In the political arena these days many minds are focused on elections. Here in Alberta there is widespread anticipation of a Spring election, and news reports from our friends in the U.S. seem to concentrate on little else.
In the Church, an election far greater in import than any of these occurred yesterday. The First Sunday of Lent has for centuries been the occasion for what we call the Rite of Election. Men and women, young and old, after a long period of preparation, are chosen, or elected, to proceed to the Easter sacraments, through which they will become full members of the Church. This is election not to an office but to life in Christ! Envisioned is not a term but eternity. It is a choice made not by people at the ballot box but by God through the agency of the Church.
This past weekend, I had the joy of presiding over two celebrations of this Rite. What remains with me in image are the smiles. As people came forward to sign the Book of the Elect and afford me an opportunity to meet them, the grins on their faces were very broad indeed. The joy of being chosen by God; the delight of knowing that, in God’s eyes, they are willed, loved and necessary (to borrow words from the Holy Father’s first homily); the anticipation as they look toward their adoption as God’s children in Christ and full membership in the Church; the excitement that arises from finding their place in God’s saving plan; all of this was reflected in those smiles.
The joy also sprang from an awareness of victory, one very different from election night political conquest. With sobriety and realism, the Church, on every First Sunday of Lent, provides a passage from one of the synoptic Gospels recounting the temptations of Jesus by the devil. The Christian journey is marked by great struggle as we grapple with the reality of temptation, and our catechumens are reminded of this on the very occasion of their election. The Catechism explains that the very word “devil” comes from the Greek diabolos, i.e., one who “throws himself across” (cf. n. 2851). Satan seeks always to throw himself across the accomplishment of God’s plan, he seeks to get in the way, to thwart the divine purpose. His unsuccessful temptation of Jesus demonstrated just how powerless he is before the Lord. The victory belongs to Jesus. Indeed, “the Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” (1John 3:8). When we live in union with our Lord, we participate in his victory, we receive strength from him to resist any seductions of the evil one as he tries to throw himself across the accomplishment of God’s saving plan in our lives. Hence the joy, hence the smiles, of the elect.
May each of us this Lent be renewed in our joy at having been chosen to live in union with Christ.