Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wednesday of Lenten Week II - St. Turibius - Third Sunday of Lent: the Scrutinies and the Samaritan Woman

Prayer for Wednesday, the 2nd Week of Lent

Keep your family O Lord, schooled always in good works, and so comfort them with your protection here as to lead them graciously to gifts on high. Through our Lord.



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A MODEL BISHOP FOR THE AMERICAS




St. Turibio of Mongrovejo, a Spaniard, served God from his infancy. Though a layman, he was appointed Archbishop of Lima and landed in South America in 1581. He died March 23, 1606, having, by his indefatigable zeal and by the boundlessness of his charity, literally renewed the face of the Church of Peru.
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Together with Rose of Lima, Turibio is the first known saint of the New World, serving the Lord in Peru, South America, for twenty-six years.

Born in Spain and educated for the law, he became so brilliant a scholar that he was made professor of law at the University of Salamanca and eventually became chief judge of the Inquisition at Granada. He succeeded too well. But he was not sharp enough a lawyer to prevent a surprising sequence of events.

When the archbishopric of Lima in Spain's Peruvian colony became vacant, it was decided that Turibio was the man needed to fill the post: He was the one person with the strength of character and holiness of spirit to heal the scandals that had infected that area.

He cited all the canons that forbade giving laymen ecclesiastical dignities, but he was overruled. He was ordained priest and bishop and sent to Peru, where he found colonialism at its worst. The Spanish conquerors were guilty of every sort of oppression of the native population. Abuses among the clergy were flagrant, and he devoted his energies (and suffering) to this area first.

He began the long and arduous visitation of an immense archdiocese, studying the language, staying two or three days in each place, often with neither bed nor food. He confessed every morning to his chaplain, and celebrated Mass with intense fervor.

Among those to whom he gave the Sacrament of Confirmation was Saint Rose of Lima, and possibly Saint Martin de Porres. After 1590 he had the help of another great missionary, Saint Francis Solanus. (One time when I was celebrating at St. Rose of Lima parish in Enfield, NS, I encouraged Confirmation candidates to become saints because, if they got canonized, I, like Turibio who confirmed Rose and Martin, might have a shot at it!)

His people, though very poor, were sensitive, dreading to accept public charity from others. Turibio solved the problem by helping them anonymously.

When Turibio undertook the reform of the clergy as well as unjust officials, he naturally suffered opposition. Some tried, in human fashion, to "explain" God's law in such a way as to sanction their accustomed way of life. He answered them in the words of Tertullian, "Christ said, 'I am the truth'; he did not say, 'I am the custom."'  He is the patron of : Peru, Latin American Bishops, Native Rights

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Prayer of the Optional Memorial

O God, who gave increase to your Church through the apostolic labours for truth of the Bishop Saint Turibius, grant that the people consecrated to you may always receive new growth in faith and holiness. Through our Lord.

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Third Sunday in Lent (Year "A") - March 27, 2011 "A SPRING OF WATER GUSHING UP TO ETERNAL LIFE" [Texts: Exodus 17:3-7; [Psalm 95]; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4:5 -42]


Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, c. 1591-c. 1666): Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well (c 1640-41)


Recently, I welcomed the men, women and children of the parishes of the Archdiocese of Ottawa who are to be initiated into Christ through Baptism, Confirmation and their first reception of the Eucharist at the Easter Vigil. They are sharing in the process of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), the ancient catechumenate restored by the Second Vatican Council.

Whereas older converts will recall their one-on-one instructions, the RCIA is a communal process that involves the whole church, especially during the 40 days of Lent and the 50 days of Easter. Through an intense period of purification and enlightenment, the catechumens prepare for the sacraments of initiation.

Meantime, the members of the Church accompany the catechumens and candidates by works of prayer, fasting and almsgiving so that the whole Church may celebrate the Paschal Mystery "with mind and heart renewed" (Lenten Preface I).

On the first Sunday of Lent, the catechumens participated in the Rite of Election. There the Church ratified their readiness for sacraments of initiation and the catechumens--now the Elect--expressed their will to receive the sacraments.

Beginning with this third Sunday, and continuing on the fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent, the Church celebrates with the Elect "the scrutinies", ceremonies whose purpose is to strengthen the catechumen's ability to overcome temptation and to purify their intentions. The stories of the Samaritan woman, the man born blind and the raising of Lazarus--drawn from the Fourth Gospel--have a central place in these scrutinies.

As was the case when Jesus conversed with the Samaritan woman ("Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!"), the scrutinies uncover and expose for the catechumens all that keeps the transforming love of God from setting them free of sin.

Some evil is freely chosen, the consequence of personal sin. Much that holds people in bondage, however, issues from structures known as social sin: racism, sexism, etc.

The scrutinies, based on Jesus' encounters with real people who--though trapped in sin--yearned for eternal life ("a spring of water gushing up to eternal life" in the core of each person's being), unmask the deception of evil and sin for what they truly are: destroyers of authentic life.

During the first scrutiny today and in those to take place on the next two Sundays, the presider officiates at a rite of exorcism and Trinitarian prayer to free the Elect from sin. God the Father is asked to free and protect the Elect from sin. The Holy Spirit's presence is invoked through the ancient symbol of the imposition of hands. Finally, Christ is invited to enter into the lives of the catechumens as once he entered into the life of the Samaritan woman.

The Samaritan woman illustrates the challenge of coming to faith in Jesus. But her story shows as well as Jesus' determination not to be sidetracked from drawing everyone to God's offer of eternal life.

Jesus used the language of this world to speak of heavenly realities ("If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who is saying to you 'Give me a drink', you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water"). This led to a misunderstanding on the Samaritan woman's part. She thought he was speaking of flowing, bubbling water. Instead, Jesus was speaking of water that gives life (a water symbolic of revelation, baptism).

If the Samaritan woman, slow in coming to recognize Jesus, symbolizes catechumens in their search, the disciples may represent the ongoing need for enlightenment by Church members.

As she mistook Jesus' saying about "living water", the disciples who had been with Jesus for some time failed to grasp his saying that "I have food to eat that you do not know about". While they wondered whether someone had given him food, Jesus set them straight by noting that "my food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work".

The completion of God's work is anticipated in the Samaritan villagers' declaration at the end of today's gospel narrative, "we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world".
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