As reported in a previous post, a delegation of seven members of Sint-Kwinten’s community went to Mechelen with Confirmation candidate Denise Bosman for a catechetical encounter and meal at the archdiocesan pastoral center. The following day, Sunday 1 March, the Leuven delegation that joined Denise at the Sint-Rombouts Cathedral for the Rite of Election was smaller but no less enthusiastic. She was accompanied by Jeroen, Katrien (her sponsor), Johannes, Henri, and Deacon Marc Michiels of the Leuven pastoral zone, who regularly participates in Denise’s RCIA program.
The eight catechumens and two candidates for adult Confirmation, with their godparents, sponsors, relatives, and other supporters, joined the local faith community for the Eucharistic Celebration for the First Sunday in Lent, presided over by Bishop Koen Vanhoutte, concelebrated by Fr. Guy De Keersmaecker, and assisted by Deacon Christhuraja Lourdhusamy.
The readings (Gen. 2:7-9; 3:1-7, Rom. 5:12-19, Mt. 4:1-11) invited us to make a choice between good and evil, between yes and no, between service to others and power over others, between life and death.
Psalm 51, sung between the first two readings, was like a refreshing bath, wondrously describing the condition of every human being.
Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight.”
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renews within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit takes not from me.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustains in me.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
In his homily, Bishop Vanhoutte elaborated on the questions that will be asked of the catechumens during their baptism at the Easter Vigil celebration: “During your baptism, four questions will be asked, to which you will answer three times with ‘yes’ and one time with ‘no’.
The first ‘yes’ is the ‘yes’ of welcome into our community. You will be received and will be partakers of the same faith. You will have a new family, faithful relatives, a home. Let us be thankful for this family because you are not alone. You are surrounded by the prayer of many. You are not alone with your worries, sorrows, doubts, gratitude, and joys. You will be cared for, and in turn, you will be able to care within your own community and beyond.
The second ‘yes’ is God’s ‘yes’ to every Christian. God himself acknowledges us as his beloved children. God himself is abundant in goodness. In this way, we ourselves can grow in love and goodness until we are finally allowed to share in his love forever. God’s yes means he will never forsake us.
The third ‘yes’ is the ‘yes’ of ourselves. Faith calls for a commitment from you. It is the yes of faithfulness with a trusting heart deriving from the power of the Spirit. You want to grow in your community.
Your ‘no’ is also very important. It is a ‘no’ to everything that alienates us from God and from each other. It is a ‘no’ to the temptations of power, luxury, and compromise. In today’s Gospel Jesus says ‘no’ to the tempter, instead of clinging to the Word of God. He gives himself totally to his Father. It will be a great ‘yes’ for you to cling to the Word of God and give to Him totally and in service to the people around you and to the whole community.”
The Rite of Election followed the Profession of Faith. The candidates were presented to the bishop and also asked some questions. The catechumens received a purple scarf, which will be exchanged for a white one during the Easter Vigil, while the candidates for Confirmation received a candle.
A moving and powerful moment came when the bishop requested the sponsors to put their hand on the shoulder of the Candidate entrusted to them and expressly asked them: “Sponsors, joyfully pray for these chosen ones; help them in word and deed on their way to the Easter sacraments.”
The celebration of the Eucharist continued, and all catechumens received a blessing during Communion.
After the celebration, the catechumens and candidates were congratulated on this important step. Our little group from Leuven then went out for a drink, meal, and chat.
Let us pray during these days of Lent for Denise, her friend Jeroen, her sponsor Katrien, and for all those around the world who are preparing to receive the Easter sacraments this year.