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Use time in the desert to resist temptation, draw close to God

The following story appeared in the March 10 Idaho Catholic Register.



Editor’s note: The Rite of Election takes place each year in all six deaneries of the Diocese of Boise near the First Sunday of Lent. In a ceremony presided over by the Bishop or his delegate, catechumens (those who preparing for baptism) indicate their desire to join the Church by signing the Book of the Elect, giving them the title “members of the elect.”

The word “election” in this case has nothing to do with politics; rather, it is a discernment that God is present in the life of the catechumens and is inviting them into a fuller life of the sacraments.

Candidates – those who are already baptized in other Christian traditions, but are seeking Confirmation in the Catholic Church – also participate in the Rite, but they do not sign the Book of Elect. They participate in the Rite as “a call to continuing conversion.”


Because not everyone in the Diocese has attended a Rite of Election, we are printing on this page excerpts from Bishop Peter Christensen’s message to the catechumens and candidates at Rites of Election in Caldwell and Boise. Also included is the homily given by Father Caleb Vogel, vicar general of the Diocese, at other Rites of Election throughout the Diocese.


Catholics throughout the Diocese are asked to pray for all catechumens and candidates as they prepare to enter the Church at the Easter Vigil on April 8.


(Bishop Peter Christensen spoke to catechumens, candidates and their sponsors from 11 parish communities at the Rite of Election at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist on Feb. 24.)


Bishop Peter Christensen

Tonight you state your formal acceptance of your desire to be fully Catholic. We do this during this season of Lent, a time where we set our priorities anew. In a sense, during this time of 40 days prior to full entrance into the Easter Celebrations and into full union with the Catholic faith, we, too, are led out into a spiritual desert of preparation, where we commit to placing our focus on God.


By desert we mean a time, a place, an opportunity to separate ourselves from the business of the world. The desert is a place where we see things more clearly, even the grandeur of God in the heavens and the smallest details of life on the desert floor. A simplified life. A life of greater recognition of God with us, as we place greater dependence on Him for everything.


The desert, as is the Season of Lent, is a time of temptation – a temptation to return to what was known prior, and to those things that brought comfort to our lives, but, as we know, also numbed the senses – a time with less peace, more confusion and doubt, and a time having fewer answers, making us feel more vulnerable and alone in every regard.

Satan’s temptations are all based on us not knowing our true identity as children of God. Satan tells us that we need to be self-dependent and not to have to suffer at all. The greatest temptation – the same one that the devil posed to Jesus in the desert – is to be able to satisfy all our own needs and to get whatever we want, but we would have to worship the devil to do so.


All empty promises!


Jesus gives the answer for us on how to ward off the devil’s designs on us. It’s the same answer he spoke to the devil during his own time while being tempted in the desert, and it is very simple: “The Lord your God, shall you worship, and Him alone shall you serve.”


A right relationship with God brings us life! Lent and this time of preparation in your lives is one filled with grace. When we focus on God, God acts in powerful ways.


A few things are obvious by your presence here this evening.


You feel drawn by Our Lord to be fed spiritually by the Catholic faith. Someone has witnessed the Catholic faith to you in your life. You are most likely drawn by any or all of these: the worship, the prayer, the community, the Word of God, the Eucharist, the Apostolic nature of the history of the Church going back to the time of Christ, a sense of safety and stability in an ever-changing world, the peace you experience when you draw close, the beauty the Church’s liturgies, the universality of the Church, the steadfast truth of Her teachings, the goodness in her outreach to those in need, and so much more.


Things are seen clearer in the Church, just as the nature of things is seen clearer in the desert. The focus is simpler and more powerful than that of a cluttered world of secular thoughts and philosophies rooted solely in this world’s vision of life.


As you enter deeper into the separation from worldly things and worldly allurements, the journey will become, for a while, more difficult.


Not all will understand what you are doing. Out-side agitations may try to derail you. You can, at times, feel an almost tangible force that is threatened by your determination to come to Christ and His Church.


My advice to you: hang in there and take Jesus’ words to heart: “The Lord, your God, shall you worship and Him alone shall you serve.” Satan will flee, as he did when Jesus spoke these same words in the desert of preparation for His public ministry.

(Matt. 4:10-11)


Jesus knows the love of His Father, for He heard the words spoken from the heavens when John baptized Him as a witness to the people gathered: “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”


Come this Easter, I trust you will hear those same words in your own hearts as our Heavenly Father speaks to you: “You are my beloved son, my beloved daughter, with whom I am well pleased.” You belong to the Lord and He will continue always to give Himself to you.


Welcome home!


-Bishop Peter Christensen




 

Fall and redemption: The restoration of our Wi-Fi connection to God


Father Caleb Vogel

Dear Catechumens and Candidates,


We are so blessed by your presence and your de-sire to respond to the call of Christ to enter fully into the life of the Catholic Church. What you are soon to experience at Easter is so beautiful. It is something I want to explore with you right now.


Let us be reminded of the story of Salvation. In the book of Genesis, we learn about how God created Adam and Eve in His own image and likeness and breathed His very life into them. By doing so, Adam and Eve lived by the very spiritual life and law of God Himself.


Because of this relationship, they were immortal; that is, they would live forever. There was no sickness, no death, and they could effortlessly know the will of God because they were in complete communion with Him.


We can think about the way in which Adam and Eve were in relationship with God as something like being connected to Him by a spiritual umbilical cord. That is, they received life directly from Him. In another way, it was like their “Wi-Fi signal” was connected directly with God. That is how they were able to enjoy the life of paradise in the garden.


Then came the serpent, the Devil. He tempted them. He wanted them to believe that they could continue enjoying this kind of life without being connected to God; that they could stand on their own and not have to live under God. Rather, they would be like gods. (Gen. 3:5) They fell for the lie.


The fall of Adam and Eve was more than simply making a mistake. This sin resulted in the umbilical cord being severed, the Wi-Fi being disconnected. It was impossible for Adam and Eve to continue with the life they received from God and yet stand on their own and be gods. God, who respects our free will, let them go. And they fell. They fell from living by the spiritual life of God to living under ordinary biological laws. They would die. Sickness and frustration became their normal experience. Knowing the will of God became nearly impossible. Thus, it was as though a new race was sinned into being. And every descendent of Adam and Eve was born into this fallen and disconnected state.


But God had a plan to save us! The Eternal Son became one like us in all things but sin. Jesus Christ took our fallen and sinful human nature to the Cross. In His death and resurrection, Jesus Christ not only brought reparation for our sins, but turned the Wi-Fi back on for us. He has restored the connection to God that was lost.


This reconnection to God is what takes place at our baptism. This connection with God is strengthened by the gift of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation. And, most beautifully, we are now freely invited to eat of the fruit of Cross, the new Tree of Life, which is the Eucharist. This is in our new umbilical cord where God sustains us until we all come forth from the tomb in the resurrection and will be with God forever in Paradise.


Once, our names were written in the book of death due to the Fall. Now, Elect of God, your names are written in the Book of Life!


-Father Caleb Vogel


If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.

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