A Lenten Reflection: Rediscovering Our Baptismal Christian Identity
Andrew M. Rubinich
Ever since I took a class entitled “The Church in the Twenty-First Century” a few semesters ago, I have been fascinated with our threefold Baptismal Christian identity as prophets, priests, and kings of Jesus Christ. In the class, we read and analyzed different encyclical letters by various pontiffs, council documents and dogmatic constitutions of both the First and Second Vatican Council in addition to addresses by more recent Church leaders. What I still find striking is how consistent this threefold identity as a mystery to be lived is articulated in each of the documents. Because of this and considering the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fast, and almsgiving, this Holy Season can provide us with a chance to understand and root our lives more deeply in this mystery of being Christian.
Lent is a time of prayer. The season is also an opportunity to prophesy the Paschal Mystery and our very participation in it. In our prayer through the season of Lent, as we heed the Word and pray with Him, spend time in Eucharistic Adoration, commit to prayerful devotions (perhaps “Lectio-Divina”, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, or the Way of the Cross), or make it a point to “make a visit” to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament each day, we journey with Our Lord to the Cross and His Resurrection. We grow in the virtue of faith as we respond to Jesus and His Church calling us to deeply penetrate and live the core of our belief in Jesus Christ, Our Savior. Saint Thérèse of Lisieux is quoted in the Catechism saying, “prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy” (CCC 2558). Lent is a time to prophesy the “trial and joy” of the Paschal Mystery and enter it through walking with Our Lord in prayer.
Lent is a time of fast. It is a time to look and recognize how priestly we are all called to be. So often the world “priestly” is associated with the vocation to the ministerial priesthood and not the Baptized Priesthood of Jesus Christ. The reality is that we are all called to offer our lives to God the Father as priestly people and Children of God. Through our fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday through the Easter Vigil, abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays, personal disciplines of fast throughout the season, and “giving up” of those things that please us and trick us into thinking we can have satisfaction or fulfillment in things on Earth aside from what God provides, we offer sacrifice to the Father. We grow in hope which is, “the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 1817). By offering our earthly lives, our wills, and desires to the Father, we can trust in God Almighty to provide for us and prepare us for the Heavenly Banquet that we all long for.
Lent is a time for almsgiving and living kingship more intentionally. Through the season of Lent, we are invited to share what we have for the good of our brother or sister whether they be a friend or foe. We are called to be humble servants as we “wear” our Christian crown of kingship. Almsgiving is work for justice and can take the form of monetary generosity and/or charitable deeds worked for the sake of the Church, the poor and hungry, the sick and suffering, and all those in need. Christian kingship lies in the service of God and others through the virtue of charity or love. As we “love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God,” indicators of Christian kingship are seen and lived (CCC 1822).
In the Rite of Baptism before the anointing with Sacred Chrism, the celebrant prays this prayer: “God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin, given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life. Amen.” If we allow it and truly live it, this Lenten season can be a time of renewal and recommitment to our Baptism and the core of our identity: Jesus Christ, the Priest, Prophet, and King. Then, we can press onward to the Holy Triduum – His Paschal Mystery and through it, our share in His everlasting life.