Pastor's Desk Notes

March 3, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

With the third Sunday of Lent, the Church begins to invite those who are preparing to receive the sacraments of initiation to a deeper reflection and participation in the life of Christ. Today and for the two Sundays that follow, the Scrutinies are celebrated for those catechumens and candidates anticipating reception into the Church at the Easter Vigil. Here at St. Pius, the Scrutinies will be celebrated during the 11 AM Sunday Mass.

These unique rites have their origin in some of the ancient practices of the early Church. At a time when persecution was common, it was important for the Church to know that those who sought to be members of the Church were sincere in their desire. Often the period of catechumenate (the time of preparation leading up to baptism) could last for years. It was a time for the catechumen to be evangelized and catechized, as well as tested so that their sincerity could be proven. Hence the name “Scrutiny” has been applied to these rites. In the contemporary version, we focus our attention more on the Church’s prayer for the people desiring deeper faith. In the First Scrutiny, we pray especially that the spiritual thirst they have for God would be satisfied by their relationship with God, and that they would see that this spiritual desire can only be satisfied in the sacramental life. In the Second Scrutiny, the Church prays that they would have light and spiritual sight so as to see Christ and His plan for them more clearly. And finally, in the Third Scrutiny, the Church’s prayer turns to the gift of new life, that as the catechumens and candidates receive the life of Christ through the sacraments, so they would also put behind them the deadly ways of sin and vice.

In light of the First Scrutiny to be celebrated today, we can look at the Gospel story of the Samaritan woman at the well (NB – while we are in “Year B” for the cycle of readings, for these three weeks of the Scrutinies, we will use the readings from “Year A,” returning to the regular cycle in time for Palm Sunday). The woman is drawing water at midday, not the morning or evening as would be expected. She avoids her neighbors because she is publicly known as a sinner. Yet her well-known sin does not prevent Jesus from speaking to her and asking for a drink. Even someone who is far from God and whose moral life leaves something to be desired is capable of doing good things for others. Jesus teaches her this reality with His simple request for water. As she responds, she is surprised to find herself drawn into a spiritual conversation. How often we, as sinners, think spiritual or godly things are beyond us! Only after recognizing her capacity for good and receiving the invitation to spiritual converse is she invited to consider her moral life. Though she is convicted, she is able to face those questions precisely because Jesus has set a tone of openness. He does not lord His goodness or perfection over her, but he also does not shy away from calling her to a better way of living. Within that environment, the Samaritan woman’s life is transformed, and she immediately becomes a witness to others of the gift of following Jesus.

As we go through the Lenten season, Jesus also wants to meet us, especially in those places where we experience shame or regret. As he thirsted for the faith of the Samaritan woman, so he thirsts for our faith. He does not attack us for our immorality, but neither does He leave us without a challenge to leave sin behind. In this season of repentance, let us recognize Jesus as He meets us, as He invites us into spiritual conversation, and let us take Him up on the call to conversion, to repentance, to a new way of living. In the Sacrament of Confession, let us leave the shame behind, and find our desire for mercy satisfied by Jesus, who meets us with love in those places we need Him most.


Fr. Sam