In this time of Lent, we accompany those in our midst who journey toward Easter Vigil, when they will be washed in the waters of baptism. Part of that journey involves engaging in three Scrutinies – prayerful rites aimed at helping the Elect break down the obstacles that block them from God.
It is very easy to sit back and observe this process as if it doesn’t affect me. If I do so, I join the religious elite of Jesus’ day, sure of their own righteousness and their role in leading others to deeper faith, yet unable to see the logs in their own eyes. The Scrutinies are not just for those approaching baptism, but for every one of us.
I may, for instance, try to follow the “Lenten rules” precisely and scrupulously – making sure I fast on Fridays, giving more of my money and material possessions, and never missing my parish’s evening prayer services. Perhaps I go even farther – reducing my food consumption throughout the season, giving away enough that it hurts, and committing to increased daily prayer. All of these things are good, they yield great fruit, and we should absolutely do them. But following the rules, however sincerely, is not enough. In fact, Jesus dares to tell the religious leaders that despite their faithful devotion to the law, they do not know God. The covenant requires more.
Like the Elect approaching baptism, I need to invite God into the deepest recesses of my heart. I need to probe the hurts that lurk there unhealed, particularly those that cause me to act out, hurt others or hurt myself. I need to critique my sense of self-righteousness, especially with people I refuse to fully forgive, those I dismiss without taking the time to truly see them, or those I too easily pass judgment on. I need to see where prejudice or discrimination has subtly woven its way into my actions and attitudes. In all my relationships, including with people I love most, I need to determine how I can be less controlling, more lavish with praise, and more honest in my words.
Above all, I need to see more clearly what stands in the way of deeper intimacy with God. Often these obstacles, too, arise from my hurts, lack of trust, fear of losing control, and lack of time for silence and prayer. I need to strip away the masks and excuses, and once again humbly place my sinful yet beloved self at the feet of the merciful Lord to surrender my life and will. There is no law, rule, or precept that will profoundly affect my relationship with God like this kind of self-examination.
It is scary to undertake. It requires courage, integrity, and commitment. But that is what God seeks. We were created for the covenant, not just for the rules. This Lent, can we unlock our hearts and discover the Source of life in newer and deeper ways? If so, then as the waters of baptism splash down and envelop the Elect, those same waters will course anew through us, flowing freely where the Spirit wills, as together we joyfully proclaim the salvation of our God.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.corgenius.com/.