Lent is a time to prepare for Easter, but more than Easter, a time to prepare for baptism. Four adults in our community are preparing for this at the Easter vigil on April 20. Normally we don’t baptize even infants between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday but last week, on the Third Sunday of Lent, I baptized a man. Cy Sharif was born in Tehran but has been living in San Francisco many years. He is dying of cancer and quite scared of entering that undiscovered country from which no man returns. I’ve seen some inspiring conversions and adult baptisms but Cy’s desperate longing for the faith was most the most beautiful of all. With cancer overcoming him, Cy hovers at the edge of a black abyss. He called our parish for a priest to baptize him, and so I entered his room to find a desperate man who has glimpsed the possibility of eternal life. The priest asks the dying man: “What do you ask of God’s Church?” No one has had time to instruct Cy in liturgical proprieties, so I supply the answer to my own question: “Faith.” Yes, the dying man gasps. Yes, I want faith. I want to believe in God, in a life beyond this life! I continue, according to the Roman Ritual, with these words: “What does faith offer you?” Again the dying man cannot precisely articulate, but knows that whatever faith in God offers is what he needs. The answer in my ritual book is “Eternal life,” and Cy affirms his desire by repeating those words. He utters his great longing, reaching for a final lifeline as he slips under the waters of death. “Please, yes, I want to live! I want to live forever with people who love me….” The priest continues with the Roman ritual, words that dying men have heard for centuries, words that have been pronounced over infants and over adult catechumens in the darkness of our churches on Easter night. “If you would enter into eternal life, then, do you promise to keep the commandments: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength? And will you love your neighbor as yourself?” Cy begins to weep. He is dying, but he wants the death and rebirth of baptism before he slips beneath the dark waters of death to this world. I baptize and anoint him with Chrism. And now he is ready for viaticum, the Bread of Angels that will accompany him through the realm of the dead. How he longed for that Eucharist! When a dying man so thirsts for Christ, when he visibly hungers for the Holy Eucharist, we all find a bit more faith in our own hearts. Welcome home, Cy Sharif.