Pastoral Message – April 3, 2022
Back in the day- around this time of year- I was preparing to become a Roman Catholic Christian. I was part of a group of candidates and catechumen who made up an RCIA class. For those who don’t know, RCIA is the acronym for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. Candidates are folks who are already baptized in another denomination of Christianity. Catechumen are unbaptized folks.
So, I was a Candidate since I had already been baptized in the Baptist Church. My Baptist upbringing taught me a lot about Sacred Scripture, the need for a personal relationship with God, and the salvific act of Jesus Christ. That was great. But through the RCIA I learned more about life- specifically a Christian life to be lived and practiced as a Roman Catholic.
See as a Baptist, I was saved. But after that initial conversion and baptism, I was supposed to follow Jesus and try not to “backslide.” Since I was already converted, there was no need for further conversion. I never really received specific instruction about how to follow Jesus, or how to mature in faith. Either that, or maybe I was taught something about discipleship, it didn’t sink in.
But as a Catholic Christian, there is need for further change, greater conversion, a real maturation. To grow and change and mature requires processes that go beyond studying Scripture. It’s about applying Scripture and understanding one’s self in the light of Scripture, the light of the Spirit, the light of holiness. Our Catechumen and Candidates are introduced evermore fully to such a process in the rites celebrated at Mass on the 3rd, 4th and 5th Sundays of Lent.
Every year, at one Mass a Sunday, the RCIA folks gather before the congregation. The congregation prays for the Catechumen and Candidates. The celebrant lays a hand on each of them, calling the Holy Spirit down upon them, and then a prayer of exorcism is said. The Church calls these rites “Scrutinies”. Each of the Candidates and Catechumen have been, and particularly during these last weeks of Lent, critically observing their lives – their being, their doing, their thinking, their perspectives, their emotions, their souls. They’re going through this examination with the instruction to repent of old ways of being, doing and thinking. They’re given grace through the Holy Spirit, the prayers of the Church assembly, and the exorcism the drives out darkness. And they’re instructed to take on the way of God, following the faith, hope and love exemplified in Jesus Christ.
Think about that for a minute! That’s some heavy duty spiritual stuff going on there! And while this celebration of rites is for the Catechumen and Candidates specifically, “scrutiny” is really an on-going process meant for all practicing Roman Catholic Christians. Scrutinizing ourselves is what Lent is all about!
Unfortunately, and naturally, we’re better at scrutinizing others that we are ourselves. We should take advantage of these last days before Holy Week to examine our hearts, attitudes, actions and words. Could we be accused of not being baptized or living like the baptized? Would someone think that we need an exorcism? Are we living by fear of change, conversion or greater maturity? Do we need some spiritual renewal? What needs conversion in us? We might ask ourselves such questions and easily avoid the real answers, or fall into our own weak justifications. But let’s be evermore sincere. And let’s be evermore humble, seeking the Holy Spirit’s truth to fall on us. Let’s exorcise evil from our hearts, senses and minds. Let’s ask for prayer and accountability from our sisters and brothers in Christ.
And then let’s finish Lent with humble success that will be born-out in our deepening conversion, and commitment to Jesus Christ, our Lord.
God bless y’all!