Sacraments of Initiation
Part 3 The Rite for Adults and Children

Chapter i34 Period of the Enlightenment (Lent)

Preliminary Questions



Names for the Period

Lectionary for Lent Cycle A

To Think About

Preliminary Questions


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1. Rites of entry: Election or Enrollment of Names

2. Rites during: Scrutinies and exorcisms; Presentations.

3. Rites of exit: Easter Vigil, Baptism / Confirmation / Eucharist

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Names for the Period

1. Retreat

2. Lent

3. Enlightenment

4. Election

5. Purification

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Lectionary for Lent Cycle A

1. Temptation
2. Transfiguration
3. Woman at the Well
4. Man Born Blind
5. Lazarus
6. Passion
7. Easter

Reading 1: Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7
Reading 2: Romans 5:12-19
Gospel: Matthew 4:1-11

Today is an election day. Today some (or all) of those men and women (Catechumens) who want to join our parish are chosen, "elected," for initiation this coming Easter. To prepare for the sacraments of initiation, they today begin a 40 day retreat: Lent.

We, the already baptized, make this retreat together with the elect. Baptism is not something that happened to us once, long ago. Baptism is one of those events (such as my ordination, or your marriage, or becoming a parent) which influences our every action. What is actual difference does baptism make in your life? When was the last time you did something because of your baptism that you would not have done if you were not baptized? If answers to this question are difficult or fuzzy, perhaps we too need a Lent to value correctly the effect baptism has on us day by day, moment by moment.

What identity did we assume in baptism? What is our identity as a parish? Why would anyone want to join this parish? Think of the various civic or social groups to which you belong: are you not attentive to attract new members to those groups which you feel important to you?

Moses led a people through water (Red Sea / Baptism) into a desert (forty years / Lent) where their identity was formed as a people. Jesus comes up from the waters of baptism in the Jordan and enters the desert (forty days) where we see his identity revealed (a carpenter becomes the new Moses who forms a new people). This pattern is ours also: water, desert (forty days of Lent), new identity. Egyptian slaves become a chosen people; a carpenter from Nazareth becomes Messiah, a new Moses who forms a new people. What do we become in this desert? What temptations do we overcome? Do we want to be gods ourselves (First Reading) or obedient to God.

What must we leave behind in the desert? The things we leave behind and "give up" during Lent should be the things that would weight us down in that baptismal pool and drowned us in selfishness. All of our temptations and sins are swallowed up in the tomb of baptism together with that Original Sin of the first Adam. This is indeed Good News.

Reading 1: Genesis 12:1-4a
Reading 2: 2 Timothy 1:8b-10
Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9

The picture of Jesus in his "Easter clothes" reminds those elected for Baptism this year of their own "clothing" after baptism: they will come up from the baptismal pool dripping wet, dry off, and put on their Easter clothes.

It is often necessary to look ahead to the final victory. We are only a week into Lent, and already the journey has become hard. How many of your Lenten resolutions have you broken already? Will the resurrection be worth all the dying?

When we get discouraged God gives a glimpse of final glory. I have friends who like to fast forward a VCR movie in order to watch the end of the movie first to be sure the film has a happy ending; then they don't have to be so worried during the picture! Today's reading is God's promise of the happy ending.

We, like the apostles, cannot tell of this vision until the Son of Man rises because the transfiguration, baptism, and Easter don't make any sense until after the passion. The passion is part of the victory. When the high school football team celebrates winning the state championships, it is not only the winning game that they celebrate; they celebrate all the work and sweat and practice and injury that led to that victory, that new identity.

A new identity means being open to new possibilities. Too often we want God to preserve the status quo: God, don't let her get sick; don't let me get fired; don't let it rain. The disciples are like that at the transfiguration; they want to build tents and stay there. If we are to listen to God's revelation we must be ready for surprises. The disciples go up the mountain thinking of a conquering messiah king; they return with thoughts of a suffering servant.

Reading 1: Exodus 17:3-7
Reading 2: Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
Gospel: John 4:5-42

"Water" and "thirsting" remind us again of the principal theme of Lent: baptism. Together with the elect, we are thirsting for the living waters of baptism.

When was the was the last time you were really thirsty? What are your "interior thirsts" at this moment? -- the things that you desire, the things you bring to God in prayer and petition at this eucharist (better health, improved family situation, money to pay the bills)?

