Amen Corner - March 14, 2021
Spring is the season of love. All of creation awakens, songbirds, silent during the cold winter months, chirp joyful melodies, flowers emerge to embrace the sun, and summer brides and grooms prepare to say “I do,” two small words that promise a lifetime of love. Our Elect and Candidates who await baptism, confirmation and Eucharist are also preparing to say “I do.” Their “I do’s” also promise a lifetime of love. Along with them, the entire community prepares to say “I do,” recommitting to the promises made at baptism. This is what Lent is all about—a 40 day retreat that prepares us to renew our baptism.
The focus on baptism in Lent is ancient. For the earliest Christians, Lent was a time to concentrate on penance and baptism. Public penitents returned to be reconciled with the Church and adult catechumens made their final preparation for baptism. In later centuries, infant baptism replaced the baptism of adults and because of this, the baptismal nature of Lent was diminished and overshadowed by a singular focus on penance. With the renewal of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the Second Vatican Council insisted that Lent once again be marked by both penance and baptism.
"The baptismal and penitential aspects of Lent are to be given greater prominence in both the liturgy and liturgical catechesis." (Sacroscantum Concilium, #109).
The Church reminds us that “Lent is a preparation for the celebration of Easter. The Lenten liturgy disposes both the catechumens and the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery; catechumens, through the several stages of Christian initiation; the faithful, through reminders of their own Baptism and through penitential practices.” (General Norms for the Liturgical Year #27)
What we expect of the catechumens is that they have “undergone a conversion in mind and in action and . . . have developed a sufficient acquaintance with Christian teaching as well as a spirit of faith and charity . . . (and) the intention to receive the sacraments of the Church.” (RCIA #120)
We who are already baptized are called to a similar conversion as we prepare to recommit ourselves to our baptismal promises. Do you recall what you promised or what your parents and godparents promised on your behalf? To reject the lure of evil and to embrace the love of God, with the simple but profound words, “I do.”
As any married couple knows, it takes a lifetime to realize the meaning of “I do.” These words have to be lived out and discovered day by day. Each Lent the Church asks us to ponder in a deeper way the promises behind these words so that our “I do” at Easter may be sincere and wholehearted. As we prepare to renew our baptism, may we, like creation, awaken to new life, that we may sing the melody of God’s love to all the world.