Recently I got to talk to one of our PREP ("CCD") classes about the Scrutinies. The Scrutinies are minor rites in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). Candidates for Baptism ("the Elect") are invited to examine themselves more deeply with regard to their readiness to be initiated.
The verb scrutari means "to examine, search," specifically through trash (scruta). I told the children to think of a necklace or something else of value that might have fallen into the waste can. Having exhausted other possibilities, they would head to the trash in hopes of finding the lost article. In the same way, the Elect sort through their sinful past to discover and affirm the gift of faith that will lead them to the Easter Sacraments. Those of us who have already been initiated join them in a deeper self-searching and renewal of faith.
The Gospel readings for the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent are the texts in which the faithful of all stages encounter Christ, the Valuable Article, amid the rubbish of sin, sickness, and death.
The Samaritan Woman at the Well (Jn 4:5-42) meets the man who "told me everything I have done," and finds Him to be more than an insightful and intriguing figure. She is moved by the meeting to share her story with her fellows.
The Man Born Blind (Jn 9:1-41) is treated to a Messianic mudpie that opens his eyes and increases his faith. The fact that Jesus heals him on a Sabbath incites the Pharisees to conspire against Jesus from that point onward, thereby revealing their own stubborn blindness.
Jesus raises Lazarus (Jn 11:1-45) from the sleep of death in order to reveal Himself as "the Resurrection and the Life," and He pointedly asks Lazarus' sisters, "Do you believe this?" The Lord conquers these enemies in us because He has made us His friends.
I hope these fourth graders attend Mass and pay more attention to these stories. The whole point of PREP, I reminded them, was to encounter the Lord Jesus, to rise in knowledge and fall in love with Him within His Church. If they are courageous enough to keep seeking Him amid the refuse of their own lives, they will unearth, and want to share, the boon of a relationship with God.