The Living Rite column explores what you will see, hear, taste, touch or smell while at church this weekend.
Every year on the First Sunday of Lent, we hear of Jesus’ temptation in the desert and on the Second Sunday the account of Jesus’ Transfiguration. For the remaining Sundays, we hear Gospel passages that deal with repentance and conversion.
Currently, we are in Year B (the readings are structured on a three-year rotation). John’s Gospel is read during Easter in all three years. However, in parishes where there are people among us called “the elect,” everyone is hearing the Year A cycle of Gospel readings.
The elect are men and women who wish to become full members of the Catholic Church. Some, called catechumens, have never been baptized. They have been gathering with your parish catechists for several months, along with candidates (people who are baptized Christians, but are seeking to become full members of the Catholic church), to learn about our Catholic faith, to share in prayer and to discern if they are ready to live a Christ-like life. Their commitment will take place at the Easter Vigil.
During these final Sundays of Lent, if you attend Mass where “the elect” are present, you will continue to witness them going through rites called Scrutinies. The intent of these rites is “to uncover, then heal, all that is weak, defective or sinful in the hearts of the elect” (RCIA 141). The Scrutinies are closely linked to the familiar Gospel stories from Matthew of the woman at the well, the man born blind and the raising of Lazarus. The church has determined that three Gospels best challenge the elect on their belief in Jesus.
One might wonder, “Why should we change the Gospels around from what’s in the book? After all, sometimes there might only be one or two elect in the parish RCIA.” It’s because we recognize that, in the elect, God’s grace is working most deeply in matters of conversion and belief in Jesus. It is our duty, therefore, to pray for and support the elect. The presence of the elect should also serve as an inspiration of renewal to our own belief in Jesus Christ. At the Easter Vigil, it is in these elect that we will witness new life spring forth from death as they receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and first Communion.
Perhaps you have never realized that you were hearing the same three Gospel readings Lent after Lent. If you have been aware, then you know the blessing that has been upon your parish in drawing non-baptized people to a relationship with Jesus Christ.
If you have elect in your parish, you could nurture your own spiritual growth these last two Sundays of Lent by taking time each week to also read the Gospel assigned to Year B. In doing so, you may find your own ears, eyes and heart being prepared to listen again on Sunday to the Year A readings with the same spirit of conversion and faith already at work in the elect.
Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.