The readings this Sunday speak of Baptism. This is most explicit in the second reading, where Baptism is characterized as “an appeal to God for a clear conscience” (1 Pt. 3:21) and connected to the Great Flood (3:20–21). In the first reading we hear about the covenant made with Noah after the Flood, and in the gospel, we see Jesus going out into the wilderness after being baptized. Both the rains of the Flood and Jesus’ time in the desert last 40 days—just like the Lenten fast. But what does Baptism have to do with Lent?
One of the most obvious answers is that it is a time of preparation for Baptism for those entering the Church. But Lent is closely connected to our own Baptism, no matter how long ago we received this sacrament. Let’s look at a couple aspects of Baptism and see how they relate to this Sunday’s readings and to the Season of Lent.
Baptism is a cleansing. It washes away sin, just as the Flood cleansed the earth of evil. But unless we are among the greatest of saints, we have sinned many times since our Baptism! Lent is a time to purify our souls once again, seeking God’s mercy in the sacrament of Reconciliation. It is a time of fasting, so as to detach ourselves from whatever leads us into sin and attach ourselves more firmly to the Lord.
Baptism is also a sacrament of renewal and new life. More than simply washing away our sins, it allows us to participate in the life of the Holy Spirit. This is what makes it possible for us to live lives of Christian virtue. Lent is a time to renew our relationship with God and participate more fully in the life of the Trinity through prayer. It is also a time to renew our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ through almsgiving.
Finally, in Baptism, we commit ourselves to our baptismal vows. We promise to renounce sin and Satan (as Jesus did when he resisted Satan’s temptations in the desert). We profess faith in God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In particular, we profess belief in Christ’s crucifixion, death, and burial, which we recall in a special way during Lent, and in His resurrection and ascension, which we look forward to celebrating at Easter. We also profess our faith in some of the key truths of our Faith, including the forgiveness of sins, which we seek especially during Lent, and the resurrection of the body, which we await with hope, especially as we look forward to the celebration of Jesus Christ’s own resurrection.
Lent is a time for us to enter more deeply into the mystery of our Baptism, renewing and rediscovering the boundless graces that were given to us in that sacrament. It is a time for us to recall our baptismal vows and seek to live them out more fully through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We will renew those vows at the Easter Vigil. As we embark on this Lenten journey, let us seek to prepare ourselves for that moment, so that they may not be empty promises, but truly an expression of our renewed commitment to Christ and His Church.
Andrew Sheedy – St. Joseph Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta
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