Scrutiny and Self-Searching

Flowering Cactus (2011)

Since last fall, I have had the honor and privilege of walking a journey of faith with two adults who are preparing for Baptism and full communion in the Catholic Church. With their sponsors, we have been preparing with weekly instruction and faith sharing. Our candidates have been welcomed by the local church community and have been elected into our diocesan community. This preparation is part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) in the Catholic Church.

On the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Sundays of Lent, we observe additional rites called Scrutinies. Scrutiny means critical observation or examination, or a searching study. At first, this word may seem strange to us, particularly its use in the plural. The next three weeks is a period of self-searching, repentance, and conversion, hence, the reason the Scrutinies are scheduled during Lent. The Gospel readings for these three Sundays follow the Year A cycle. We proclaim the stories of the Samaritan woman at the well, the healing of the man born blind, and the raising of Lazarus. The overall theme points to Christ as the living water, the light of the world, and the resurrection and the life.

Because we observe these rites at the Sunday liturgy with the whole community of believers, it is appropriate for all of us to spend time in self-scrutiny. It’s a good time to see if we are keeping the resolutions we made on Ash Wednesday. (I have had to start over at least once at this point!) We need to examine (scrutinize) how we are, the areas of our lives where we are tempted, where we fail, or where we seriously sin – both in what we do and in what we fail to do. We need the healing and strength that can come from the support of our sisters and brothers.

The reflections of various spiritual writers that I have been reading during Lent have yielded a series of questions that have helped me to examine the kind of life I am leading. I share the questions with you now.

Q1. What brings me here today?

The “here” could be the Sacrament of Reconciliation or, in my case this week, my lanai. After an absence, I found myself “thirsting” as did the Samaritan woman for morning time on the lanai, reading Scripture, listening for God’s voice, and writing out my prayers.

Q2. Name-calling and insults. Whom do I call names? Whom do I insult? When? Why? Can I give this up for Lent?

Q3. Of whom do/did I speak evil? When? Why?

Q4. Do I pretend to be someone I am not? When? Why?

Q5. Can I let go of my need to be in power and admired?

Q6. How do I try to make sure that I see things the way they really are? “How does God see this?”

Q7. Why am I so reluctant to speak God’s name with my family?

Q8. Am I tempted to slander and discredit the messenger (kill the messenger), to kill his or her reputation, to engage in character assassination if someone confronts me with a truth I don’t want to face?

Q9. Do I take God’s creation for granted?

Q10. Through my fast this Lent, am I moving away from antagonism and bitterness and moving toward a life of patient endurance without resentment?


The responsorial psalm for this Sunday (the first Scrutiny) is Psalm 95, a hymn of praise in which the psalmist calls us to praise and worship God, the king of all creatures and shepherd of the flock. The last verse warns us to be more faithful than were our ancestors in the journey to the promised land. Our response is “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Fernando Ortega has set Psalm 95 to music in his composition called Come Let Us Worship, 2006. (You can find this hymn by googling the title and composer.)

Montserrat, Spain (2014)

Come, let us worship and bow down
And kneel before the Lord, our Maker
Come, let us worship and bow down
And kneel before the Lord, our Maker

He is our God, He is our God
We are the people of His pasture
He is our God, He is our God
We are the sheep of His hand

Worship the Lord in holiness
Let the whole world stand in awe
He will come to judge the world
In righteousness and truth

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