The Pope’s Lenten Message for 2011 can be a good source for a homily on Ash Wednesday, March 9, 2011. It gives an overview of the Lenten exercise in relation to making our yearly renewal of baptismal vows on the one hand, and the gospel readings for the five Sundays of Lent, on the other. As you will see in the outline given below, the explanation of the Sunday gospels are meant to deepen our appreciation of our Baptism as our immersion in the Paschal Mystery.
Outline of the Message
- Our new life in Christ through baptism
- Baptism as an encounter (1)
- Baptism and Lent
- Deepening our appreciation of Baptism and the sequela Christi: the Sundays of Lent (2)
- Sunday I: The Victorious Battle against Temptation
- Sunday II: An Invitation to Detach Ourselves from the World and to Immerse Oneself in Christ’s Presence
- Sunday III: God’s Passion for Man
- Sunday IV: Christ, the Light of the World
- Sunday V: Eternal Life and the Ultimate Meaning of Human Existence
- Fasting, Almsgiving and Prayer (3)
- Our Lenten Journey: the Mystery of the Cross in our Lives
The message is short, just 2245 words on 3 numbered paragraphs. The important features have been pointed out by Cardinal Sarah (see the link below), the most important of which is that the message underlines how the life of God’s children already received in baptism is something to be nurtured throughout our lives. Our Lenten journey, though characterized by liturgical rites and symbols are not reducible to those rites and symbols. The Lenten journey gives us the pattern for the daily living out of our baptismal commitment, which is our immersion in the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ. In our baptism, we die to sin so that we too can share in the resurrection of Christ. Lived out, it means that we should deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Christ. The sequela Christi (in Filipino, “ang Dakilang Pagsunod kay Cristo”) is the first consequence of our baptism into Christ. In short
(T)he Lenten journey, in which we are invited to contemplate the Mystery of the Cross, is meant to reproduce within us “the pattern of his death” (Ph 3: 10), so as to effect a deep conversion in our lives; that we may be transformed by the action of the Holy Spirit, like St. Paul on the road to Damascus; that we may firmly orient our existence according to the will of God; that we may be freed of our egoism, overcoming the instinct to dominate others and opening us to the love of Christ. The Lenten period is a favorable time to recognize our weakness and to accept, through a sincere inventory of our life, the renewing Grace of the Sacrament of Penance, and walk resolutely towards Christ.
The Pope’s comments on infant baptism is to be noted:
The fact that, in most cases, Baptism is received in infancy highlights how it is a gift of God: no one earns eternal life through their own efforts. The mercy of God, which cancels sin and, at the same time, allows us to experience in our lives “the mind of Christ Jesus” (Phil 2: 5), is given to men and women freely.
- The Pope’s Lenten Message 2011
- Cardinal Sarah’s Commentary: Faith, With Its Promise of Eternal Given To Us in Baptism, Requires Constant Nurturing
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