2nd Scrutiny of the Elect –

4th Sunday in Lent

This past Sunday was the rite known as the 2nd Scrutiny of the Elect (those who are unbaptized, seeking baptism and entry into the church). As I am baptized, I was not up in front of the congregation; however, we are all still participants in the ceremony. Like the 1st Scrutiny, prayers for the Elect to become closer followers of Jesus were said, as well as the prayers of the Candidates, like myself. Each of the prayers are sung, and then the father places his hands on each of the Elect in a exorcism of all evil influences and again marking them as God’s chosen. Afterward, both groups meet in the chapel as they have done over the course of the last year to discuss the readings and the ceremony to try to find the deeper meanings and unpack the experiences.

This Sunday was difficult for me to be fully present in mind and spirit. Family issues, thoughts of annulments yet to be completed and migraines triggered by seasonal allergies kept my focus partially pulled away from the ceremony. I know that part of the reason for the long journey through RCIA is to make sure the person seeking entrance into full communion is not only fully trained in how the Catholic Church approaches scripture, the world, and faith in general; but also as fully spiritually prepared as possible to receive the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Yet, it still can feel at times like a marathon that is only half over. 

Running this marathon has different meanings to each person; to some it is a fulfillment of something they’ve been meaning to do for years, to others it is a pulling or calling into a new realm of being with Christ that they felt compelled to follow without fully understanding why, and to others it is the culmination of several revelations about the truth of the Catholic Church all leading to the moment of joining into the Church fully. The journey of RCIA for me has been like the latter. I walked into the program fully knowing that I am Catholic at heart, and now RCIA is making me work on that most difficult task for me, patience when a goal or purpose or path is not completely clear or seemingly out of reach.

Meeting every Tuesday night, we have been prepared for each rite well before they happen. The preparation for the 2nd Scrutiny was for me a very familiar experience. Each RCIA, we have a prayer service in which the team give us a chance to be calm and to commune with each other and with God. The prayer service this time was meant to focus on the dichotomy between light and dark. Specifically the exercise was to focus on the light of Christ and the darkness of the world that only He can truly repel. At the start of the prayer service, each person was given a blindfold that was a simple black cloth to be wrapped around the head, covering the eyes. The passage given for us to focus on was about the man who was born blind whom Jesus gave sight to after spitting into dirt to make clay and placing it over his eyes and having him wash it off.

I imagine most people are uneasy at being sightless, especially in a church with a dozen other people in the same room. For me, this was not a new or frightening experience. When I was in 1st grade, I had a very bad case of pink-eye that infected both eyes simultaneously. The infection was so bad, that even a small candle light felt like hot knives in my head. I can remember being taken to the doctor during the day and having my dad tell me to bury my head in the back seat of our Chevy Nova hatch-back. If you ever rode in one of those cars, you would know it had fake leather bench back seats, so the cover from the sun was less than optimal. Vividly, I can recall sobbing and crying the whole way. The result of the infection was that I spent what felt like a month in mostly darkness, operating mostly at night, sleeping during the day with a blindfold or covers over my eyes. Ever since then, I have never been uncomfortable in the dark. As a overly moody teenager, I put a thick comforter over my window for a couple of years to keep out the sun; earning me the family nick-name “the prince of darkness”. In college, I took photography, when that meant you had to change film from the camera to a canister in complete dark, and then develop the image in a dark-room. Also, a few years ago, I underwent a eye surgery that required stitches and again a blindfold for several days. 

Consequentially, when we had to blindfold ourselves, and then listen to the tale of the blind man seeing for the first time; it rang especially true. Squinting up at the light, moving from a blurred image to a sharper image after blinking for several minutes, then being able to focus on a tree followed by a face; all for the first time; are all feelings I can say I have felt that would be as close as anyone who was not truly blind could.

This season of Lent has been one of the most meaningful of my life. While the RCIA process can sometimes seem very long, it is also worth every step of the way and a journey that I will not forget. Especially now that I can relate even more to those whom are more than just characters in a book; but real life experiences with Christ and His mercy.

-A Brother In Christ.