Dear Brothers & Sisters,
On these next Sundays, those who are preparing to be baptized on Easter, called the Elect, will have some special rites during Mass called Scrutinies. I would like to explain a bit what these rites are. Part of the text was taken from an article from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
In the Rite of Christian Initiation, the Scrutinies that take place at Mass on the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent are intended to help the Elect to “uncover then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect” and “to bring out, then strengthen all that is upright, strong and good.” (RCIA, 141) They are about the overwhelming grace of God in Christ, who helps us overcome our sinfulness. In other words, the Scrutinies are God’s way of taking a close, loving look at the Elect. God does not scrutinize us (or baptismal candidates) in order to find everything that’s wrong with them, but to celebrate all that is beautiful and good and true in them. Practically speaking, there will be some prayers and imposition of hands over the Elect. One of those prayers are exorcisms. They are not fearful moments of driving out demons (like Hollywood), but grace-filled encounters with the Spirit’s healing touch.
Up to this point in their formation, the Elect have been instructed about the mystery of sin and everyone’s longing to be delivered from sin’s present and future consequences. They have been encouraged to identify the evils, temptations and falsehoods from which they need to be released so that they can live freely for the Kingdom of God. These falsehoods include some of today’s most powerful forces, like materialism, consumerism, sexism, racism, idolatry, malevolence, selfishness, prejudices, addictions, just to name a few. These are the cultural “demons” that can destroy our lives if we let them.
Having done this examination, an exorcism is prayed over the Elect. Through these prayers, falsehoods, blindness and the spirit of evil are renounced so that the individual might be liberated by grace from any obstacles that remain before celebrating the Sacraments of Initiation. The exorcism prayers conclude with a petition that the Elect may be strengthened to continue on their way to the waters of baptism.
One special significance of the Scrutinies is that the readings for Mass on the Sundays these rites are celebrated are taken from Lectionary Cycle A, regardless of which Cycle is currently being read. This is so the Elect may be filled with Christ the Redeemer, who is living water (John 4; Gospel of the Samaritan woman at the well; first scrutiny), the light of the world (John 9; Gospel of the man born blind; second scrutiny), and the resurrection and the life (John 11; Gospel of the raising of Lazarus; third scrutiny). These passages help to teach the Elect about God and the power of baptism. They can also be said to be the transformation that God wants to do in them, namely, bring them from sin to repentance, from thirst to satisfaction; from illness to health; from darkness to light; from death to new life. Jesus encounters three people in these Gospels, and they are changed forever.
But if you have already been baptized and are at a Mass with a Scrutiny, please join in praying for the Elect. And listen to the words of the intercessions and the prayers, and reflect on their meaning for your life, too. Just because you and I are already baptized does not mean we no longer need Jesus to search us and behold us! Let the Scrutinies call you to the living waters, to the light, to new life. Let them call you to a closer walk with Christ.
Father Steven Clemence