RCIA is a time of special “purification” for our catechumens and candidates. But what about the rest of us? What should Lent be all about for us? The early Church Fathers suggested that it was a time for accompaniment—learning, acting, fasting, and praying along with those who would soon be equal members of the Body of Christ. How can we do this?
Scripture especially (and not surprisingly) offers us a great number of possibilities. Among them are the so-called “Penitential Psalms”–##6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143. Lucky for you, I’ll be doing presentations on these Psalms during the Thursday evenings of Lent this year! But you might want to spend some time, as well (or instead) praying through the readings assigned for the Triduum (Holy Thursday through Easter Sunday), especially those of the Easter Vigil. Many of us do not or cannot participate in that evening’s liturgy; praying through the assigned Scripture passages is a good way of entering into the experience vicariously. There are also the five (!) “Servant Songs” of Isaiah, found in chapters 42, 49, 50, 53, and 61 (used in the liturgies of Holy Week). They are central to an understanding of Jesus’ mission and message.
Leaving the passages themselves for a bit, you might focus on personalities or themes. There is a great collection of the former in the Lenten liturgies: the young couple at Cana, the Samaritan woman at the well, the man born blind, poor Lazarus; the disciples’ reaction after Jesus’ “Bread of Life” discourse; the woman caught in adultery; the night-time visit of Nicodemus.
Or you might spend time considering the titles Jesus is given especially in the Fourth Gospel: Bread of Life, Door, Good Shepherd, Resurrection/Life, Way/Truth/Life… There is so much rich fare in the Scriptures of Lent and Easter!
Some prefer to do, rather than reflect. There are possibilities here, as well. Stations of the Cross and fish-fry suppers are every Friday in Lent—come join us for devotion and fellowship.
Let me end with a series of questions prompted by the encyclical Nono Millennio Ineunte (The Coming New Millennium) by Pope St John Paul II:
What does being a Catholic mean to me?
What does Catholic education and formation in my Faith mean to me? Am I a ‘Sunday morning Catholic,” or am I willing to take the challenge fully to live my Faith?
How much do I know and understand about what I profess to believe? Am I in love with Jesus Christ?
Do I treasure the Eucharist as His great gift of self to me?
Do I desire to be a full-time Catholic, proud of my Faith and my Church, willing to “walk the walk”?
In the words of John Paul:
“…since baptism is a true entry into the holiness of God through incorporation into Christ and the indwelling of his Spirit, it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow spirituality. … ‘Do you wish to become holy?’ It means to set before [us] the radical nature of the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matt. 5:48).” Or at least, be open to being perfected… Are we?