Lent is about preparation. Forty days: time for catechumens to prepare for baptism. Time to be ready for what is to come at the Easter vigil.
In Jesus’s time, preparation was needed, for baptism was quite an event. Imagine several hundred people striding down to the river to be baptized, all at one go. Now that is the pilgrim people of God. That is as clear a political statement, as manifest an eschatological act, as one could wish for.
But it seldom happens like that today. It’s not that the church’s liturgy doesn’t make a political statement: the very gathering together on a Sunday morning, let alone gestures like footwashing on Maundy Thursday, is deeply political. It’s not that the liturgy is not eschatological: the gathering of great and small at the altar, the offering up of different gifts and the receiving back of the bread and wine—these are deeply eschatological. But what has happened to baptism?