Third Sunday of Lent

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Today is one of the Scrutinies where catechumens further prepare for their baptism into the Church. For these special days there are two separate sets of readings for the day. Both start with exodus Ex 17:3-7 and the 10-commandmentsEx 20:1-17 on the old testament side. On the new testament side there is Christ meeting the Samaritan woman at the well Jn 4:5-42and Jesus overturning the carts in the temple stating that he would destroy the temple and rebuild it in 3-days Jn 2:13-25,. All are powerful messages in themselves. With today though there is that task to scrutinize, or examine oneself as a Christian, and also to look around a little at our surroundings. Not just me, but also what surrounds me. In looking at myself there is that examination of conscience that so often can begin with those 10-commandments. They are simple and concise, they are an easy starting point for looking at any personal faults I might have.

With the reading of Jesus turning over the carts at the temple I think ones attention is drawn away from myself and into my surroundings. As the catechumens examine themselves to find what is keeping them from baptism into the Church; Jesus overturning the carts at the Temple might focus on what the Church is, what it teaches, who its members are, and how they relate to Christ.

In understanding what the Church teaches, there are ample documentation written in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and through Canon Law. There are the encyclicals of the Popes and the homilies of the Priests, and of course there is the gospel.

How though does one answer the question who are its members, they are numerous and varied. There are the cradle Catholics, and those who enter through RCIA. They include saints and sinners, religious and laity. Do they all follow Catholic teaching, or even agree with it? I doubt it. The Church is a living organism full of conflict. That conflict is something worth noticing, especially for those these Scrutinies are intended for. Not every Catholic should do what Catholics so often do. The problem is  that while many proclaim themselves Catholic, they also proclaim to believe something other than what the Church teaches. For the Elect the biggest obstacle is the advice and opinions and discrimination of those Catholics that do not believe Catholic teachings. The obstacle is those Catholics who proclaim a teaching other than the Church while exclaiming “I am Catholic.” Many can recognize an attack on the Church when it comes from an opponent that resides outside the walls of the Church, and the attack is hurled insults. How much more difficult is it to recognize an attack from inside the sanctuary with polite though authoritarian opinions? The first causes one to put up a rapid defense, the second slowly gnaws away at faith.

Something about this year makes these Scrutinies different from years past, and that is the violent news that has been coming out of the mid East regarding the persecution of Christians in that region of the world. Visually I can see those Christians standing up to attack and saying “I am Christian.”  I also can see what those people endure after making that statement. I can see those Orthodox Christians clearly contrasting with the world around them. But about here, what about in Christendom? What about in Europe and the Americas? Can I truly spot a Catholic in a Catholic nation, or has there Catholicism been gnawed away by Secularism and Liberalism and all of the social revolutions of the past 50-years? If someone from those modern world regions stands up and says “I am Catholic” or  “I am Christian” should I believe them? More importantly, if they tell me what Catholics practice, should I believe them? Should I believe what they practice, or what they preach? They are difficult questions to answer for anyone approaching the Scrutinies.

141 The scrutinies, which are solemnly celebrated on Sundays and are reinforced by an exorcism, are rites of 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. For the scrutinies are celebrated in order to deliver the elect from the power of sin and Satan, to protect them against temptation, and to give them strength in Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life. These rites, therefore, should complete the conversion of the elect and deepen their resolve to hold fast to Christ and to carry out their decision to love God above all

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