By Don McClane
Noah must have seemed absurd to his neighbors, building a huge boat in the middle of a desert, said Fr. John Lanzrath in his homily at the Rite of Election Sunday, Feb. 22, at the Church of the Magdalen in Wichita.
“Imagine how Noah must have been ridiculed and mocked, jeered and laughed at by others,” he said. “Why did Noah build the ark? Because Noah listened to the voice of Yahweh. Those around Noah had forgotten Yahweh, had turned away from Yahweh, making themselves to be their own God.”
The 451 catechumens and candidates from throughout the Diocese of Wichita attending the Rite of Election were there because they, too, had listened to God and responded, he said.
“Today, you are called by name in the midst of the storm of chaos, sin, and disorder that surrounds us in this world to come onto a boat that we call the Catholic Church.”
Fr. Lanzrath, who presided at the event for Bishop Carl A. Kemme, mentioned another ark, the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the commandments given to Moses, and was the place of the Real Presence of God among his people.
He added that there is yet another boat in Catholic churches.
“The earliest Catholic Churches were built in such a way that the place where God’s people gathered for worship in the main aisle of the church was called the nave, coming from the Latin word, ‘naves,’ meaning boat.”
Fr. Lanzrath, who described himself as a cradle Catholic, declared that he stood in awe of the catechumens for choosing to board the ark of the Catholic faith, sometimes despite opposition and ridicule.
“Each of you remind those of us who are cradle Catholics of how blessed we are to be in the ark, the boat that we call the Catholic Church.”
The Rite of Election is one of the last major steps in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults before the catechumens, those who are not baptized, and candidates, those who are to be received in the church, participate in the Holy Saturday vigil to be fully received into the church.
The Rite of Election includes the enrollment of names of all those seeking baptism at the Easter Vigil. At the rite, the catechumens publicly express their desire for baptism to the diocesan bishop, their names are recorded in a book, and they are called “the elect.”
The full text of Fr. Lanzrath's homily is appended below.
Waiting for the Easter vigil
Over 450 catechumens, those who will be baptized, and candidates, those who will be received into the church, participated in a Rite of Election Sunday afternoon Feb. 22 at Church of the Magdalen in Wichita. Father John Lanzrath, vicar general of the Diocese of Wichita, presided at the event for Bishop Carl A. Kemme. At left, parish representatives carry in the parish Books of the Elect that were displayed on a table in front of the altar. Catechumens and candidates will be received into the church on Holy Saturday evening, April 4. (Photos by Justin Folger, Church of the Magdalen, and Travis Price, Holy Cross, Hutchinson.)
Fr. Lanzrath's homily
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Two Books of Sacred Scripture begin with the same three words, “In the beginning.” The Book of Genesis, from which came our first reading on this first Sunday of Lent and the Gospel of John. From Genesis, “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth — and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters—.” In the creation stories in the first chapters of Genesis, we ponder how God created the universe and created order in the universe: the sea and the sky, the cattle and all living creatures, the plants and trees, the birds of the air, the fish in the sea. And then, in His Divine Image, God created man, male and female. And God saw all that He had made and He found it very good.
In the prologue of John’s Gospel are the powerful words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” By sending the Son into the world to become one like us in all things but sin, God the Father sought to re-establish order in a world that had become chaos.
The chaos, the dysfunction, hatred, violence, religious extremism, greed, envy, jealousy, pride, lust, anger, gluttony, sloth, injustice. This chaos is a result of sin. The goodness of God’s creation became marred by man’s turning away from God. Noah sought to remain faithful to the voice of Yahweh. And after the great flood that destroyed the earth, God established a covenant with Noah.
“See, I am now establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you: all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals that were with you and came out of the ark. I will establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.”
