Lent Begins With a Baptismal Primer

User’s Guide to the First Sunday of Lent

Baptism makes us new creations in Christ.
Baptism makes us new creations in Christ. (photo: Unsplash)

Sunday, Feb. 18, is the First Sunday of Lent. Mass readings: Genesis 9:8-15; Psalm 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9.; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15.

On the First Sunday of Lent, the readings turn to a very baptismal theme. It makes sense, for it is common on this Sunday in many places that the catechumens report to the bishop for the Rite of Election, wherein he recognizes them as elect (chosen) of God in these final weeks before their baptism.

The first and second readings make mention of Noah and the ark, in which they were delivered from the flood. Note however, while we quickly think of water as a symbol for baptism, the image is really a double image of wood and water, for if it were not for the wood of the ark, the waters would have overwhelmed Noah’s family. For us too, the waters of our baptism are rendered effective by Jesus on the wood of the cross.

The second reading speaks of the power and gifts that radiate from baptism. Let’s look at them: salvation, sonship, serenity and Spirit.

The text says, “baptism … saves you now.” The Greek word translated here as “saves” is sozei and means “to be delivered from present danger.” Yes, we have been snatched from the raging flood waters of this sin-soaked world and from Satan who seeks to devour us.

“Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God,” the text continues.

Yes, Jesus has opened the way to the Father. He has reconciled us to God the Father by his precious blood. In baptism, we become the children of God.

The text further says that “baptism ... is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience.”

Baptism, while it touches the body, has for its current goal the soul, the inner man or woman. In effect, this text speaks to us of the new mind and heart that Jesus, through baptism, confers on us. And as our mind gets clearer and our heart grows purer, our whole life is gradually transformed. This leads to inner peace, to a serene conscience, confident and loving before God.

In addition, the text says of Jesus, “Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit.” As God, Jesus did not need or acquire the Holy Spirit. He was always one with the Holy Spirit. But as man, he does acquire the Holy Spirit for us.

Baptism now saves you and me.

Archbishop Hubertus van Megen celebrates the episcopal consecration of Father John Kiplimo Lelei as auxiliary bishop of Kenya’s Diocese of Eldoret on May 25, 2024.

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The Nairobi-based Vatican diplomat, who has also been representing the Holy Father in South Sudan, highlighted the need to seek God’s mercy as important and implored: “Let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”