Today we celebrate the First Scrutiny in many of our parishes. With the elect recently entered into our Book of Elect and preparing themselves in these remaining weeks of Lent to enter into the waters of baptism, seeking to die to self and live for Christ – today through Jesus’ Gospel encounter with the woman at the well; they (we) are reminded of our need for God who is Himself the wellspring and from Whom we have our thirst quenched and who gives us what we need to truly live. As an adult convert, I recall as a Catechumen Elect, the preparation many years ago for this day, the first of my Scrutinies. I remembered reflecting upon the many places in my soon-to-be “old life” where I “drew water”. Drawing water from the desires and expectations of others in the world no long quenched my thirst. Tasting the water of success, the water of other’s praise, the water of having enough money to quench my own thirst became tired and not fulfilling. Even though my heart was becoming the Lord’s, I was still living with those things and while it seemed compelling to simply throw all those things off and totally and completely to live for Jesus – I was not ready for that. The words were really sinking in though and the profound experience I had as an Elect was drawing me even closer to the Body of Christ where I would one day give up those things. The profound grace and blessing I have been given is that because of my experience, I was able to be with RCIA groups most years ever since. As a seminarian I was afforded the opportunities to journey with others and so, to reflect as well on these Scrutinies again as a catechist with them. As a priest, to preach on the Gospel and to identify with the Elect as well.
Now as a Catholic Christian man with 15 years of Scrutinies under my belt, my reflection on this First Scrutiny is one I share with the committed Catholics today. We need to pray for these people who seek to prepare themselves and will in short weeks be asking the Church for Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. The conversation this woman in today’s Gospel has with Jesus is one which each of us needs to stop and have with Our Lord today. Do we still recognize Jesus at the places where we draw water from in our lives today? Where we pray, our churches or our special places? Are we drawing water and allowing Jesus to really and truly speak to us, or are we denying part of what our lives are or what they have become so we simply don’t have to deal? If we are, then we need to be really honest with the Lord. When the Elect go through the Scrutinies, they are reflecting on and allowing the Lord to accompany them on the journey into the waters which means repentance, acknowledgement of the darknesses that still exist, the hurts, the pains, the sorrows – the areas of our lives that just aren’t right yet. The Light (of Christ) will come, but first we must acknowledge where we aren’t ready to be nourished and ask in this moment for the grace to let go and let God take over.
What does that mean for you? I know what it means for me. It means that as I pray for the Elect (and while it’s different for me right now, not in parish ministry: I pray in a more universal way), I also pray for the areas of my own life that are dark, where I haven’t been all that I can be for Jesus and for other people, the people He calls upon me to serve as a priest. I pray for more strength to respond more generously, to acknowledge more truthfully and with greater clarity the wounds, issues, shortcomings and infidelities of my own heart – those areas I need to drink more wholly of the Living Water that has satiated me for all these year. Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is my hope that all of us take this blessed day to do the same.