Sunday, March 4th, is the Third Sunday of Lent (Year B), but I will be using the Reading from (Year A) for a specific reason, which I will unfold. Mass Readings: Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 95: 1-2,6-7,8-9; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4:5-42
During the holy season of Lent, the Church permits the use of the Lectionary readings from Year A. This is done for a specific purpose. On the 3rd, 4th and 5th Sundays of Lent, the Church, in preparing Catechumens for Baptism and to receive Confirmation and their first Holy Communion, uses what we refer to as Scrutiny readings. These are also used to help prepare those who have already received the Sacrament of Baptism, but are now official Candidates for coming into Full Communion with the Catholic Church and to prepare them to receive the Sacraments of Penance and Reconciliation (Confession), Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist.
That being said, these Scrutiny readings are not merely for Catechumens and Candidates, but they indeed are for all the Baptized and fully initiated into the Church.
Why does the Church call these Sundays of Lent Scrutiny Sundays? When we hear the word—scrutiny—or to scrutinize—we might not have positive experiences. To be under scrutiny can bring fear and anxiety. Nobody I know welcomes those conditions!
The Church intends to place no person in fear or anxiety. Quite the opposite, actually. The Church desires that those who are preparing to receive the Sacraments have freedom to do so. The Church uses these readings to help remove obstacles that may be in the way of a person receiving the Grace of the Sacraments.
Yes, we can put obstacles in the way of receiving the fullness of Grace that the Lord wants us to receive in the Sacraments.
The Scrutiny Gospel for this 3rd Sunday of Lent is the Samaritan Woman at the Well. Take some time to read through the entire account (John 4:5-42).
Samaritans were outsiders. They were not of the chosen people. In going to the well, this woman already has two strikes against her—she is an outsider and she is a woman. The Samaritan woman came to the well at a time where she knew she would be alone. It would have been out of the ordinary for others to gather water at that time of the day.
Jesus breaks through the barriers. He, as a Jew approaches the woman and speaks with her. Give me a drink, Jesus says. Jesus had been on a journey. He was tired and thirsty.
The point of this scrutiny reading is to awaken and to stir within those preparing for baptism and the other Sacraments a thirst—a thirst for Him—a thirst for the God-Man Jesus who truly satisfies.
Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
A question we might ask is—was the Lord Jesus just thirsty for water? Or was it something else? I’m sure he was tired and thirsty after a long journey. There is something deeper than merely bodily thirst.
Many spiritual writers and theologians of the Church have connected this passage of the Woman at the Well to the cry of the Lord Jesus on the Cross—I Thirst.
Obviously, He was thirsty for water on the Cross after the brutal torture and hanging on the Cross for three hours. He was thirsty for you, he was thirsty for me!
God thirsts for you! It might be easy to accept that God loves you and me, but can we accept that God thirsts for you, He thirsts for me?
As we continue this journey of Lent and we perhaps are taking up Penance and doing bodily mortification and denying ourselves creature comforts, our bodies may start to scream with cravings for what we were used to consuming.
In those circumstances, think of the thirst of the Lord Jesus. His thirst for you—for your response to Him and for your love in return gives new perspective on any thirst, bodily or spiritual that we might crave.