Praying Exorcisms. Huh?

Contrary to popular Hollywood portrayals, the season of exorcisms isn’t centered on Halloween—it’s right now, happening at a parish near you, this Lent.

Even though I grew up going to Mass every Sunday, by the time I was in high school I still had no idea what was going on up there near the altar with all this “extra stuff” during Lent. All I knew was that it had something to do with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and it seemed to make Mass last longer (something people liked to complain about).

But, oh was I missing out! These extra prayers and fuss were all part of the period of purification and enlightenment for the elect—those preparing for baptism at the Easter Vigil.

This period includes scrutinies, solemnly celebrated on the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays of Lent. The scrutinies, which include the rite of exorcism, are designed to aid in uncovering, and then healing, “all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect,” and at the same time strengthen and promote “all that is upright, strong, and good,” deepening the commitment of the elect to “hold fast to Christ and carry out their decision to love God above all” (RCIA, no. 141).

I know what you’re thinking (or at least what the high-school version of me would have been thinking), “That’s nice for the elect,” but what about me?

Here’s where our liturgy gets pretty awesome—Lent isn’t just about preparation for the reception of baptism, but also a time of spiritual recollection of our own baptism and participation in the paschal mystery.  Think of it as an annual, mini-retreat during Mass—a time to examine how each of us has been purified and enlightened by Jesus Christ’s saving power, over and over, as we experience deeper conversion throughout our years.

What might this look like, week-by-week? I offer the following suggestions, based on our Church’s rites to spur each of our recollections of our baptism and on-going conversion.

First Scrutiny (Third Sunday of Lent)

Gospel: Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus at the well (John 4:5-42)

Pray and Reflect:

  • When has the Lord, in his mercy and wisdom, touched my heart?
  • How have I drawn near to the fountain of living water, Jesus Christ?
  • Express gratitude for Christ the Living Water.

Second Scrutiny (Fourth Sunday of Lent)

Gospel: Healing of a man born blind (John 9:1-49)

Pray and Reflect:

  • What false values surround and blind me?
  • Am I allowing Christ to heal me?
  • Express gratitude for the Light of Christ.

Third Scrutiny (Fifth Sunday of Lent)

Gospel: Resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:1-45)

Pray and Reflect:

  • Am I still walking in newness of life in Christ?
  • How am I stepping forth, alive from the tomb, showing the world the power of the risen Christ?
  • Express gratitude to Jesus Christ for defeating death.

This post originally appeared at NewEvangelizers


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