In this God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God. This passage from today’s Second Readingwill have special significant at the Parish of St. Monica this Lent. Over the next several weeks St. Monica will have the pleasure of a Lenten experience that we haven’t had since I arrived six years ago.
Seven people are currently in a catechetical program known as RCIA or the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. Several are asking to be baptized and receive first communion and confirmation. The others have already been baptized and are looking for communion with the Catholic Church.
The Sacrament rituals for each are different. There are those to be baptized or receiving their sacraments during the Easter Vigil. Those who were baptized non-Catholic Christian will be received in the church during a Sunday of Lent. Those who were baptized Catholic will go to the cathedral to be received into the Catholic Church by the new archbishop.
There are five steps to the ritual for the “elect“ to be received into the Catholic church:
Inquiry: the initial period before you decide to enter the Catholic Church. You’re asking questions and checking it out, but aren’t yet ready to commit.
Catechumenate: those who decide to enter the Church and are being trained for a life in Christ are called catechumens, an ancient name from the early Church. In this stage, you’re developing your faith and are being “catechized” – learning catechism, or the basic points about Catholic faith and life.
Purification and preparation: The Church will help you focus and intensify your faith as you prepare to commit your life to Christ and be received into the Church at Easter. If you’re following the RCIA process, you’ll go through a beautiful series of Gospel-based meditations during Lent, which is the time frame of this period.
Initiation itself, the culmination of the whole process! You’re received into the Church during the Easter Vigil Mass, where you’ll receive the sacraments of initiation: baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist. (If you’ve already been baptized, you won’t be baptized again.)
Mystagogy: after reception into the Church at Easter, this period lets you reflect and learn more about the mysteries of the Mass and the Sacraments that you now participate in fully.
Today I would like to focus on Stage 3 – Purification and preparation. This stage of intense reflection calls a person to deeper conversion in preparation for Easter. Although this is fundamentally what the season of Lent is for, it has a special intensity for those who are entering the Church and receiving the sacraments of initiation. The Church even changes the Gospel reading at the Mass where the elect participate. It uses three profound and beautiful passages from the Gospel of John to focus this preparation effort. Specifically we hear The woman at the well, The man born blind, and The raising of Lazarus.
A part of this deeper purification and preparation are called “The Scrutinies and Exorcisms.” The scrutinies are solemnly celebrated on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th, Sundays of Lent. These are ancient rites and they may, at first, seem strange to us. But they are profoundly rooted in our human experience.
We need to examine (scrutinize) how we are, the areas of our lives where we are tempted, or seriously sin. These rites have a spiritual purpose for self-searching and repentance.
The scrutinies 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.
The scrutinies are celebrated in order to:
- deliver the elect from the power of sin and Satan,
- to protect them against temptation,
- to give them strength in Christ, in the midst of their spiritual journey and they open their hearts to receive the gifts of the Savior.
The exorcisms are not meant to be fear-laden bouts with Satan but are grace-filled encounters with the healing power of the Spirit. These rites, therefore, should:
- Complete the conversion of the elect
- Deepen their resolve to hold fast to Christ
- Carry out their decision to love God above all.
- Think of one area of your life that needs to be exorcised?
- Pray 7 prayers for those currently in preparation for the sacraments.
- Read the three Gospels assignedfor the weeks of Lent when the Scrutinies are read: