March 26, 2017
On the first Sunday of Lent each year the Bishop holds the Rite of Election at Mary Queen of the Universe Shrine. It’s the occasion when adults and older children preparing for baptism at Easter commit themselves to the final stages of education in the faith and spiritual formation. Their names are written in a book and from that moment on they are no longer called “catechumens” (students) but “the elect” because they are God’s chosen ones. We have an exceptionally large group this year, almost twenty, with many under instruction since August, and we should keep them in our prayers. These last weeks are mainly intended to purify their minds and hearts. On Sundays 3, 4 and 5 of Lent they undergo “Scrutinies” designed to help them examine their lives and repent, progressing “in their perception of sin and their desire for salvation”.
To accompany each of the Scrutinies there is a special Gospel - long Gospels which have been used by the Church during Lent since very early times. We all get to hear those Gospel readings every three years, when we have the readings of Cycle A - although you will notice that they do not come from Matthew but from John, the most spiritual of the evangelists. Last week we heard about the Samaritan woman at the well who thirsted for living water (John 4). The elect are thirsting for God, and they know that their thirst will be quenched in the waters of baptism. This week we hear of the healing of the man born blind (John 9). Through the year our catechumens have had their eyes opened as they have understood more about their faith and the Christian way of life. Finally, on the fifth Sunday of Lent, we will hear the story of the raising of Lazarus (John 11). These elect will receive new life at baptism and the promise of eternal life. As we approach Easter with them let us pray that these new friends will progress in their journey towards fulfillment, truth and life.
The official documents of the Church say that “The Scrutinies are meant to uncover, 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”. What a beautiful program. Indeed it should be our own Lenten program: to remove the sinful through prayer and the sacrament of penance and to strengthen the good through lives of charity and regular communion. We are now in the middle of Lent and we may feel that we have not done as well as we hoped; however, it is not too late to re-engage with the disciplines of this season. With the elect who are journeying towards baptism let us recommit our own lives to the journey towards God. We, too, need a gentle scrutiny, an examination of conscience; and our prayer should be: “Lord, examine all our hearts today: strengthen us, heal us, restore us, redeem us; and take us with you to the heavenly Jerusalem”.