This Sunday at the 5:00 PM Sunday liturgy, the Church of St. Francis of Assisi will celebrate the first of three special, intense prayers over those in our community preparing to be baptized this Easter. These prayers, called the “Scrutinies,” capture the very heart of the spirituality of Lent. We began this sacred season marking our heads with ashes and hearing the exhortation: Repent, and be faithful to the Gospel!
Lent calls us to a turning, in Latin, a conversion. The prayer, fasting and almsgiving of Lent are meant to strengthen our conversion away from sin and toward a deeper commitment to Christ. The scrutinies distill this journey into three intense liturgical prayers on the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent. Each scrutiny is composed of three parts: solemn silent prayer for the Elect followed by spoken intercessions for their conversion, a prayer of exorcism that they might turn away from evil, and the laying on of hands where the priest calls down the Holy Spirit to help them be faithful to the Gospel. All of this is to scrutinize the readiness of the Elect for their Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.
We should make no mistake here: we are not scrutinizing anyone. It is God who scrutinizes His Elect, sifting through what needs to be left behind and strengthening what is good in his people. God scrutinizes all of us in just the same way. As Psalm 139 says, God knows us and He probes us.The scrutinies are celebrations for all of us. Certainly we are invited to pray for the Elect, but also pray for ourselves that we too may be more faithful disciples. We must open ourselves to be scrutinized by God so that we might turn away from our sin and ask God to strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good in us.
The First Scrutiny is the scrutiny of water. This week we hear the Gospel of the Woman at the Well. There are references to thirst in the reading: physical thirst as well as spiritual thirst. Jesus is thirsty. The woman is thirsty. There is water that quenches for a time. There is living water that quenches thirst for eternity. The first scrutiny invites us to examine ourselves: what do I really thirst for? Am I thirsty for the things that the world offers that will not really quench my thirst: Money? Fame? Power? Beauty? Status? The water from these wells do not really quench our thirst. Or are we thirsting for the Living Water which Christ offers? Love, Peace, Justice, Patience, Gratitude, Mercy, Faithfulness…?
As we pray for our Elect this week, maybe we can ask also ourselves: From which well do we spend our time and energy filling our bucket? Are we seeking water that does not satisfy? Or are we seeking the Living Water only Christ can give?
Director of Evangelization
Next week: The Scrutinies and the Reality of Evil