Lenten self-examination benefits all - Catholic Courier

Lenten self-examination benefits all

Catholics traditionally view Lent as a time for meditation, self-examination and repentance. For those going through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, this reflection is highlighted by three specific periods of scrutiny that take place on three consecutive Lenten Sundays.


But these periods of scrutiny should not be limited to those participating in the RCIA, local catechists note, pointing out that the entire Catholic community can benefit from such examination.

"All of us need to go through this period in Lent where we’re examining our relationship with Jesus, our relationship with one another," said Mary Dundas, diocesan director of evangelization and sacramental catechesis.

The scrutinies are part of the RCIA process for catechumens, or people who have never been baptized and are preparing to receive all three sacraments of initiation: baptism, holy Communion and confirmation. The scrutinies take place on the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent, when catechumens are asked to reflect on the day’s Gospel readings in relation to their own lives, Dundas said. The congregation then prays for the catechumens before they leave Mass at the conclusion of the Liturgy of the Word.

"This time in the catechumenate is called a period of purification and enlightenment," Dundas said.

The scrutinies take place after the candidates and catechumens have already gone through the RCIA’s initial inquiry phase as well as its educational phase, said Lena Shipley, pastoral associate at St. Mary Parish in Waterloo.

"By that time in the (RCIA) process, they have gone through the intense catechetical sessions, and we stress that this is a prayerful time. It’s introspective time, and they’re getting in touch with the God whom they’ve met through this process," Shipley said.

For candidates — those who already have been baptized and are preparing to receive the sacraments of holy Communion and confirmation — these parts of the Mass are called penitential rites rather than scrutinies, Dundas said. Nonetheless, the type of reflection encouraged during the scrutinies is beneficial for all members of the congregation, regardless of how long they’ve been Catholic, she said.

The scrutinies are traditionally based on three Gospel readings. The first is John 4:5-42, which tells the story of Jesus’ encounter at a well with a Samaritan woman who learned Jesus was the living water. The second Scripture passage is John 9:1-41, which describes the way Jesus healed a man who had been born blind, and the third passage, John 11:1-45, recounts the way Jesus brought his friend Lazarus back to life. These three readings gradually instruct the elect about Christ and the mystery of sin, Dundas said.

"They learn that their spirit is filled with Christ who is the living water, their spirit is filled with Christ who is the light of the world and their spirit is filled with Christ who is the resurrection," she said.

All the members of the congregation, including catechumens and candidates, are encouraged to look at their own lives in light of these Scriptures, Dundas noted.

"What might be there that needs some healing? What is already good and needs some strengthening? It’s a healthy way for us to look at ourselves and how we’re living out our discipleship," she said.

The intercessions on the days of scrutinies also refer to the readings and ask specific prayers for the candidates and catechumens, Dundas added. One intercessory prayer, for example, might ask God to help the catechumens thirst for living water. While praying for the catechumens, other members of the congregation also can participate by pondering the ways they’re called to thirst again for living water, she said.

"You can all participate by paying attention to and including yourself in the intercessions and the prayers because it continues to reverberate in all of our hearts," she said. "In order to know if you are doing all that you can, you have to examine your own heart and desires and be brutally honest."

It’s also important for members of the congregation to renew their own faith and to show their prayerful support and affirmation of the candidates and catechumens, Shipley said.

"I think they’re edified by the response of the community," she said. "They come before the community to ask for their prayer for the remainder of the journey. It is a journey for the whole community. (They) are witnessing to the community of the wonderful gift of faith, but the community is affirming these people because we can’t take this journey alone."

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