God's chosen ones are called to prayer and works of mercy
by Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB
Photo Caption: This painting, The Transfiguration, by Raphael, depicts Jesus revealing Himself to Peter James and John to encourage them to continue on the path He set for them. ( wikipedia.org )
This is an excerpt from a homily given at Holy Rosary Cathedral March 12 as part of the rite of election.
Dear catechumens and candidates for full communion with the Catholic Church,
Today the wider Christian community welcomes you in this Rite of Election when you will sign the Book of the Elect, which indicates your decision to submit your life to the lordship of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
God calls you each by name. He knows and loves you intimately. By signing your name in the book you are giving a personal response to a personal invitation.
Until you are baptized at the Easter vigil you will be called “the elect,” from the Latin word “choose.” You are “the chosen ones” because you have been chosen by God. He is claiming you as his very own and wants you from now on to live the Church’s full sacramental life.
You have listened to those who speak to you about Jesus and are guiding you to follow him as his disciples. So thank those witnesses – your godparents, sponsors, members of the RCIA team, pastors, and all others who have welcomed you along your way.
In the Gospel account of the Transfiguration, Jesus takes us up to a high mountain, a place of God’s special closeness to his people. On that mountain Jesus showed himself to the three disciples; he was transfigured: who he really is as the eternal Son of God was revealed to Peter, James and John.
Jesus chose to give them a foretaste of his glory, which he will have after the Resurrection, in order to confirm them in faith and encourage them to follow him on the trying path, on the Way of the Cross.
He is filled with and surrounded by blinding light. “Jesus wants this light to illuminate their hearts when they pass through the thick darkness of his Passion and death, when the folly of the Cross becomes unbearable to them. God is light, and Jesus wishes to give his closest friends the experience of this light that dwells within him. It is this same light that upholds all of us in times of our own trials and darkness.
But something else occurs on the mountain. The voice of the Father speaks from above, proclaiming Jesus as his beloved Son, saying: “Listen to him” (Mt 17:5).
We, the followers and disciples of Jesus, are called to be a people who listen to his voice and take his words seriously. But to hear what Jesus is really saying, it is necessary to be close to him, to follow him, as the crowds in the Gospel did who walked the roads of Palestine.
I would like to draw two significant elements from this episode of the Transfiguration: going up or “ascent,” and coming down or “descent.” What does this mean for those of you who are preparing for entry into the Church?
First, you need to take the time every day to go up the mountain; that is, to find a place of silence, so as to hear the Lord’s voice: what is he saying to you? That is prayer. And it is very necessary if we want to get to know the Lord and what he wants of us.
Listen to him first of all in your heart. But also listen to Jesus in his written Word, in the Gospel. It is a good thing to have a copy of the Bible or the New Testament and to read a little passage from it every day.
There the voice of Jesus is speaking to you. In the words of Pope Francis, “Jesus’ word is the most nourishing food for the soul: it nourishes our souls, it nourishes our faith!” Hearing Jesus and letting his word enter our heart each day makes us stronger in faith.
Descent: Works of Mercy
But we cannot remain there – alone! The encounter with God in prayer moves us again to go down from the mountain and return below, to the noise and turmoil of the plain, where we meet our brothers and sisters who are burdened by sickness, injustice, loneliness, ignorance, material and spiritual poverty. Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “The Christian life consists in continuously scaling the mountain to meet God and then coming back down, bearing the love and strength drawn from him, so as to serve our brothers and sisters with God’s own love.”
We are called to bring to these brothers and sisters who are enduring hardships the fruits of our experience with God, sharing the grace we have received.