Since I have retired home to Sacred Heart Monastery I have had the time and space to explore some of the real blessings I was gifted with during my years of external ministry in our Diocese.
During the past 50+ years I have had the opportunity of ministering in ten different parish communities in our Diocese, either in education or in pastoral ministry. The years spent in pastoral ministry always included working with the Order of Christian Initiation (R.C.I.A.).
This is the first time in a long time that I haven’t been busy with the hustle and bustle of helping prepare the Elect and those preparing to enter into full Communion with the Catholic Church for the wondrous celebration of the Easter Vigil and their reception of the Sacraments of Initiation.
For Lent this year I decided to experience the unfolding of this wonderful conversion process through the eyes of those stepping forward to receive the Sacraments of Initiation. The invitation is for all of us to search our lives in order to see Jesus walking with us, along the way.
The Elect are those who are preparing for Baptism at the Easter Vigil. They have already been received by our communities at the Rite of Acceptance, and have been enrolled in the Book of the Elect during the Rite of Election at the Cathedral with the Bishop.
On the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent they take one more step in the process of being ready to be Baptized. They participate in the celebration of the Scrutinies of the Rite of Christian Initiation.
Scrutiny is when you look at something really closely, like when you are checking a paper for mistakes.
As the word “scrutiny” suggests, the Scrutinies during Lent are a period of deep examination, purification, and enlightenment, meant especially for those preparing for the Sacrament of Baptism. They are celebrated in order to deliver the elect from the power of sin and Satan, to protect them against temptation, and to give them strength in Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life. They are meant to uncover, and then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect; to bring out, then strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good. These rites, therefore, should complete the conversion of the elect and deepen their resolve to hold fast to Christ and to carry out their decision to love God above all.
The roots of these rites date back to the early Church. They take place during the Sunday Mass, each thematically linked to the Gospel reading for that Mass, the readings for those Masses usually come from Cycle A of the Church’s Lectionary.
3rd Sunday of Lent – John 4:5-42 – Jesus encountering the Samaritan woman at the well, where He offers Himself as the Living Water. – The longest conversation between Jesus and anyone else in the New Testament. The kingdom of God is being explained to all who would truly listen. There is surprise, hope and the truth.
4th Sunday of Lent – John 9:1-41 –– Jesus healing the man born blind, where He gives Himself as Light of the World. A sign, a miracle. A man born blind now can see. Can we open our eyes and truly see the world around us as Jesus sees? Can I stop judging and begin to truly love?
5th Sunday of Lent – John 11:1-45 – Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, where He reveals Himself as the Resurrection and the Life. The last great sign “miracle” that Jesus works in the Gospel of John. Jesus shows he is the resurrection and the life. Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God who can give eternal life to all who believe in him. There is Hope. There is a Promise. Let me be open to living my life in the belief of that Promise to Hope.
During each of the Scrutinies, we witness the miracle of a radical encounter with Christ, who redeems in gentle love. This happens in the weekly Gospel story, and then in the encounter of the Elect with the Holy Spirit.
Join me during this Holy Season. Let us read and meditate on the Gospel passages for these Scrutinies and apply them to our own lives.
We are challenged with the Samaritan woman at the well when we thirst for the Lord, who knows what we need and provides it; we beg, with the man born blind, to see Jesus, who is the light and gives us sight; and finally we lie with Lazarus within the tomb of oblivion and death, built with the stones of our own sins, until Jesus reaches out his hand and pulls us from the pit.
May we all thirst for the Living Water Christ offered the Samaritan Woman at the well.
May we all have our Spiritual Sight restored by Christ who is the Light of the World.
May we all bear witness to New Life in Christ like Lazarus, who received the Resurrection and the Life.
Christ has liberated us; we are free to choose Him and not remain in darkness.
Let us ask ourselves these questions: When did Jesus enter into my life? How was he present to me, even in the most difficult times, when I may have felt farthest from him? How did he heal me, accompany me, and bring me to where I am, here, today? Where is he calling me now?
Let us resolve to ask for God’s healing grace, to work prayerfully on those areas of your spiritual life that need to be healed as we move forward toward the Easter Glory.
By Sister Janet Marie Flemming, OSB