You may have noticed that there are two options given for the readings this week. There were last week, as well, and there will be again next week. Really astute observers may have noticed that the other option given were the readings from Year A…and yet we’ve been in Year B since the first week of Advent. There are, of course, good reasons for this: the readings from Year A are always read when the scrutinies of the elect are celebrated.
The scrutinies are tied to rites of Christian initiation. They are, according to the rite, “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.” Those who will come into the Church at the Easter Vigil (and, for that matter, all those already in the Church) should have, according to the rite, “…[the] intention of achieving an intimate knowledge of Christ…[and] to progress in genuine self-knowledge through serious examination of their lives and true repentance.”
The reason the Church proscribes the same readings for the scrutinies every year is because of how powerful those readings are. The scrutinies are not just designed to elicit a desire for purification, but also a desire for redemption by Christ. Through these readings, then, the spirits of the elect (and again, by extension, the spirits of the entire Church) are “filled with Christ the Redeemer, who is the living water (gospel of the Samaritan woman in the first scrutiny), the light of the world (gospel of the man born blind in the second scrutiny), the resurrection and the life (gospel of Lazarus in the third scrutiny).”
The entire rite of Christian initiation is beautiful and complex; I could write pages on it. (Perhaps it might become the topic of a lecture series this summer? I have a couple ideas in the works…) The scrutinies are part of that rite that are frequently found to be burdensome, and sometimes overlooked, which is a real pity, because of what they remind us of: the purification and redemption offered to us through Jesus Christ. During this second half of Lent, consider prayerfully reading those three gospels, and ask the Lord to purify and redeem you. Above all, pray for our brothers and sisters – both in our parish and throughout the world – who will be coming into the Church this Easter.