that people experience in today’s world. Men were tempted by sex more than twice as much as women. But women were tempted by food twice as much as men. Both were equally tempted by money. And there were surprising results for the temptation to alcohol and power. Men were more tempted by alcohol. Women, more than men, by power.
How important it is that we understand our tendencies, male and female. The First Reading for the day is from Genesis and speaks about the fall of Adam and Eve; man and woman both tempted in different ways by pride, trying to be like God and forsaking Paradise for a life that we all would have inherited. This is the result of that Original Sin that still we must fight against each day.
It is truly amazing that many people, especially young people, are seeking admittance to the Church through the completion of the sacraments of initiation. This shows that the Church is vibrant. On the other hand, we recognize that many people have forsaken the practice of faith, especially young people who do not see faith as part of their culture and necessity for them and their lives. Perhaps someday we will understand the different motivations of the same young people who embrace the faith more fully or those who abandon their faith.
The New Evangelization is just about this, to make sure that we reach out to those who have been baptized and are wavering in their faith, and equally work with those who are coming to faith and wish it to be a part of their life.
Lent is a time when we can pray together with those who are coming forward to Easter. We journey with them in prayer and solidarity, so that they may be accompanied by us during this Season of Lent. Our prayer, our fasting, our almsgiving all can be directed towards the support of these candidates and catechumens, as well as the general growth in the life of the Church.
It is truly sad that when at an Easter Vigil ceremony, there is no one to be baptized, confirmed, or receive their first Eucharist. This is the sign of a parish that is in the doldrums. As I said previously, only a little more than half of our parishes seem to send anyone to this worthy program. A few do the program on their own, however, it is a challenge that each parish must now be an evangelizing parish that reaches out to those who are seeking faith or those who have lost their faith.
During Lent, we truly put out into the deep recesses of our spiritual life. Lent allows us to reflect on how we are responding to the graces offered to us and how we resist the temptations which are part of everyone’s life. We join together this Lent in praying for those coming to newness of faith, that they may persevere and have the graces necessary to complete their commitment.
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