Vatican City, 25 November 2013 (VIS) – The rite of admission to the catechumenate took place this afternoon in the Vatican Basilica, convoked in the context of the Year of Faith and presided by Pope Francis. More than five hundred catechumens participated in the rite, from 47 countries and all five continents, accompanied by their catechists. At 4 p.m., shortly before the arrival of the Holy Father, several adults who were preparing to receive the Sacrament of Christian initiation spoke to those present about their experience, alongside a couple of catechists. The liturgy began at 4.30 p.m. with the rites of introduction which took places at the entry to the basilica. The Pope then welcomed a representative of the candidates with their godparents, invited them to enter the Church.
During the liturgy of the Word, before the presentation of the book of the Gospel to the catechumens, the Pope pronounced a homily for those present, mentioning that they came “from many different countries, from different cultural traditions and experiences. However”, he observed, “this evening we feel that we have many things in common. One above all: the wish for God. … How important it is to keep this wish alive! … If it lacks the thirst for the living God, faith risks becoming a habit, it risks being extinguished, like a flame that is not revived. It risks becoming 'rancid', without meaning”.
Pope Francis cited the passage in the Gospel in which John the Baptist indicates to the disciples that Jesus is the Lamb of God. “Two of them follow the Master and then in turn become 'mediators' who enable others to encounter the Lord, to know him and to follow him. There are three moments in this narrative that recall the experience of the catechumenate”.
“First of all, there is listening. The two disciples listen to the testimony of the Baptist. You too, dear catechumens, have listened to those who have spoken to you about Jesus, and have proposed to you to follow him. … In the tumult of the many voices that resound around and inside us, you have listened and welcomed the voice that indicated Jesus to you as the only one who can give full meaning to our lives”.
“In second place”, he continued, “there is encounter. The two disciples encounter the Master and stay with him. After meeting him, they are immediately aware of something new in their hearts: the need to transmit their joy to others, in order that they too may encounter him. … This scene … reminds us that God has not created us to remain alone, closed up in ourselves, but rather to be able encounter Him and to open ourselves to the encounter with others. God, first of all, comes toward each of us, and this is marvellous. … In the Bible, God always appears as the one who takes the initiative in the encounter with humanity: it is God Who seeks man, and usually he seeks him precisely when man is embarking on the bitter and tragic experience of betraying God and breaking away from him. God does not waste time in seeking him out: he looks for him immediately. … He never tires of awaiting us. .. And when the encounter takes place, it is never a hasty one, because God wishes to remain with us a long time, to support us and to console us. … God is quick to seek us out, but is not hasty to leave us! … Just as we long for Him and yearn for Him, He too wishes to be with us, because we belong to Him … we are His creatures”.
“The final part of the passage refers to walking. The two disciples walk towards Jesus and then take a part of the path with Him”, explained the Holy Father. “Faith is a path we walk with Jesus … and it is a path that lasts all our lives. At the end the definitive encounter will take place. Certainly, in some moments along the path we will feel tired and confused. However, faith gives us the certainty of the constant presence of Jesus in all situations, even the most painful and difficult to understand”.
“Dear catechumens”, the Pontiff concluded, “today you begin the path of the catechumenate. I hope that you will follow it with joy, certain of the support of all the Church, which looks to you with great trust. May Mary, the perfect disciple, accompany you! I invite you to keep alive the enthusiasm of the first moment that opened your eyes to the light of faith”.