Lent, the Fourth Week

ANTIPHON (For the Second Scrutiny)
My eyes are always on the Lord, for He rescues my feet from the snare. Turn to me and have mercy on me, for I am alone and poor. (Psalm 25:15-16).

COLLECT (For the Second Scrutiny)
Almighty ever-living God,
give to Your Church an increase in spiritual joy,
so that those once born of earth
may be reborn as citizens of heaven.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM (For the Second Scrutiny)
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. (Psalm 23:1).

SCRIPTURE EXCERPT (For the Second Scrutiny)
“When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe (πιστεύεις, pisteueis) in the Son of Man?” He answered and said,  “Who is he, sir, that I may believe (πιστεύσω, pisteuso) in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe (πιστεύω, pisteuo), Lord (κύριε, kyrie),” and he worshiped him (καὶ προσεκύνησεν αὐτῷ, kai prosekunesen auto). Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind (John 9:35-41).””

REFLECTION (For the Second Scrutiny)

There are a number of sights and sounds that present and reinforce the Season of Lent. Ashes signal Lent’s beginning. Communal fasting and abstaining from food mark a number of Lenten days. Devotions such as Stations of the Cross and other Lenten prayers focus mind, heart and body on Our Savior’s Passion and Death. Individual resolutions to sacrifice along with acts of mortification help to detach us from all that is not necessary so as to have room to receive all that is necessary for life. Is there anything missing in the list? Certainly – the Rites that characterize Lent as a period of purification and enlightenment.

A person’s life journey that has drawn her or him to inquire about the ‘good things of God’ gently stirred the Gift of Faith to the point of listening to the Word of God as a catechumen. In listening to the Word, the catechumen discovered and was attracted to the Word-made-flesh Who offers water to not only refresh life’s aridity, but to slake the thirst for an eternity of Divine life and love with Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Communion of Saints. Gratefully and humbly, the catechumen accepted the gift and invitation to be chosen; to be elected, to permit his or her life to be immersed in and configured to the One Who is Light shining in the darkness of chaos, confusion, uncertainty and sin. He Who is Light leads the way and reveals true life, for He is Life.

The journey then to Resurrection in Baptism-Confirmation-Holy Eucharist is a pivotal sight and sound of Lent. In fact, one might contend that the penitential aspect and practices of Lent make sense only within a Baptismal context – Initiation for the Elect, renewal of Baptismal Promised at Easter for the faithful. This point comes into sharper focus with the celebrations of the Scrutinies on the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent. “The Scrutinies are Rites for self-searching and repentance and have above all a spiritual purpose. 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 (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, 141).” But here is where many faithful experience a disconnect and loose sight of Lent’s baptismal character. Some would hold that while these Rites may be important for an unbaptized person,it really does not pertain to me. Once again, the wisdom of the Church instructs us: the Rites are to be celebrated “in such a way that the faithful in the assembly will also derive benefit from the Liturgy of the Scrutinies and join in intercessions for the Elect. (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, 145).” In other words, these Rites have benefit for all of us: the Elect and the Faithful. We are all in this together as members of One Body.

Consequently, as the Scrutinies are celebrated, “the celebrant first addresses the assembly of the faithful, inviting them to pray in silence and to ask that the Elect will be given a spirit of repentance, a sense of sin, and the true freedom of the children of God. (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, 166).” Here is Lent in a nutshell: spirit of repentance, a sense of sin and freedom of the children of God. But notice, we are asked to pray and to ask that these be given. A “spirit of repentance,” “a sense of sin” and “freedom of the children of God” are not products of our making. This is 1 of the points of Jesus’ dealings with the man-born-blind and all of the other characters connected to him. Left to ourselves, we have no “sense of sin.” Left to ourselves, “a spirit of repentance” is a nothing more than meager attempt to fix a relationship on my terms so that I can get something out of it. Left to ourselves, there is no “freedom of the children of God” only license to indulge whatever impulse strikes our fancy that results in sucking us deeper into a black hole of addictive slavery to the self and all of its wants.

“A spirit of repentance” (see last week’s blog entry on metanoia), “a sense of sin” and “freedom of the children of God” are gifts given that reveal our lives in the light of the Father’s mercy, not our own. We are, admittedly, blind to many aspects of our own weaknesses and sins. Repeatedly we make excuses like so many in this Sunday’s Gospel episode. As contemporary listeners to the events that Jesus is dealing with, we might be tempted to smirk at the lengths people went to in order to deny the healing of blindness. Yet we do the same by rationalizing behaviors or referring to specific sins as ‘developmental challenges’ characteristic of 1 of life’s many phases. The Scrutinies do challenge us to allow Divine Light to shine into all aspects of life so that sin may not rule life and keep anyone from all that is upright, strong and good in the Lord.

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