We know well the story of Noah and the ark. But there is one critical component of the story that I wish to address to you, the catechumens and candidates: you who will be called by name in a few moments in this Rite of Election. Imagine the absurdity of Noah building an ark, a huge boat in the middle of a desert. Imagine how Noah must have been ridiculed and mocked, jeered and laughed at by others. Why did Noah build the ark? Because Noah listened to the Voice of Yahweh. Those around Noah had forgotten Yahweh, had turned away from Yahweh, making themselves to be their own god.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, you are here today because you have listened to the Voice of God calling you by name. Each and every one of you has a particular and unique story that has led you from the beginning to this very day. Today, you are called by name in the midst of the storm of chaos, sin and disorder that surrounds us in this world to come onto a boat, that we call the Catholic Church. Over the years that I have been blessed to serve as a Priest of Jesus Christ, I am always amazed when I listen to the stories of sisters and brothers who journey to the Catholic Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Many have shared with me how they are ridiculed, mocked, laughed at by others, sometimes even by members of their own family when they make known that they seek to become Catholics. Perhaps, some of you here today are experiencing that ridicule right now. If so, remember Noah. Remember his fidelity to God. Remember the covenant that Yahweh made with Noah and his descendants.
The ark. The Israelite people, chosen by Yahweh by name, recognized the significance of the Ark. The ark of the covenant, containing the commandments given Moses by Yahweh was placed in the Holy of Holies in the Temple. The Ark was the place of the Real Presence of God among His People. “I am your God and you shall be my people.” We read throughout the Old Testament how the Ark of the Covenant would be carried by the People into the chaos of war, to protect and defend God’s People.
And then, the time came for the fulfillment of God’s Promise, the coming of the Messiah. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” From the beginning of the Catholic Church two thousand years ago, the earliest Fathers of the Church recognized the Church as the boat, the ark. The earliest Catholic Churches were built in such a way that the place where God’s People gathered for worship in the main aisle of the Church was called the nave, coming from the Latin word, “Naves,” meaning boat. From that same root word, we get the English word, “Navy.” This is the nave, the boat. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. That Word was named Jesus. On the night before He died, Jesus shared his last meal with his disciples. “Take this, all of you and drink from it. This is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.”
My sisters and brothers in Christ, this Season of Lent that we begin is unique and unrepeatable. The Lenten journey of 2015 is not the same as the Lenten journey of 2014, 2010, or any other previous year. Why? Because each one of us is at a different place in our journey, our pilgrimage to the Kingdom of God. The Season of Lent reminds us that we are pilgrims. We are on a journey. As we read today in the Gospel, “Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” This last week on Ash Wednesday, as ashes were placed on our forehead, we heard those very words, “Repent and believe in the Gospel”
Listen to the Voice of God speak to you during these 40 days in the desert leading to the Easter Vigil. On that sacred night, one of the readings of the Word of God will be taken from the Book of Genesis – the story of creation. “In the beginning…” On that sacred night in the incredible beauty of the Easter Vigil Liturgy, water will be blessed, the water of the Easter vigil. Water, the outward sign of the Sacrament of Baptism. Water, which will be poured over your head or water, by which you will be immersed. Dying to self to become alive as a Child of God. On that sacred night at the Easter Vigil, you Elect of God will come to the Altar of God for the first time to receive the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion. The new and everlasting covenant established by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
On that Easter Vigil, you will hear the invitation, “Behold, the Lamb of God. Behold him, who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb.” Through the Sacraments of Initiation of Baptism, Confirmation, and lastly, the Eucharist, you will enter into the Ark of the new and everlasting covenant.
My brothers and sisters, as a cradle Catholic, I stand in awe and wonder as I see you gathered in this Church. I was baptized 11 days after my birth. I received my first Holy Communion at age seven, the Sacrament of Confirmation at age 10. I count as one of the greatest blessings in my life the family into which I was born and the mother and father God chose to be my parents. They formed me in the life of the Catholic Church by their example. I stand in awe of you because this decision that you are now making, is made by each of you. Whatever the storms of life you have endured to this day, you are now making the decision that you wish to come into the boat, the ark of the Catholic Church. With your sponsor, your catechists, your pastors, your parish families from all over the Diocese of Wichita, you come here today to be entered by name into the Elect. Each of you remind those of us who are cradle Catholics of how blessed we are to be in the ark, the boat that we call the Catholic Church.
May we, as brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, journey together in this pilgrimage of Lent, this pilgrimage of life and when that life on earth is ended, we pray that by the forgiveness and freedom from our sins, that was bought for us by the ransom of the blood of Jesus Christ, we may enter into the Kingdom of God forever. “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Listen, O children of God, as you are now called by name.