Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Rite of Election/L'Appel décisif

Cathédrale-basilique Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, Ottawa
Dimanche/Sunday, 9 March/9 mars 2014

[Texts: Genesis 9.8-15 [Psalm 25]; 1 Peter 3.18-22; Matthew 6.1-6, 16-18]

I welcome to Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica those who are the Elect of this Year of Grace 2014, their families, friends and fellow parishioners —especially their sponsors and members of the RCIA teams—who are accompanying them to their rebirth in Christ at the Easter Vigil.

Bienvenue a tous ceux et celles —les catéchumènes—qui vont renaître en Christ à la Veillée pascale!

En ce premier dimanche de Carême, Jésus nous invite à convertir notre cœur et à croire à la Bonne Nouvelle.

Sachons répondre à cet appel du Seigneur par la prière, le jeûne et l’aumône. Ouvrons-nous à la grâce et à la nouveauté de l’Évangile!

Que ce temps du Carême nous donne de faire l’expérience de la miséricorde divine et nous aide à changer radicalement de vie !

In Lent we perform gestures of penitence—fasting on Good Friday, abstaining from meat that day and on the other Fridays of Lent. We pray and give alms. In the gospel we have just heard, Jesus reminded us that these have value when they express a desire to do them only for God’s eyes and his reward. Our Lenten exercises express our firm desire to avoid evil and to follow the right path.

Sur la couverture nous avons reproduit la statue qui est dans notre sanctuaire, représentant Noé et l’arche, dont nous parle la première lecture tirée de la Genèse. Dans sa première épître, saint Pierre nous parle de l’arche comme symbole de l’Église qui nous offre le salut du Christ. Le déluge annonce notre baptême qui vient laver nos péchés, nous réconcilier avec Dieu et nous faire entrer dans une vie nouvelle. Chaque personne – chacun, chacune parmi nous – devrait rendre grâce pour l’amour miséricordieux de Jésus.

On the cover of our Order of Service today is our cathedral’s statue of Noah; you can see a very small ark at the bottom right. What is important our sculptor says is Noah’s intercession before God for a world whose inhabitants had fallen into sin.

The book of Genesis tells us “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6.9). The New Testament sees Noah as a man of faith (Hebrews 11.7) and a herald of right conduct (2 Peter 2.5). He is distinguished from the rest of humanity for “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6.11). Only Noah’s family escaped the Flood in the Ark.

With the Lord, Noah collected representatives of all the animals on the face of the earth—seven each of the clean animals and two each of the others (Genesis 6.13-22)—probably what we most remember from our acquaintance with the biblical story. All perished in the Flood except those in the Ark. Following the Flood Noah offered burnt offerings in sacrifice to God. Then, God made a covenant with Noah, promising there would never again be such destruction but that “while the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Genesis 8.21-22).

The covenant between God and the world—symbolized by the rainbow in the heavens—with Noah as the mediator, was granted because of Noah’s righteousness and obedience (Genesis 6.9, 22; 7.1, 5). God promised to maintain the stability of the created order for all time and never to flood the world again. What is called the “Noahic Covenant” reflects a renewal of the covenant God made with the world in the very beginning. In effect, the Flood may be seen as representing a “new creation”—anticipating the one that comes about through the Paschal mystery, the death and resurrection of Christ.

This month, many will go to see a film entitled “Noah” that is expected to become a “blockbuster”. The anticipation of the movie is stirring controversy because of the liberties it has been reported to take with the biblical story, making Noah an early environmentalist. Some say the movie sees human beings as the enemy of creation.

St. Peter in his first epistle—which is really a baptismal homily—speaks of the Ark as a prefigurement, an anticipation of the Church of Christ which offers us salvation. And the waters of the Flood foretell the waters of Baptism which wash away sin and permit us to begin anew with God.

Perhaps those who see the film will be moved to turn to the Bible’s account of Noah in Genesis—from which our first reading is taken—become aware of their sinfulness and appreciate how much God our Creator and Redeemer wants us to be renewed. Every person in the renewed humanity God desires should respond with gratitude for Jesus’ forgiving love.

One of the precepts of the Church urges each Catholic to make a good Confession between Ash Wednesday and Divine Mercy Sunday, the Sunday after Easter. This applies to those aware of serious sin, but is an invitation to us all. For many of us carry burdens, have things that trouble us or that we regret. The confessional offers a space to speak to God heart-to-heart, to seek his healing and help, and to get off our chest whatever needs to be forgiven and healed.

Pope Francis keeps reminding us that while we may tire of asking for God’s mercy God never wearies of showing us his mercy. So, I urge you to go to confession, especially if you have not been in some time.

Bien que faire pénitence soit une pratique qui nous aide beaucoup dans notre cheminement de chrétien, il est important, comme il est dit dans le passage de l’Évangile que nous venons d’entendre, de pratiquer la charité et l’aumône. Nous avons le devoir de partager nos biens matériels avec les personnes qui sont moins fortunés que nous et nous devons rendre service à nos frères et sœurs qui sont dans le besoin.

Le Saint-Père nous invite à la solidarité avec ceux et celles qui se trouvent en marge de la société. Il nous demande d’agir comme Jésus et de ne pas nous préoccuper d’amasser des biens matériels. Il nous demande de nous faire pauvres comme lui, de vivre en solidarité avec les personnes qui se trouvent dans la misère, avec les personnes qui manquent du nécessaire. Nous devenons pauvres lorsque nous mettons notre confiance en Dieu.

In today’s Gospel Jesus presupposes his disciples will practice “almsgiving”. We are to share our material goods with the less fortunate and so offer generous service to our brothers and sisters in need. Pope Francis urges us to be in solidarity with those who are on the margins of society.

The Second Vatican Council's decree on the renewal of the Sacred Liturgy stressed two features of Lent: preparing for baptism and penance. As the Church accompanies the catechumens, we who have been immersed for some time into Christ’s death and resurrection are challenged to recall our own baptism and to renew our commitment to Jesus. “By these means, the Church prepares the faithful for the celebration of Easter, while they hear God's word more frequently and devote more time to prayer.”

May God grant the whole Archdiocese of Ottawa—particularly our catechumens and those seeking full communion with the Catholic Church—to draw near to his loving mercy, so that we may celebrate Easter “with the joy of minds made pure” (Lenten Preface).

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