Friday, March 18, 2016

Lent, baptism, penance, and being busy

In terms of busy-ness, March came in like a lion will go out like lion. My busy-ness, which is mostly of the good variety, has prevented me from posting much this month. By busy I don't mean too busy, just busy enough that I have to prioritize and let some things go until I have more time. As enjoyable as I find it, blogging is one of those things I sometimes have to let go of for a week or so. Besides, I am not deluded enough to believe there's anyone who is really jonesing for another post from me. I suppose it may sound a little weird, but I miss blogging when I am unable to do it for very long. This small cyberspace is really part of my life.

What have I been doing? Well, apart from my family and my day job, I've been making arrangements to begin a Doctor of Ministry (D. Min) program at Mt. Angel Seminary in Oregon. Assuming it all works out my first (of 3) residencies will be this summer. I have also been busy preparing to lead a retreat for the Elect and Candidates of our diocese. The retreat is tomorrow. I've been giving some serious thought to a book proposal I have been invited to submit by a Catholic publisher. I don't mind sharing that I find the prospect of writing a book very intimidating. This week, I participated in our diocese's annual Chrism Mass for which Archbishop George Niederauer, Archbishop Emeritus of San Francisco and former Bishop of Salt Lake City, was the celebrant. It was then-Bishop Niederauer who ordained me. Also, I've been preparing to preach on Passion/Palm Sunday.

The main focus of the retreat I am leading tomorrow is a passage from The Gospel According to St. John, namely 4:4-42. This passage is the gospel reading for the Third Sunday of Lent during Year A of the lectionary. It is also the gospel reading for the Mass at which the First Scrutiny is celebrated, regardless of the lectionary year. As per The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), there are three scrutinies for the elect. The elect are people, women and men, along with boys and girls who have reached the age of reason (reckoned to be 7-8), who will be baptized at the Paschal Vigil. The scrutinizing element of the scrutinies is the gospel reading. So, it is not the case that the elect are scrutinized by the community to determine if they are ready to receive the sacraments of initiation. Their readiness was verified at the Rite Election, which happens around the First Sunday of Lent. Rather, the elect scrutinize themselves in light of the Gospel.

According to the RCIA, the scrutinizing gospel passages serve two purposes. First, “the elect are instructed gradually about the mystery of sin, from which the whole world and every person longs to be delivered and thus saved from its present and future consequences” (RCIA, 143). Secondly, the scrutinies should fill the spirit of the elect “with Christ the Redeemer, who is the living water (gospel of the Samaritan woman in the first scrutiny), the light of the world (gospel of the man born blind in the second scrutiny, the resurrection and the life (gospel of Lazarus in the third scrutiny). From the first to the final scrutiny the elect should progress in their perception of sin and their desire for salvation” (RCIA, 143).

In light of all this, our Friday traditio is Jars of Clay, with an assist from the The Blind Boys of Alabama, singing the hymn "On Jordan's Stormy Bank I Stand," from their album Redemption Songs:

In my spare time I have been reading Msgr Giussani's At the Origin of the Christian Claim along with José Pagola's Jesus" An Historical Approximation. What is strange about reading these two books together this is that in his book Pagola employs the kind of methodology that Giussani rejects in his. For his rejection, Giussani invokes Hans Von Balthasar, who wrote that far too often there is a rule is imposed that holds it is only the one who employs solely the historical-critical who is "unprejudiced by faith" (At the Origin 42). The rule holds that it is only the one who approaches the gospels in this way who is "in any position to see the truth of what happened at the time in Palestine" (42). While it's true that Pagola seeks to apply just the kind of method critiqued, I have benefited a lot from reading the book. For example, I found his section on the baptism administered by the Baptist to be fascinating. Pagola points out that it is very likely that those Jews who were baptized by the John the Baptist in the River Jordan entered the Jordan from the east side, which was the direction from which ancient Israel, liberated from Egypt, entered it, and came upon on the western side of the river, into the promised land (81).

According the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum concilium, “The two elements which are especially characteristic of Lent -- the recalling of baptism or the preparation for it, and penance -- should be given greater emphasis in the liturgy and in liturgical catechesis. It is by means of them that the Church prepares the faithful for the celebration of Easter, while they hear God's word more frequently and devote more time to prayer” (par. 109).

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