Rite of Election, South Bend 2014

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Every year, this ceremony, the Rite of Election, fills me with wonder: wonder at the power and beauty of God’s grace!   I think about each of you and your unique journeys of faith.  Catechumens, men and women, who have been moved by God’s grace to embrace the Christian life.  Candidates, men and women, also moved by God’s grace, to enter into full communion with the Church Jesus founded, the Church built on the foundation of the apostles.  We are all preparing during Lent to celebrate the great Paschal mystery of Christ’s Passion, Death, Resurrection from the dead, and Ascension into heaven.  At Easter, you, our catechumens and candidates, will receive the fruits of the Paschal Mystery through the sacraments, actions of the Holy Spirit at work in Christ’s Body, the Church.  The sacraments fill us with life, divine life, new life in Christ.  In these coming weeks, you prepare more intensely to receive these gifts that flow from the heart of Jesus. 
            In the Gospel we just heard, Jesus says: “I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.”  This image of Jesus as light will be prominent at the celebration of the Easter Vigil.  The liturgy will begin with the blessing of the Easter fire and the lighting of the Paschal candle.  The priest will say: “May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.”  The Paschal candle will be carried into the darkened church.  That light will spread throughout the church as the people’s candles are lit.  The beautiful beginning of the Easter Vigil Mass illustrates through symbols that the light of Christ came into this world and illumines the darkness.  This light illumines all reality, our whole human existence.  It even penetrates to the shadow of death! 
            Pope Francis’ first encyclical, much of it written originally by Pope Benedict, is called “Lumen Fidei,” “The Light of Faith.”  The Holy Father wrote: “The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence.  For a light to be this powerful it cannot come from ourselves; it must come from a more primordial source: in a word, it must come from God.  Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and