Third Sunday of Lent
Looking at my Daily Missal for this Third Sunday of Lent, I noticed a blurb at the top in red letters: “On this Sunday is celebrated the first scrutiny in preparation for the Baptism of the catechumens who are to be admitted to the Sacraments of Christian Initiation at the Easter Vigil, using the proper prayers and intercessions.” First scrutiny? Catechumens? Sacraments of Christian Initiation? These are strange terms, but they refer to the beautiful way in which adults enter into the life of Christ in the Roman Catholic Church.
I grew up Catholic, so I did not go through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, better known as RCIA. I was baptized, confirmed, and received my First Communion at different times in my life. And I received religious formation over many years. But this is not everyone’s path into the Catholic Church.
So, I thought it would be good to understand a little about RCIA. What I discovered was that the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, as such, is relatively new. Yet, its roots are very ancient. The current rite was established only fifty years ago after the Second Vatican Council called for its renewal and restoration. But the impulse to sanctify by sacred rites the period of preparation before baptism goes back to the early church. And, of course, this command to make, teach, and baptize disciples comes from the man himself, our Lord Jesus Christ. (see Matthew 28:19-20)
Like a catechism class, let’s do a few questions and answers.
What is a catechumen? The word “catechumen” comes from the Greek, meaning “one being instructed.” So, catechumens are those who are being instructed in preparation to enter the Paschal Mystery by receiving the sacraments of Christian initiation.
What are the sacraments of Christian initiation? They are three, but they work as one: Baptism frees us from the power of darkness and incorporates us into the Body of Christ, making us children of God. Confirmation is a signing with the gift of the Holy Spirit, who claims the baptized as His own and sends them out to bear witness. Eucharist nourishes our spiritual journey, expresses our unity in the one bread and chalice, and pledges to us eternal life.
What is the first scrutiny which is celebrated today in many parishes? The First Scrutiny is the first of three that coincide with the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent. They are rites of exorcism that search for (scrutinize) any spirit in the hearts of the catechumens that is preventing their free journey forward. Their purpose is to spiritually heal and strengthen the catechumens, which at this point in their journey are called the Elect.
These Elect are nearing the finish line and are getting closer to the font. We the Church are cheering them on! They have traveled far in their discernment and conversion, and need our prayers and support. Let us accompany them now through Lent and look forward to the solemn celebrations of the Paschal Mystery at the Sacred Triduum.
How great it is to be a Catholic. When you consider the Rite of Christian Initiation and the powerful witness of those who go through it, being a Catholic is not something to take for granted. Starting today, during these last four weeks of Lent, let us pray for all the Elect, those men and women who have been chosen by God to enter the Paschal Mystery of dying and rising in Christ. Let us find ways to enkindle our own faith and prepare for the renewal of our own baptismal promises at Easter.
One way, I suggest, is for us to listen to those holy teachers of our ancient faith: the Fathers of the Church. They, in turn, listened to the scriptures and expounded their spiritual meaning, which remains fresh for our generation. Please join me this week as we listen to the scriptures, and learn from the Church Fathers the meaning of our faith and the life we share in Christ.
Reflection by Brother Luke Kral, OSB
Tufano, Victoria M., et al. Guide for Celebrating Christian Initiation with Adults. Liturgy Training Publications, 2017.
Christian Initiation of Adults: a Commentary. Vol. 10, United States Catholic Conference, 1988.