By Msgr. Marvin Mottet
This fourth Sunday of Lent is “Laetare” (rejoice!) Sunday. What are we rejoicing about? We are half-way to Easter. We are in the second of the three “Scrutiny” Sundays. Who is being scrutinized? The members of our Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) who are called the “Elect” (catechumens) are scrutinizing themselves against the Gospels of these three Sundays. The rest of us should also be scrutinizing our lives against the Gospels. Where have we been unfaithful to our own baptismal promises? Where can we improve?
Last week, we were asked to identify with the woman at the well. This Sunday, we are asked to identify with the blind man. The Elect and the rest of us are asking Jesus, the Light of the World, to get rid of any spiritual blindness, any darkness in our lives. We should be making a list of those areas where we want to be healed.
“Light” is mentioned nine times in this Gospel. Baptism, in the early Church, was called The “Enlightenment” and the season of Lent was called the “Seasons of Enlightenment.”
After he was healed, the blind man grew in his faith. We can see his faith growing in three steps: 1. “that man” to; 2. “a prophet,” to; 3. “Lord” (“and he worshiped him”).
We pray that we might grow in our faith this Lent; that we might deepen our knowledge of Jesus and our relationship with Jesus.
Jesus uses clay to heal the blind man. Isn’t that odd? What is Jesus trying to teach us? In the book of Genesis, it says that God made Adam out of the clay of the earth. On Ash Wednesday, we were told, “Dust thou art and unto dust thou shall return.” Jesus is showing that he is doing a “new creation.” As he transformed the blind man and helped him to grow in faith, so we want to be part of that new creation. As Jesus transformed the blind man, so we want Jesus to transform us. Jesus asks the blind man, “Do you believe?” The Elect will be asked the same question at the Easter Vigil.
We will be asked the same question before we renew our baptismal promises on Easter. Are we prepared to answer?
As in the Baptismal Rite, there is a “minor exorcism” in the Rite for Scrutiny Sundays, but it is so disguised in both rites that many do not recognize it. In the early Church, they were bringing thousands of pagans into the Church each year, as we can tell by the very large (and famous) baptisteries, especially St. John Lateran, where they ran the water from the Roman aqueduct right into the baptismal pool. As St. Paul tells us, the pagans had many demons. The bishops would not allow the Elect to be baptized until all the demonic manifestations stopped. Some historians tell us that, in the first century, one-third of the priests in Rome were exorcists. These scrutinies were very important in the early Church, because they got rid of real demons. We should still take these scrutinies seriously today, not just brush them off.
(Msgr. Mottet is a retired priest of the Diocese of Davenport.)