Lenten Preaching on Life
March 4, 2003

Frank Pavone
Reproduced with Permission

Basic themes

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."

Penitential practices

The works of charity that constitute a fundamental form of penance can include reaching out to those in need of concrete assistance in their pregnancy. Volunteering at pregnancy resource centers is a perfect way to do this, as is the effort to make such centers better known in the community. A common fund could be established, for example, to purchase an ad in the paper or the Yellow Pages. Giving to such a fund is, in fact, helping the poorest of the poor.

To stand up in any way for the unborn child can be a penitential act, since it often brings unwarranted criticism, even from fellow worshipers who should be doing more themselves to end abortion.

Sacramental preparation

The vows of baptism call us to reject Satan's "empty promises." Chief among them in our day is the empty promise that abortion is a solution to our problems, as individuals and as a society. Preparing people for the sacraments necessarily includes providing insights into this most urgent moral issue of our day.

The doctrines of the Eucharist, Confirmation, and the Holy Spirit provide profound insights into our pro-life commitment. Meetings with sponsors for baptism and confirmation provide an opportunity to explain their obligation to strengthen others to understand and be faithful to the demands that the sanctity of life places upon us.