Pray for strength and spiritual insight

By | March 18, 2009

We are already at the midpoint of our Lenten journey and on this fourth Sunday of Lent, beginning with the entrance antiphon, the church invites us to rejoice. The theme is so evident in the antiphons and prayers, that this Sunday is also called “Laetare Sunday” from the Latin word for “rejoice.”

Visually, the penitential purple is softened this week as the priest wears vestments of a rose color. You may even hear a more festive tone in the music chosen, but we still omit the Alleluia and Gloria.

Parishes which have elect (catechumens chosen to receive the sacraments of Initiation at Easter), celebrate the scrutinies on the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays of Lent. Those parishes, at least at the Masses with the scrutinies, use the readings for year “A,” which have a baptismal theme.

Samuel was called to anoint God’s chosen as king. As he met each of Jesse’s sons, he tried to look beyond appearances to recognize the one God has chosen. It was the youngest, David, whom he anointed King of Israel. In the second reading St. Paul reminds us that we have been called from darkness into God’s marvelous light. And in the Gospel account, Jesus encountered a man who was born blind, and gave him both physical sight and spiritual insight.

The scrutiny is a rite of healing, self-searching and prayer for strength for those preparing for baptism. It is meant to uncover and heal all that is weak or sinful and to strengthen what is good. The scrutiny also includes a rite of exorcism, which is a prayer to deliver the elect from sin and its effects.

After the homily, the elect come forward with their sponsors and kneel or bow their heads in prayer. The sponsors place their hand on the person’s right shoulder. All are invited to pray for the elect, asking God that they be given a spirit of repentance, a sense of sin and the true freedom of the children of God. This silent prayer is followed by prayers of intercession. The exorcism that follows includes images from the Gospel as the priest prays that they will be freed from the false values that surround and blind them. The priest then lays hands on the head of each and there is the second prayer addressed to Jesus, asking that they may rejoice in his light, may see, and be staunch witnesses to the faith.

If your parish does not have any elect, the readings for year “B” are used which describe the generous love of God for us in spite of the wrong choices we make. The Preface chosen will probably be the first of the Lenten prefaces (P8) because it refers to Lent as a joyful season. And at the end of Mass, the Prayer over the People again brings together the images of the love of God and the agony of the cross.

This week we pray for healing, strength, and spiritual insight for all who journey during this Lenten season — including ourselves.


Sr. Rehrauer is president of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross, Bay Settlement, and former associate director of the Liturgy Secretariat for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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