Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pope's Lent Message Looks at Baptism Link

Offers a Gospel Reflection for Each Sunday

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 22, 2011 ( Benedict XVI is proposing a journey with the Word of God this Lent and a deepening in the mystery of baptism.

The Pope's annual Lenten message was released today with a theme from Colossians: "You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him." The message offers a reflection for each of the Sunday Gospel readings of the liturgical season.

The Holy Father noted a "particular connection" between baptism and Lent, "as the favorable time to experience this saving grace."

He observed how baptism's reception 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,' is given to men and women freely."

"Baptism," the Pope said, "is not a rite from the past, but the encounter with Christ, which informs the entire existence of the baptized, imparting divine life and calling for sincere conversion; initiated and supported by grace, it permits the baptized to reach the adult stature of Christ."


To undertake the journey toward "the most joyous and solemn feast of the entire liturgical year," Benedict XVI proposed being guided by the Word of God.

Beginning with the Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent -- Jesus' temptations in the desert -- the Pope emphasized the fragility of humanity and the strength of Christ.

He said, "It is a powerful reminder that Christian faith implies, following the example of Jesus and in union with him, a battle 'against the ruling forces who are masters of the darkness in this world,' in which the devil is at work and never tires -- even today -- of tempting whoever wishes to draw close to the Lord."

The Second Sunday brings us to Christ's glory in the transfiguration, the Pontiff continued, which "announces the divinization of man."

"It is the invitation to take a distance from the noisiness of everyday life in order to immerse oneself in God’s presence," he proposed.

The Samaritan woman at the well is presented on Lent's Third Sunday, with Christ's request that she give him a drink.

This, Benedict XVI explained, "expresses the passion of God for every man and woman, and wishes to awaken in our hearts the desire for the gift of 'a spring of water within, welling up for eternal life.'"

Next comes the story of the man born blind, which "presents Christ as the light of the world."

"The miracle of this healing is a sign that Christ wants not only to give us sight," the Holy Father reflected, "but also open our interior vision, so that our faith may become ever deeper and we may recognize him as our only Savior."

Finally, the resurrection of Lazarus on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, brings us to face "the ultimate mystery of our existence."

"Communion with Christ in this life prepares us to overcome the barrier of death, so that we may live eternally with him," the Pope reflected. "Faith in the resurrection of the dead and hope in eternal life open our eyes to the ultimate meaning of our existence: God created men and women for resurrection and life."


The message goes on to discuss the three hallmarks of Lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving, (which have been the subject of previous Lenten reflections.)

The Pope concluded by affirming that "through the personal encounter with our Redeemer and through fasting, almsgiving and prayer, the journey of conversion towards Easter leads us to rediscover our baptism."

"This Lent," he said, "let us renew our acceptance of the grace that God bestowed upon us at that moment, so that it may illuminate and guide all of our actions. What the sacrament signifies and realizes, we are called to experience every day by following Christ in an ever more generous and authentic manner."

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