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Homilies | Sunday, February 18, 2024

Conversion is our life's work

Archbishop Wenski's homily at Rite of Election ceremonies 2024

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily while celebrating two Rite of Election ceremonies with catechumens from throughout the Archdiocese of Miami, Feb. 18, 2024, at St. Mary Cathedral. The catechumens are now undergoing their final preparation for becoming Catholics at this year’s Easter Vigil in their parishes.

Today’s Gospel tells us that the Spirit led Jesus out into the desert where he was tempted by the devil.

Because he was truly human, like us, Jesus was tempted; but unlike us he didn’t sin. But it is precisely because he shared in our struggle with temptations that we can share in his victory over sin, death, and the devil. And this is what baptism promises us — for if the wages of sin is death, in baptism we die with Christ to sin, so that freed from the snares of Satan, we can rise with him to new life.

Baptism then is a gift — the gift of life, everlasting life. But as a gift it must be accepted; and accepting it becomes a task that must be lived.

You may remember that old New Orleans’ jazz anthem: Oh when the saints, Oh when the saints go marching in, Oh when the saints go marching in, Oh I want to be in that number when the saints go marching in.

Well, today, you are enrolled in that number, the number of the elect, those chosen to become, in Christ, saints. By your enrollment in the book of the Elect, you are saying that you want to be holy.

The word “saint” simply means a “holy one.” In Haitian Creole, the language in which I preached in every day for almost twenty years, “saint” is translated: “Zanmi Bondye” — a friend of God. This is a beautiful, and I might add, a most appropriate, translation; for the saints are friends of God — and only one who is striving to be holy can claim to be a friend of God.

And that is what baptism makes of us: friends of God, reconciled to Him through the suffering, death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ, in whom we are baptized and through whom and through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit we entered into the holiness of God.

To accept a gift of friendship implies a “yes” to the friend and a “no” to all that is incompatible with this friendship, to all that is incompatible with the life as a member of God’s family, with true life in Christ. This is what is implied in the word, “metanoia,” or conversion.

Conversion means a turning to and a turning from — a turning to the Lord and a turning from sin. But this does not end with baptism; as Catholics, we believe that conversion is our life’s work. Our earthy pilgrimage must always be lived as a continuing turning to the Lord, and therefore a continuing turning away from sin. And so, today, we heard Jesus’ invitation to each one of us: “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” (cf. Mark)

Catecúmenos, la Cuaresma es un tiempo de preparación final para el día de su renacimiento en Cristo. La Cuaresma para ustedes debe parecerse de algún modo a la experiencia del desierto de Jesús. Así como Jesús oró y ayunó durante 40 días, la Cuaresma también debe ser para nosotros un tiempo de oración y ayuno para que cuando llegue el Sábado Santo estén listos para que sus pecados sean perdonados en las aguas del Bautismo.

At the Easter Vigil, you will be asked to renounce Satan and all his works and all his empty promises and then you will make your profession of faith.

That profession of faith based on the Apostles’ Creed is our “yes” to God. It is our pledge that — in spite of whatever trials and tribulations we may face — we will walk through this life as a friend of God, as a friend of Jesus and in the company of his friends, that is his Catholic Church.

Oh when the saints, Oh when the saints go marching in, Oh when the saints go marching in, Oh I want to be in that number when the saints go marching in.

Oh, cuando los santos entren, oh, cuando los santos entren marchando, oh, cuando los santos entren marchando, oh, quiero estar en ese número cuando los santos entren marchando.

Yes, today you are enrolled in that number, you are chosen to be saints, to be Zanmi Bondye, friends of God. And now, of course, you begin your final preparations; now begins the desert experience, 40 more days to pray and fast, to find the strength to say “no” to whatever temptations that if you gave into them would keep you from accepting the gift of baptism, from becoming a friend of God.

As the day of baptism draws nearer — the day on which your conversion — your turning to God and turning away from sin — is solemnized in the Rites of Christian Initiation, remain steadfast in prayer, and know that your Catholic brothers and sisters are praying for you, and awaiting with great joy your entry into the Church.

Recuerden las palabras repetidas una y otra vez en las Escrituras y que tantas veces nos repetía San Juan Pablo II: No teman. No tengan miedo de caminar por la vida como amigos de Dios.

Be not afraid. Don’t be afraid to walk through life as a friend of God.

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