Rite of Election 2024 – Homily of Fr Gareth Byrne

Rite of Election 2024 – Homily of Fr Gareth Byrne

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Rite of Election of Catechumens and Call of Candidates
St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Homily of Very Rev Gareth Byrne, VG

For the Feast of St Brigid, the 1st of February, I was given a gift of a basket planted with miniature daffodils, almost ready to flower; perfectly formed buds still closed, still green.

I have been thinking about how long it took them to get to that point, from a small bulb growing on the side of a larger one, eventually sprouting leaves into the sunshine of its first Spring, warmed by the sun, nourished by the rain, growing in size and strength until that moment when it was mature enough to produce flowering stems – ready almost to bloom. Brought into the warmth of the house, and watered well they shot into flower almost immediately, and how beautiful they were, all of a sudden, after all that time of preparation.

The flowers of Spring, just like the Rainbow we heard about in the First Reading (see Genesis 9: 8-15), remind us that there is life after darkness, new life beyond the waters of the flood, and that God loves us always.

Here we are today, with our Catechumens and Candidates who have heard the call of Christ to follow him. They have been learning about the Christian faith over a period of one to two years, or perhaps far longer, being nourished, growing strong, and like the yellow daffodils, ready to flower. Today, on the First Sunday of Lent, at the Rite of Election of Catechumens, and Call of Candidates, the invitation they have heard and answered is to be confirmed by the Church. We will accompany them on the final stage of preparation for Christian Initiation, a journey that takes place during Lent, as, with the Church, throughout the world, we move toward Holy Week and the defining celebration of the passion, cross, death and resurrection of Jesus.

(Fr Gareth Byrne with the Catechumens, Candidates and friends at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral on Sunday afternoon.)

In the Early Church, Lent was precisely that time when the final catechesis of Catechumens took place. We still have, for example, twenty-four inspirational catechetical talks given by Bishop Cyril, for that purpose, in Jerusalem, over a number of years, in and around 350 AD, almost seventeen hundred years ago.

It is one of the great gifts of the Second Vatican Council that we have revived the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, as celebrated in the Early Church, a very significant moment of which we celebrate today.

Sometimes we think of Lent as a time of darkness, of deprivation, of sadness, of negative emotions maybe, even of despair. How wrong we are! Led by the Holy Spirit, Jesus went out into the desert for 40 days, we are told, to pray, to fast, to prepare himself for his ministry. He experienced every temptation that we face but we are reassured, ‘the angels looked after him’ (see Mark 1: 12-15).

Lent is a time of joyful anticipation, walking through desert places, yes, but when occasionally the rains come even the desert blooms. Lent is a time of repentance, turning back to God who loves us always, and to our loved ones, to reconciliation and conversion. Lent each year is a time given over to reflection, walking with Christ, and entering into prayer with him, accompanying those across the world and here today, who make the Lenten journey on their way to Baptism, Confirmation and the celebration of their first Eucharist – fully in communion, then, with God and with all of us in the Church. In the Rite of Election, the Church in Dublin will today recognise you as the Elect, as you, accompanied by your godparents, sign your names in the book prepared for that purpose.

St Cyril of Jerusalem put it this way back in the 4th Century:

Already is there on you the savour of blessedness, you who are soon to be enlightened: already you are gathering spiritual flowers, to weave heavenly crowns: already has the fragrance of the Holy Spirit refreshed you: already are you at the entrance-hall of the King’s house: may you be brought into it by the King! For now, the blossoms of the trees have budded; may the fruit likewise be perfected! Thus far, your names have been given in, and the roll-call made for service. (St Cyril of Jerusalem, ‘Procatechesis’)

Archbishop Farrell will keep this book with him during Lent and pray for each one of you… as will we all.

Emma Andrews, Fr Gareth Byrne and Chinonyerem Onyeonuru with her daughter.

Catechumens and Candidates, with the welcome you experience today, and the warmth and joy you feel on being accepted by the Church you will be ready to bloom at Eastertime. In the waters of Baptism at the Easter Vigil you will be reborn, recognised as beloved sons and daughters of God, and lifted up by the Holy Spirit to believe the Good News, and to live like Christ, the Way, the Truth, the Life – our Saviour. Unlike Noah who saved only a small group of people (see 1 Peter 3: 18-22), the invitation Christ makes is for all to be baptised in his name, and to emerge from the waters of Baptism as he did from the Tomb, to the fullness of new life. At the Easter Vigil, Christians recognise the Risen Christ as the light of our lives, the Light of the World. Our lives are transformed every day by the promise of the resurrection, revealed in Jesus Christ, and in knowing that he has a place prepared for us with his Father in the Kingdom of God’s Love. You are now to be children of that Promise too.

Dear Catechumens and Candidates, having made the journey you have made, having chosen to learn about and love Jesus who has invited you to follow him, during this period of Lent we, the Church in this place, that is in your parishes, and in the Archdiocese of Dublin, will accompany you forward.

At this moment in our history, we are all on a journey in the Diocese, Building Hope together. Led by the Holy Spirit, we are reflecting on what it means to be communities that are faith-filled formed around Jesus Christ, communities of co-responsible servant leadership following in his footsteps, communities of social justice after his example, communities of inclusion, imitating the invitation and welcome Christ offers. You, today, are a great sign of hope to us all, of the renewal we seek, of the transformation we embrace, of the recognition that life lived in Jesus Christ opens us up to the fullness of life.

We are entering now with you on the final phase of your journey of Christian Initiation. We have heard from your catechists that you are worthy of this call, and your godparents, formally named today, exercise their ministry publicly for the first time, giving testimony on your behalf to the community of faith gathered here.

For the Candidates, their sponsors will do likewise, standing with them, witnessing to their faith.

In the coming weeks you will participate in the Scrutinies and be presented in your parishes with the Creed and Our Father, the bedrocks of our Christian faith. The Archbishop, and I on his behalf, your priests, deacons and parish pastoral workers, this entire community and the communities in your home parishes… the Church in the Archdiocese of Dublin welcomes you with great joy and calls you to the Sacraments.

As one writer (Sally Foster-Fulton, 2016) has put it:

Follow Christ’s footsteps,
walk into the wilderness –
and dance in the desert.
Beloved of God, come on a journey.

(Gilmara Rocha from Yellow Walls Parish with Yellow Walls parish priest Fr Martin Noone, Gilmara’s fiancé Brian, Fr Gareth Byrne and Deacon Gerard Reilly.)