These days, a Catholic may be able to tell your age by the way you explain Lent. Hello, I'm Father Greg Friedman. American Catholic.org presents this series of "Sunday Soundbites" for the season of Lent.
Older Catholics, who remember Lent in the 1930s, 40s or 50sor perhaps even earliermay first think of this season as a time of penance. Lent was when you gave up somethinglike food or going to the movies in order to do penance for sin.
Since the Church has restored the rite of initiating adults into the Christian faith, Lent has taken on a different meaningone that goes back to the fourth and fifth centuries. At that time, the 40 days before Easter were the final stage of preparation for those about to be baptized. The rest of the Church prayed and fasted in solidarity with them.
Today, with the presence in most Catholic parishes of a group of adults visibly making ready to receive the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil, Lent has regained that "baptismal" emphasis. We still can decide on a Lenten observancefasting, prayer, almsgivingbut we do it with the purpose of recalling our Baptism, of deepening our commitment to Christ. And we do it in solidarity with those preparing to be baptized or received into the Church.
The readings for each Sunday in Lent have been chosen by the Church to relate to the journey of faith each of us undertakes, to our basic baptismal call to be part of Christ. Some of the selections, from the Gospel of John, for example, have been used for centuries to recall the meaning of Baptism. For people about to be baptized, these Scripture passages take on a powerful meaning indeed. The meditations you will find here on our Web site will call attention to the various "baptismal connections" for each Sunday.
Those who are already baptized, are still on a journey. Our faith must be renewed, our baptismal promises affirmed, each time we gather with the Church for the Eucharist, where we hear God's Word and come to the table to be transformed into the Body of Christ. We bring to that experience our questions, our sinfulness, our hunger and thirst, our need to grow, our longing for God.
As you reflect with me through these "Sunday Soundbites,"
let's pray for each other as we make our Lenten journey of faith. I'm Father
Greg Friedman for AmericanCatholic.org.