Living as a Disciple of the Risen Christ Through a Recommitment to Baptismal Vows

Kenneth Himes, OFM HNPNow

Kenneth Himes, OFM

by Kenneth Himes, OFM

My early memories of Lent, perhaps as for many of us, are that it was a season to give up something I liked – candy, ice cream, a favorite TV show. Then somewhere along the way, I learned that it was not about giving up, but giving to – Catholic Relief Services (CRS) used to send out “rice bowls” – cardboard that could be folded to resemble a bowl that one filled with spare change for six weeks and sent back to CRS after Lent. Or there were service projects during Lent – visiting a soup kitchen, working at a food pantry, doing errands for shut-ins, or visiting a nursing home.

Those days of “giving up” or “giving to” served a purpose no doubt; but somehow, it all seemed a bit removed from Easter. Especially when I was told that Lent is a time of preparation. That is a line I’ve heard for decades – and a line I have also spoken myself many times.

But preparation for what? Well, Easter, of course. But what does that mean? Prepare for Easter… by doing what? How does one prepare to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus? Certainly, it was good for Jesus to be resurrected. But what should I do to prepare for his resurrection? Hmmm. Maybe Lent is not about preparing for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. It is about preparing, but not for what happened to Jesus. Instead, Lent might be about preparing for what should happen to me.

What is it that we do at Easter, that we don’t do on any other Sunday in the liturgical calendar? What happens at Mass on Easter Sunday that does not occur on other Sundays of the year? Obviously, not participation in the Eucharist, nor singing hymns, or hearing the Gospel proclaimed. That happens every week. So what is distinctive about the Easter liturgy? Well, to my knowledge, and the liturgically-minded in our fraternity can correct me (as they often have), it is only at Easter that we publicly renew our baptismal vows.

The whole point of Lent, it seems to me, is that from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, we ought to be preparing to do something that, too often, is done in a slapdash and hasty manner at our Easter Masses: to recommit ourselves to the vows of our baptism. I say this as one who is something of a “low church” Catholic, but it is a moment in our Easter liturgies that ought to get more attention, and for which we ought to better prepare.

Lent is not something to endure, to get through, on your way to Easter. The point is not merely to persevere (as I thought as a child), but to be faithful, to become more of a disciple than the last time I renewed my baptismal vows of identity as a follower of the Lord.

At this stage in my life, I am deeply aware of how many times I have said words without real conviction. I speak words too glibly, without practices that express my beliefs. Lent is a time for me to practice speaking what I truly mean, so that on Easter Sunday, I can renew my baptismal vows and really live as a disciple of the Risen Christ.