Here’s a brief pre-Lenten reflection with quotes from Pope Benedict XVI’s reflections on Lent.
The Apostle to the Gentiles, in the Letter to the Philippians, expresses the meaning of the transformation that takes place through participation in the death and resurrection of Christ, pointing to its goal: that “I may come to know him and the power of his resurrection, and partake of his sufferings by being molded to the pattern of his death, striving towards the goal of resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3: 10-11). Hence, Baptism is not a rite from the past, but the encounter with Christ, which informs the entire existence of the baptized, imparting divine life and calling for sincere conversion; initiated and supported by Grace, it permits the baptized to reach the adult stature of Christ.
Baptism for Pope Benedict is the act of encountering Christ. It is a religious rite, but it is a lifestyle, it informs the way we live today it speaks through our lives and into God’s future for us. Baptism infills us with the grace to pursue Christ as we should and to take our places in Him, for Him and through Him.
In fact, the Church has always associated the Easter Vigil with the celebration of Baptism: this Sacrament realizes the great mystery in which man dies to sin, is made a sharer in the new life of the Risen Christ and receives the same Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead (cf. Rm 8: 11). This free gift must always be rekindled in each one of us, and Lent offers us a path like that of the catechumenate, which, for the Christians of the early Church, just as for catechumens today, is an irreplaceable school of faith and Christian life. Truly, they live their Baptism as an act that shapes their entire existence.
We renew our baptismal promises pretty often at my parish, when we have baptisms and such, and yet…how can we forget the compelling power of the waters cleansed by the life of Christ so that we might become as He is? Lent is the pilgrim’s path for all the Church. We remember we are visitors, not aligned with any government, save the Vatican, and not aligned with the systems of power and the darkness of the world.
Lent is a time that offers candidates like me a chance to come deeper into the faith, and offers other Catholics the path to be disciples. Lent is ultimately a season for discipleship. Discipleship, as Bonhoeffer taught, and as the Church has taught for millennia, is costly.
This coming Sunday, our gospel will be a trial for us, as we will see the temptation of Our Lord. But we should do as this past Sunday encouraged us and take the Gospel and the Law to heart, so that we might have them as a sign. Then, we can have a proper meditation, so that when temptation comes, we too may answer in some form, “Man does not live on bread alone.”