The season of Lent is something like that. Lent was not originally intended for all of us. This season was originally preparation for the catechumens, the adults preparing to enter the Church through baptism at the Easter Vigil. Today, we use the RCIA to prepare catechumens for baptism, to prepare those who are baptized in other Christian communities to enter the Church, and to prepare those who are baptized Catholic but who were never further catechized to complete their initiation. Those taking part in the RCIA in our parish have been meeting on Monday evenings since the fall. On the first night, I told those taking part that I would be giving them the teaching of the Church to help them understand what we believe. But I also said that our main goal was not so much to give them an academic understanding as to help them fall in love with Christ.
With that end in mind, the Church devised a special time for the catechumens to prepare for their baptism. As Christ fasted for forty days in the desert, so the Church arranged a forty-day fast period for those preparing to enter the Church. The fasting was not meant to be a punishment. It was intended as a way for them to put Christ first in their lives. So the period of Lent provided an opportunity for the catechumens to grow in the love of Christ. And that is when the rest of the Church said, “Hey, what about us?” Those who were already in the Church wanted to share the time of Lent so that they, too, could experience a growth in the love of Christ.
So my special request for everyone today is to ask you to pray especially for those preparing to enter the Church at the Easter Vigil. As they enter into a new relationship with Christ, they are (despite the months of preparation) going to have an adjustment. They are going to have many questions as they move forward. At the same time, they have an excitement that comes with beginning a new adventure and entering into a new relationship. I am often inspired by those who come to the faith as adults. Their excitement often reminds me that, like most cradle Catholics, I sometimes take my faith for granted. When I see the excitement of a neophyte, a new member of the Catholic family, it reminds me of what a great gift we have. At times like that, I feel like the small child who asks his mother, “What about me? Can I have one?”
And that brings us back to our season of Lent. With just a couple of weeks left, we may be running out of steam. We may have struggle with our Lenten observances, or we may have forgotten them altogether. If we make a special effort to pray for the RCIA and those coming into the Church, we can renew our own faith. Lent may always be something of a challenge, but it can become an exciting time for us as well.