Every time we celebrate the sacrament of baptism, we ask the questions, "Do you renounce Satan? and all his works? and all his empty promises?" These are serious questions. We should consider them carefully before answering. 

And that is what the elect, those preparing to be baptized at the Easter Vigil, spend much of Lent doing.

For those who are making their final preparation for baptism, Lent is a time of purification and enlightenment. They examine their lives in the light of God's word and ask the entire Christian community to pray that whatever is weak and sinful within them may be eliminated and that whatever is good and holy may be affirmed. And we do. 

After the homily, in a litany of intercession, we proclaim the power of Jesus over all sin. 

Then we pray over the elect for their deliverance and strengthening. The presider, catechists, sponsors and other members of the community also may lay their hands on the heads of the elect in an ancient sign of forgiveness, healing and empowerment.

And because the entire community will renew its baptismal promises at Easter, we too examine our lives in light of God's word. Of course, this is something we should be doing throughout the year, but we focus on this self-examination in a special way during Lent. 

In every community that will baptize adults or older children at the Easter Vigil, special rites known as the "scrutinies" are celebrated at liturgy on the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent.

On these Sundays, the gospel readings are from the Gospel of John; they are the stories of the Samaritan woman whom Jesus meets at Jacob's well, the healing and coming to faith of the man born blind and the raising of Lazarus from the dead. 

These readings have been used for centuries to prepare the elect and the church for baptism. 

The readings focus on sin and redemption using the images of thirst and water, darkness and light, death and life

By examining ourselves through these readings, we come to know how we have become parched, how we have been blinded, how we have become deadened through sin. When we and the elect are asked at Easter to renounce Satan, evil works and empty promises, our answer can be a thoughtful, strong and heartfelt "I do."

Text by Victoria M. Tufano