Lent & Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

02-27-2022Weekly ReflectionBrian Guillot, Director of Faith Formation

As we prepare to enter another Lenten season, it is good to remind ourselves that this is not only a time of penance but of conversion as well. That is why there is such a close connection between Lent and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). You know that RCIA is a process for those over the age of seven wishing to become Catholic. Some enter the RCIA process as unbaptized people, called catechumens. While others join the process having been baptized in another Christian denomination. We call them candidates.

Both the catechumens and the candidates are invited to explore more closely their call to the Sacraments during the “Period of Purification and Enlightenment” which coincides with Lent. This Period of Purification and Enlightenment calls not just those involved in the RCIA process, but the entire faith community to prepare for the celebration of the Paschal Mystery: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Lent, therefore, becomes a time for us to feel not only sorrow for our sins but also for us to ask for the grace to change for the better. Therefore, all of us—catechumens, candidates, and community—begin Lent by receiving ashes. Ashes, originally sprinkled on those who had publicly confessed serious sins, ritualizes both our need for forgiveness and our need for conversion.

The catechumens celebrate several rituals during Lent that draw them closer to the relationship they wish to have with God that they will celebrate in the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. The first ritual is the Rite of Election that generally occurs on the First Sunday of Lent. At this ritual, the Church “chooses” the catechumens for the Sacraments and the catechumens sign their names as their faithful acceptance of God’s call. The second ritual is actually three, called Scrutinies, on the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent.

Each scrutiny is designed to heal what is sinful and strengthen what is good in the individual catechumen. Each scrutiny also has a traditional set of readings from Cycle A that center around the Gospel of John - the Woman at the Well (John 4), the Man Born Blind (John 9), and the Raising of Lazarus (John 11). The catechumens are able to see themselves in these passages. They are called to forgiveness through the waters of Baptism. They are called to see Christ for who he truly is. They are called to the life only Jesus can give them.

However, Jesus is calling ALL OF US, even us “cradle Catholics,” to renew our relationship with him. Lent is a time that shakes us out of our complacency as disciples. It is a time for us to remember our excitement and joy as Jesus’ disciples so we can share the excitement and joy of our new members. In turn, they help us continually renew our relationship with Jesus. This give and take of old and new helps us avoid becoming like the Pharisees, who could not admit their blindness.