This past weekend, while sitting in the church, overwhelmed by the busyness of Lenten preparations (amid family emergencies) and overcome by an abundance of beauty God was pouring into my heart, I was reflecting on Our Lady’s tears. Specifically, those tears she shed during Our Lord’s Passion and death. A mother’s tears poured out for the salvation of the world, the labor pains she endured on account of our sins. Every lash of a whip, every pierce of a thorn, every splinter of the cross, every stone that caused him to fall—Our Lady was weeping; Our Savior was saving.
It struck me, also, that Lent is the season of preparation to renew our Baptismal vows. It is a time of preparation especially for those who are about to receive this sacrament, to enter into the new covenant, to be adopted as God’s children, to become open to the outpouring of grace that exists in the sacramental life of the Church.
I don’t think we spend enough time reflecting on what a tremendous gift this sacrament is. Especially for those of us who were baptized as infants, we’re so used to living in this covenant that we don’t always appreciate the reality that we are set apart. We are called to holiness. And most especially, we are called to proclaim this beautiful truth to those who still sit in darkness, searching for the only One who can save them.
“For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.”1 Peter 3:18-21
There’s the ocean of the flood, through which the earth was cleansed of wickedness and those faithful to God were saved. There’s the family of Noah, an early representation of the family of the Church by which we, by Baptism, become one Body in Christ, sharing in and united by His Blood.
The earliest prefigurement of Baptism, though, comes to us in the first verses of Genesis: “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.”
We all know what happens next. God says, “Let there be light.” And there is light. God speaks, and creation becomes. And in Baptism, we are made new creations, passing through the waters and enlightened by the Spirit. We are no longer what we were. We are no longer enslaved to the sins that bound us. Satan no longer has any claim over us.
By Baptism, we are wholly, completely, entirely His own.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”1 John 3:2
No other religion expresses this reality of becoming God’s children. This is utterly unique to the Christian worldview, to be called children of God by adoption. And can this even be so? Because God the Father’s only begotten Son entered into time in order to suffer, and die, and rise again. By Baptism, we are incorporated into His death—in fact, being dunked under the water is a sign of Christ’s entering under the earth, while being raised up out of the water is the sign that we are raised up into the new life He won for us.
But all of this, too, is an expression of God’s infinite mercy. I should note that in Hebrew, the word we often translate as “love” or “mercy” is actually hesed, which refers to God’s covenant fidelity. It’s not only that God has mercy on us (though He does). It’s not only that God loves us (though that is true). God is faithful. God keeps His promises. He is the only One in whom we can fully and confidently place our whole trust.
As I’ve been writing this post, I’ve been listening to “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail),” at first because it just happened to be what I was singing to myself as I sat down at my computer. But somewhere around 20 listens in, I was struck by that image of trust, reaching out to take Our Lord’s hand when He calls us to walk on the ocean.
When He brings me personally to this moment, it’s often in the middle of a storm. My boat was destroyed by the waves years ago. At first I could never take a step without sinking. But again and again, He reached out to take my hand. He taught me to let Him lead. He even taught me to dance with Him on that ocean, though most often He held me close to His Heart where the beating of the Sacred Heart was louder than the storm raging around us.
In covenant, through Baptism, I am His and He is mine. And this ocean where I learned to trust Him is the very ocean of His merciful love poured out for me.
It’s time to renew that trust. It’s time to enter once again into preparing to renew the vows of that covenant, to learn to be faithful to Him as He has always been faithful to me.
Lent is upon us. Over the course of the next few weeks as we enter into Lent and prepare for the joy of Easter, we’ll be talking about the other sacraments, tying them into this theme of Divine Mercy.
On Thursdays, though, we’ll be sharing some meatless recipes, as well as a book review or two. While the sacraments are the sustenance for our spiritual journey, we who live in this world still need the physical sustenance of food and good stories.
I’ll leave you with this prayer for the renewal of baptismal promises:
Lord Jesus Christ, I acknowledge you as King of the universe. All creation was made for you. Exercise all your sovereign rights over me. I renew my baptismal promises, renouncing Satan and all his works and empty promises, and I promise to lead a good Christian life. I will try to bring about the recognition of the truth of God and your Church. Divine Heart of Jesus, I offer all my actions that every human heart may accept your kingship. May the kingdom of your peace be established across the world.