This was the alternate homily that I gave at 10:45 Mass, during which we accepted a young man into the Order of Catechumens.
In the ancient Church, there were several so-called orders within the assembly. The main group or order was, of course, the believers. These had been baptized and had come to accept Jesus Christ, to live within the Church and celebrate the sacraments. Other orders included the Order of Widows, those women whose husbands had died and had no supporting family members. These women were taken care of by the community, and in turn served the community as they were able. Another order was the Order of Penitents. These people had sinned publicly, usually through some violation of the sixth commandment, and were unable to partake of the sacramental life of the Church. They usually confessed their sins, and were given a lengthy penance to accomplish, and then were reunited with the Church on Holy Thursday.
The other order, which we still have today, is the Order of Catechumens. These are unbaptized people who desired to become one with the Church and live the life of faith. This is the order into which we accept Aaron today. His search for Truth has led him here to us, and we have accepted him in our ritual. This rite of acceptance into the Order of Catechumens is one that symbolizes a kind of first official step for Aaron. He has been inquiring into the faith and now wishes to join us. His formation will continue in the months to come, and he will be baptized, receive Confirmation and First Eucharist at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night.
We are blessed to have Aaron with us today, because his presence indicates that our faith is alive and vibrant. His presence shows us that God still searches for his people, calling them out of darkness into his own wonderful light. As he continues to journey toward baptism, he will be with us in the assembly, being dismissed with candidates for Full Communion, until that day when they can all join us at the Table of the Eucharist.
We accept Aaron publicly today, not just for his benefit, but also for ours, and for two very specific reasons. First, we as a community have a responsibility to bring the faith to all people until the day of the Lord’s return. It’s not just the RCIA team and catechists, not just the priests and staff, but the entire community that makes this happen. Our faith must be a witness to Aaron and to others that Christ is alive among us and longs to lead us all to salvation.
Second, we have a need to grow in our own faith. Every day, we come up against new obstacles, new darkness, and our faith must shine light into all of these situations. We have a need to come to know our Lord Jesus in more intimate and meaningful ways. And so Aaron isn’t journeying in faith alone here; we are all journeying and growing with him.
Just like that seed that found its rootedness in the good soil, so too may our own faith, and Aaron’s, take root in the good soil of instruction and prayer and earnest longing for Christ. May God’s Word go forth from us and never return to God void, but instead achieve the end for which he sent it, yielding a harvest of a hundred or sixty or even thirty fold.