The Lenten Season has begun! And just as the Advent Season has two characters, so too the Lenten Season. In Advent we prepare to celebrate the first coming of Jesus at Christmas. But we also prepare to celebrate his second coming at the end of time. The Lenten season also has a double character, namely to prepare both catechumens (those who have not been baptized) and the faithful who have been baptized, to celebrate the paschal mystery. The catechumens, both with the rite of election and scrutinies, and by catechesis, are pre- pared for the celebration of the sacraments of Christian initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist) at the Easter Vigil. Those of us already baptized, during the Lenten season are to be ever more attentive to the word of God and by prayer and penance prepare for the renewal of our baptismal promises on Easter.
Have you ever given much thought to the significance of your baptismal promises? You’re going to be asked to renew them during whatever Mass you go to on Easter Sunday (or the Easter Vigil). Most of us were baptized as infants. We had no cognitive abilities yet. So at our baptism our parents and godparents made promises for us. As we grew up we learned about God, Jesus, and the church, but we never really had the significance of our baptism drilled into us. So let’s use the 40 days of this Lent as a retreat to rediscover the significance of our baptism.
First, baptism is one of three sacraments of initiation (the other two are confirmation and Eucharist). The key word here is initiation. Initiation is the action of beginning something. So, in baptism we began a lifelong journey of being and growing as a disciple of Jesus. This journey even continues after our death! So, if we figure that all we need to know about our faith we got in grammar school, or when we were confirmed, we are not living our baptismal promises. If we have not discovered a personal relationship with Jesus, we have not understood that baptism marks us permanently as belong- ing to Christ, whose image we bear. By baptism we are freed from Original Sin, however there remains, as an effect of Original Sin, the inclination to sin. We promised in our baptism to “reject the glamor of evil and refuse to be mastered by sin”. We do this through the sacrament of penance, receiving the Eucharist, prayer, and a deepening spirituality. In baptism we became adopted children of God. We became sharers of divine life and temples of the Holy Spirit. Think about that!! YOU are a temple of the Holy Spirit!! WOW!
In baptism we became members of the Church, the Body of Christ. We share in the priesthood of Christ as well as his prophetic and royal MISSION. Baptism is a commissioning to discipleship.
In that, we are to carry on the mission of Jesus in our world today, bonded with all Christians. In the waters of baptism, we die to self and rise with Jesus.
So, at Easter your baptismal vows will once again be asked of you. This year, may you have a deeper appreciation and understanding of your “I do” response to these promises which were once made for you a long time ago!
Have a Blessed Lent!