Ambassadors of Jesus Christ

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
God of all ages,
You always work to save us, and now we rejoice in the great love You give to your chosen people.
Bless and protect all who are about to become Your children through baptism, and all who seek full communion with us.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.

This opening prayer is proclaimed at the Rite of Election for Catechumens, the elect who are preparing for Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist; and Candidates, those preparing for Confirmation and Eucharist, all who are seeking to enter into full communion in the Catholic Church through their parish communities.

This is the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults, the process through which adults, primarily but also those above the age of reason, like Sister Thea Bowman at age nine, discern if the Holy Spirit is directing them to the bosom of the Catholic Church. This year the Rite of Election in the Diocese of Jackson took place at St. Francis in Madison, and St. John in Oxford. The OCIA is a hope-filled and joyful process for individuals, families, parish communities, and dioceses. It can also assist the traditional Catholic in their Lenten journey to hear the Lord’s call to repentance to live in a manner worthy of our calling and for the renewal of our Baptism promises at Easter.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

You are always at work to save, O God, is the initial verse of the above prayer, and Pope Francis in his Lenten address recounts God’s words to Moses at the Burning Bush to bring forth the active presence of God in our world and in our lives.

“When the Lord calls out to Moses from the burning bush, he immediately shows that he is a God who sees and, above all, hears: ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry…. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them.’ (Exodus 3:7-8)” In the fullness of time God’s personal encounter with all humanity reaches its fulfillment in Jesus Christ who is “with us always until the end of time.” (Matthew 28:20)

In his Lenten address Pope Francis often speaks of the journey from slavery in its many forms to freedom through faith in Jesus Christ. “In the Exodus account, there is a significant detail: it is God who sees, is moved and brings freedom; Israel does not ask for this. Pharaoh stifles dreams, blocks the view of heaven, makes it appear that this world, in which human dignity is trampled upon and authentic bonds are denied, can never change. He put everything in bondage to himself. Let us ask: Do I want a new world? Am I ready to leave behind my compromises with the old?” Pharoah, who easily stands for the evil one, in league with any of the idols we construct, wants us to be subjects; the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ wants beloved children. What a difference!

An essential part of the Liturgy of Baptism is a series of questions addressed to the parents and godparents, as well as to adult catechumens. They place us in the desert with Jesus who rebuffed the devil’s allures and temptations.

“Do you reject Satan, and all his works, and all his empty promises?”

“Do you reject the glamor of evil and refuse to be mastered by sin?”

Our affirmative responses express our commitment to the spiritual warfare against sin and evil that prayer, fasting and almsgiving effectively counter.

At the end of his Lenten message Pope Francis endeavors to rally the faithful. “To the extent that this Lent becomes a time of conversion, an anxious humanity will notice a burst of creativity, a flash of new hope. Allow me to repeat what I told the young people whom I met in Lisbon last summer: Keep seeking and be ready to take risks. At this moment in time, we face enormous risks; we hear the painful plea of so many people. Indeed, we are experiencing a third world war fought piecemeal. Yet let us find the courage to see our world, not as being in its death throes but in a process of giving birth, not at the end but at the beginning of a great new chapter of history. We need courage to think like this.”

By putting on the armor of God we claim our dignity as God’s children, as ambassadors of Jesus Christ, ministers of reconciliation, in effect, new creations. (2Corinthians 5:20) Indeed, the Kingdom of God is at hand for our receiving.

“Our affirmative responses express our commitment to the spiritual warfare against sin and evil that prayer, fasting and almsgiving effectively counter.”