Celebrant: As we begin our Lenten journey, we bring our needs, and the needs of the world, before God's throne.
That through the ministry of the Church, people of all nations will believe and profess that Jesus is Lord, we pray to the Lord...
That governments may foster justice by acknowledging God as supreme over every human law and activity, we pray to the Lord...
For the strength to resist the temptation to discriminate against the poor, the immigrant, the elderly, and the unborn, we pray to the Lord…
For those who are ill, that God's love and our care may bring them healing and strength, we pray to the Lord...
That all who have died may be purified of sin and blessed with the eternal vision of God, we pray to the Lord...
our source of strength in every temptation,
hear our prayers.
Grant that in all our needs,
we may confess Jesus as the only Lord,
who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.
Lent and Life
"By our gracious gift each year, your faithful await the sacred paschal feasts with the joy of minds made pure" (Preface of Lent 1). The purpose of Lent is succinctly expressed by this preface. Catechumens prepare for baptism into the paschal mystery. The faithful are reminded of their baptism, and will renew their baptismal vows at the Easter liturgy. Baptism initiates us into the eternal life Christ gives us. The baptized are sons and daughters of God and are members of the Church, the People of Life.
The choices of the baptized are therefore to be shaped by their new identity (see Rom 6:6; Eph. 4:17-24). Christ calls the Samaritan woman to repent as she accepts the waters of new life (see John 4:15-24). Lenten repentance is necessary so that God's people may more deeply become who they are. They are called to see their sins more clearly. Hence baptism is known as "illumination."
Anyone who makes the Lenten journey is called to be more alert to the attacks on human life and dignity around them. The people of life are called to reject sin and all the devil's works and empty promises (Renewal of Baptismal Promises, Easter Liturgy). The "pro-choice" and "right to die" mentalities are two of those "empty promises" which are firmly rejected by the baptized. A firm rejection of these positions is integral to repentance. Lent is the perfect time for us to call our congregations to a clearer understanding of why this is true, and to lead them to a deeper affirmation of life, both natural and eternal, in the celebration of the Paschal Mystery.
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The themes of Lent provide powerful opportunities to preach on the sanctity of life and the tragedy of abortion.
The season of Lent prepares the faithful, through a special emphasis on penitence, to celebrate the Paschal Mystery and to renew the vows of their baptism. It is also a time of final preparation of catechumens to receive the new life in water and the Holy Spirit. This double meaning of Lent incorporates and illumines why the Church is pro-life and provides a liturgically consistent way of preaching about it throughout this time of year.
The dynamics of baptism are those of life, welcome, and mutual responsibility. Baptism immerses us into the death and resurrection of Christ, by which death in all its forms is destroyed. Moreover, God's sovereign choice is the first step in the process. He has chosen us, and He has chosen our brothers and sisters in the family of the Church that comes about through baptism. Hence we learn that we have responsibility not only for those we "choose," but for those whom God chooses to entrust to our care.
The penitential preparation for baptism -- whether for its reception or renewal -- is necessary precisely because the dynamics of sin lead us to exalt our own "choices" over and above the moral demands of justice and charity. Sin, furthermore, obscures our judgment about the dignity and rights of others, and makes us all too ready to ignore them. Hence, the sacrament by which we become brothers and sisters in One Body is also the sacrament of "enlightenment."
The temptations of Jesus, summarized in today’s Gospel passage, also summarize our own. Living on bread alone would imply that the economic challenges of having a child become more determinative than the value of that child. Worshiping anyone other than the Lord our God would imply that our own will is more important in the end than God’s. Finally, failing to trust in the Lord alone, and his provision for our future, can lead us to resort to violent acts like abortion to try to control that future or surmount an obstacle in the way of what we think should happen.
The shape of Lenten penance derives from fighting these temptations, and fostering a more pure and trusting dependence on God. That is what also builds a culture of life.