Jesus is thirsty for water, but he is even more thirsty for the woman's faith. There is a questioning, an examination (a scrutiny even as the elect today have a scrutiny) to get at the deeper issues. The desire for water from Jacob's well is raised to thirst for the "living water".

Today we celebrate the first scrutiny with the elect. "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" (RCIA 141).

We pray that (like the woman at the well) their thirst may be quenched, that they may move beyond their past and become disciples. Our ancestors thirsted for water in the desert; but did so grumbling, without faith in our loving God, complaining about the way in which God quenched their thirst. Jesus wants to quench our thirst; to "pour out God's love" even as he pours out his life blood for us.

If we realize that gift, we will leave our jar at the well, leave behind our small concerns, and thirst with Jesus for the faith of today's world. We will go and tell others of the gift we have received. As we pray for the elect: "That they may share with their friends and neighbors the wonder of their own meeting with Christ" (RCIA).

Reading 1: 1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a
Reading 2: Ephesians 5:8-14
Gospel: John 9:1-41

Wow! To be blind from birth! Sight is our principle means of relating to our environment and coming to an identity. I can't imagine what it would be like to be blind from birth! But what gives real sight? The blind man is anointed by Jesus (Messiah = the Anointed one); recall the anointing at Confirmation. Samuel anointed David and the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.

The blind man is told to go and wash into the water in the pool of Siloam (this name means "One who has been sent.") We too are told to go and be plunged into Christ, the "one who has been sent" into the world that we might see things as they really are.

Do we judge by human standards? "Not as we see does God see; we see appearances but the Lord looks into the heart." Do we wander through life as though asleep? "Awake, O sleeper, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light."

The elect are again reminded of their approaching baptism, confirmation, eucharist. They will wash in Siloam. The Easter candle, the light of Christ, will impregnate those waters that Christ may be their light, sight, life and identity. This will take place "on the Sabbath". They will be questioned: Do you believe? even as Jesus questioned the faith of the man born blind. The elect are asked these questions in today's scrutiny.

Our blindness must be washed away in Christ for a new way of seeing. Gone are the old easy solutions. "Whose sins caused this blindness, his or his parents?" Obvious punishment for obvious sin. God does not see that way. How often seeming punishment is not from sin but for Glory.

Reading 1: Ezekiel 37:12-14
Reading 2: Romans 8:8-11
Gospel: John 11: 1-45

Baptism in the early Church: It is night. The elect are taken in the dark to a storm sewer where we can hear the cold water rushing through the aqueduct. In the midst of the small gathering, the elect are stripped naked, they enter the pool as if going down into their grave. As we, gathered with them, pray that they be born again in Christ Jesus, the elect come up from the water shaken with the cold but shaken even more by the experience. They are rubbed down with oil and clothed in new garments. Then with torches and candles they find their way to the church where the assembly and its pastor are waiting to greet them with a holy kiss and to break the eucharistic bread with them for the first time.

Unlike today, these initiation rites were kept secret even from the elect. Baptism was explained only after the event. See how today's readings hint at what is going to happen at the Easter vigil; but only those of us who have undergone the rites of initiation know their full meaning.

We too were dead before being born again in the womb of baptism. Our bones were dried up; our hope was lost; we were cut off from Life. But God opened our grave and we received God's Spirit, just as Ezekiel said we would. We were bound by sin and stank until the Lord said to us: "Come out! Take off your bonds! Go free!" The elect begin to get a hint of what will is going to happen to them this coming Easter.

"Lazarus, come out!" And the dead man came out. Which is more wonderful, the call or the response? So many people want to stay in the tomb; they prefer to be buried in sin, buried in feelings of uselessness. Too many of us are scared of Life and prefer tombs of ignorance of religion, tombs of silence before a waiting loved one, tombs of hurt or loss. Too many prefer not to come out into the full life of the parish.

Today's opening prayer begs God to change our selfishness into self-giving. In today's scrutiny "We pray for these your servants, who eagerly approach the waters of new birth and hunger for the banquet of life. Do not let the power of death hold them back, for, by their faith, they will share in the triumph of your resurrection."

Together with the elect, we are called fourth from our tombs! The Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us. We are no longer dry bones and tomb dwellers. Accept the invitation of Christ: Come out! Go free! Live with the baptismal strength of the Spirit.

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To Think About


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Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 02/24/12 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at