Lent is often seen as a time of fasting and self-denial, which is part of the tradition, but not one that the liturgy stresses. The liturgical readings are more about preparing catechumens for baptism at the Easter Vigil, writes Fr Thomas Reese SJ on NCR Online.
Today, with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) common in many churches, Lent as a time of preparing for baptism is once more being emphasised. But what does that mean for the already baptised?
Lent is all about the weekday Scripture readings. These readings were the original "Catechism of the Catholic Church". It was only centuries later that the catechism, under the influence of Martin Luther and Robert Bellarmine, became what it is today, with its emphasis on doctrine.
The original catechesis was more about living the faith than knowing the faith. It was based on Scripture, not doctrinal teaching. Selected for the Lenten weekday readings were what the church considered the most important passages that a new Christian needed to know in order to practice the faith. In ancient times, the catechumens would gather in the cathedral each day during Lent where the bishop would instruct them using the Scripture readings.
Today, these same weekday Scripture readings can be a splendid way of reminding us of the essentials of our faith.
Sadly, most Catholics do not read or pray the Scriptures.
Christians who do not read the Scriptures are starving themselves from the Word of God. Protestants understand this and read the Scriptures much more than do Catholics. Catholics content themselves to hearing the word on Sundays, if they come to church.
True reform will not happen in the church until the laity begin reading and praying over the Scriptures themselves. Without reflecting on the Scriptures, it is almost impossible to become an adult Christian. It is through reading the Scriptures that we open ourselves to inspiration from the Spirit.
Lent is an ideal time to study Scripture (CNS/Catolico/Karen Callaway)