Today is Laetare Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Lent. On this day, Holy Mother Church invites us to relax our Lenten discipline. The traditional words of today’s entrance antiphon – what would traditionally be sung at the beginning of Mass instead of an opening hymn – sound out with the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her.” This rejoicing is expressed in the Sacred Liturgy by the return of the organ, which is today allowed at full volume even without supporting the singing of the faithful, to which its role is normally reserved during Lent, and the priest’s vestments are lightened from violet to rose. It is still Lent, though, so the Gloria is still not sung, nor is the Alleluia.
This is a very fitting day, then, for us to welcome 15 Christians into full communion with the Catholic Church and to bestow on them the sacraments of Confirmation and the Eucharist. Their profession of faith in Christ and His Church is a cause of great rejoicing for our parish. I hope, then, that you will not mind if I address these men and women during my sermon today.
Dear candidates for full initiation into the Catholic Church, when we heard the story of David being anointed as king by Samuel, I hope that you thought of yourselves being chosen by Christ for inclusion in His Holy Church. David came later than his older brothers to the sacrifice prepared to be offered by the prophet Samuel – he almost seemed an insignificant afterthought – but nevertheless, he was the one chosen by the Lord to be King of Israel. You too come later to this sacrifice, the Mass, than us “cradle Catholics,” but today it is you whom the Lord has chosen to be His faithful servants. Like’s David’s anointing as King, your conversion is no afterthought in the life of our Church, but a moment of as great of consequence for us as it is for you. You are now officially entrusted as with the faith of the Church as Catholics. Many of you, for example, will now lead your children in being Catholic as you continue to figure out what this conversion means for your own lives. All of you as well are now charged with bringing others to this Faith in which you have found the surest means of encountering Christ.
In the Gospel, when the Lord comes back to meet the formerly blind man whom He has cured, He asks him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” This is the same question Christ has been asking you throughout this period of formation for your reception into the Catholic Church: “Do you believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world? Do you believe that He is truly present in the Catholic Church, leading Her through the successors of the Apostles, the Bishops, and abiding forever in Her in the Sacraments, most especially the Sacrament of the Eucharist?” From the tabernacle today, as you prepare to make your first Holy Communion, the Lord asks you, “Do you believe that I am the Son of Man, God become man in Jesus Christ?”
While the Lord, through the instruction that you have been receiving, has been asking you, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” you have been responding with the words of the man once blind, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” You have come to the Catholic Church with this request, that you might be lead into a deeper contact with the One in whose name you have already been baptized. You have come seeking the guaranteed and efficacious contact with His grace that comes from receiving the sacraments. You have come seeking a greater knowledge of Him and of His saving truths as faithfully passed down from His Apostles in the Catholic Church. You have been asking, “Who is he, that I may believe in Him?”
During this long period of preparation, Christ has been saying to you, “He is the one speaking with you.” God in His unity and in His Trinity of Persons, Christ as both God and man, the moral teachings of the Church, what it means to have a life of prayer and a life enriched by the sacraments – all of this is Christ present to you, inviting you into loving communion with Him. However, all of this learning pales in comparison to the importance of what Christ tells you today. Today, at long last, “He is the one speaking with you.” He tells you, “Here I am, present to you in the sacraments, filling your soul with the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, and uniting your heart to my Most Sacred Heart in your reception of Holy Communion.” He is the one speaking to you in the Sacred Scriptures, and, thanks to the Sacrament of Holy Orders they have received, He is present to you in His priests, through whom He makes present these great mysteries. To your question, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in Him?” Christ today answers definitively, “You have seen him, and the one speaking to you is he.”
The Gospel tells us that the formerly blind man responds, “‘I do believe, Lord,’ and he worshiped him.” What is left for you now, is to worship the Lord. Your reception of the sacraments today is that act of worship. Last week, in your first Confessions, you worshiped God by an act of humility before Him, by admitting your reliance on His grace and His mercy. Today, you worship Him by professing your reliance upon the Holy Spirit in your Confirmation and your need to be fed by Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist. Today you give the Lord the greatest gift possible: worshiping Him in spirit and in truth.
Give Christ too the worship of a holy life. St. Paul told us today, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” Each of you has had your own journey to arrive at this point, a journey oftentimes through sin and darkness into the power of Christ’s liberating light. Live now as children of the light. Christ has healed you of your spiritual blindness and today He fills your souls with the light of His grace through the Holy Spirit and the Holy Eucharist. Do not, though, be content to be children of the light on this day only. Come back frequently to Christ’s mercy in Confession and to His Eucharistic banquet in the Holy Mass to be nourished continually. Heed the words of St. Paul: “Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them.” Share your new-found Catholic faith with all those around you; become instruments of Christ’s love and mercy to draw more souls to Him.
Dear candidates for full reception into the Catholic Church, you bring so much joy to us. This parish is elated to receive you fully into our midst and most especially to have you join us today for the first time as partakers of the banquet of Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist. Thank you for the witness of your faith, which we look forward to receiving not only today but in the days and years to come as you continue to enrich the life of this portion of the Lord’s flock.