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Bishop's Homily for the First Sunday of Lent

March 6, 2022

[St. Anthony Church, Wailuku (Rite of Election); Christ the King Church, Kahului; Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa, Honolulu (Rite of Election)]

Sign me up!  So says the enthusiastic young woman as she joins the Marines.  Soon after she reports for duty, however, she goes through one of the most grueling, humiliating, and demanding experiences of her life called basic training.  Many times she is tempted to throw in the towel, to quit, but if she resists the temptation and perseveres, well, as they say, “The few, the proud.”

Sign me up!  So says the young man who loves the Lord and wants to serve God’s people as a priest.  Soon he enters the seminary where every aspect of his life if evaluated, where he is challenged to study more than he ever thought possible, and where he is often disillusioned to find that the Lord does not always call the most saintly people to his service.  He is often tempted to give it all up, but if he perseveres, he will find a life that is filled with countless demands that are themselves great blessings.

Sign me up!  So says the couple that is so madly in love that they want to marry so they can spend the rest of their lives together in endless bliss.  Soon after marrying, however, they find that the honeymoon does end, that the spouse is not quite the wonderful person he or she appeared to be during courtship, that this person now gets on their nerves in a way they never imagined possible.  There is the temptation to hang it all up, to go their separate ways.  But if they resist the temptation and work through their difficulties, they find not the bliss they thought they wanted but the real, genuine love that truly fulfills them both.

So we come today to this Rite of Election or Enrollment of Names.  Those who have been attracted to Jesus and to the Catholic Church he founded are here and ready to say, “Sign me up!”  In a few moments they will come forward to do just that, declaring that they are ready to make the commitment to follow Jesus and to be his disciples in the Catholic Church for the rest of their lives.  They look forward to the glorious Easter Vigil, when they gather with family and friends and the whole assembly of the faithful disciples of Jesus, and will be immersed in the saving waters of Baptism, anointed with the oil of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, and fed with nothing less than the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ himself.  Yes, only one day will be even more glorious, the day on which they find that their names have been enrolled in the Book of Life by the Lord himself, as he calls them to live in eternal bliss forever with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and with all the angels and saints.

But, our Gospel today gives a little reality check.  Jesus himself, the Word through whom all things were created, including the creature Satan, is sorely tried and tempted to give it all up. And if Satan had the gall to go after Jesus, do not be surprised that he will try to throw you off course as well.  At the Easter Vigil you will renounce Satan and all his works and empty promises, but do not think for a moment that Satan will renounce you.  He will try you with his lies, telling you half-truths, then twisting them to his own purposes.  And he will do this throughout your lives as Christians – trust me!

Soon after the glorious day of your initiation, Satan may try to disillusion you by revealing to you that the Church you are entering, while embracing many real saints, also is home to many sinners who will scandalize you and others.  Satan may try to tell you the truth that God is merciful and will forgive any sin we commit once we repent, and he will twist that to make you think that the repentance part is optional.  Satan will tell you the truth that the Church embraces all people, and then twist that to make you think it embraces all ideas.  You may then be scandalized or even embarrassed that the Church teaches the value of every human life, from the moment of conception to natural death; that it values marriage as a life-long sacred covenant between one man and one woman, open to the bearing and nurturing of children; or that it must be faithful to Jesus and his teachings rather than to whatever popular ideology the prevailing culture proposes.  The day may come when you will be hunted down for your faith, tortured, and put to death.  The great temptation is to bow down to Satan to escape all this.  But you must remain faithful to Jesus, who will never lie to you that if you take up your cross here, you will enjoy the resurrected life with him forever.

We are given this season of Lent to strengthen our resolve, to expose and repair the hidden holes in our spiritual armor, and to draw closer to Jesus, who knew temptation and resisted it, and who can strengthen us.  If we persevere in this resolve and do not give in to the temptation to give up, angels will minister to us, saints will welcome us, and we will live forever in the depths of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

We rejoice with you who are called to follow Christ with us, and it is time now to sign you up!