by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.
The restoration of the adult catechumenate (RCIA) by the Second Vatican Council and the return of the Easter Vigil by Pope Pius XII a decade earlier led to the recovery of the baptismal character of Lent.
In previous times Lent was about doing without treats, and concentrating on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
The adjustments of postconciliar renewal have brought the observance of Lent into clearer focus by emphasizing that it is a season of catechumenate for all the baptized, when all review the meaning of putting on Christ by our baptismal consecration, not only those who will be baptized or brought into full communion with the Church at the Easter Vigil.
The Lenten liturgy
The first days of Lent after Ash Wednesday and the following two weeks of Lent suggest a penitential spirit. The prayers and readings of the Masses and Liturgy of the Hours ask us to examine our faithfulness to our Christian commitment. Are we becoming more Christlike?
The tone shifts in the Gospels of the next three Sundays of Lent to reflecting on the meaning of baptism and how well we are imitating Christ: Jesus and the woman at the well; Jesus curing the blind man; Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. They ask how we are responding to Christ’s call to partner with him.
These questions remind the already baptized to experience again a new catechumenate and preparation to join with Christ in his redemptive mission.
In this third millennium Catholics are challenged to confront and correct a culture of secularism that rejects the biblical vision of the human person and human relationships. Not an easy task, but it can be a great adventure when we live in the confidence of the Easter Vigil and realize that love is stronger than death.
The annual catechumenate of Lent prepares us to be missionary disciples of Christ who bring his redemptive grace to others because we have experienced it in our own lives through baptism. Baptism is about going down into death with Christ and being raised up with him in glory. Lent is about dying to self for the life of others, about knowing the deepest meanings of life are found in Jesus. Activating our baptismal grace makes this possible.