The First Scrutiny, (3rd Sunday of Lent)

The Woman at the Well
The Third Sunday of Lent - The First Scrutiny - John 4:3-42

Why did the Samaritan woman come to draw water at noon, the hottest time of the day? 
Did she want to avoid the times the other women in town came to the well? 
What are the places in my life where I am embarrassed, where I avoid interaction with others? 
What are the noon day wells of my life? 
Can I imagine Jesus approaching me there?

Jesus tries to reveal his thirst to her - perhaps his thirst for intimacy with her - but she puts him off.  She's not worthy. It won't work.  When he offers to satisfy her thirst, she puts him off.  He can't satisfy what she needs, at least with this well, and without a bucket. 

How do I put Jesus off, with excuses, with problems, with barriers?  I don't have time; I haven't done this before; my stuff's too complicated; I don't know how to find you in this mess.

When he shows her that he knows her, she knows she's in the presence of someone special - perhaps the one she has thirsted for all her life. 

Do I let Jesus show me that he knows and understands me? 
Can I find the words to say he is the one I have thirsted for all my life?

The grace will come when I see that I have been at the well a long time and have long been thirsty.  When I can name the new thirst, the Water that now satisfies that thirst, I can overcome  my remaining resistance to trust.  When I see that Jesus reveals himself to me by revealing me to me, thereby showing me my need for him as Savior, I will rejoice and tell the whole world, too.


From The RCIA (

146. The scrutinies should take place within the ritual Masses “Christian Initiation: The Scrutinies,” which are celebrated on the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent; the readings with their chants are those given for these Sundays on the Lectionary for Mass, Year A. When, for pastoral reasons, these ritual Masses cannot be celebrated on their proper Sundays, they are celebrated on other Sundays of Lent or even convenient days during the week.

When, because of unusual circumstances and pastoral needs, the period of purification and enlightenment takes place outside Lent, the scrutinies are celebrated on Sundays and even on weekdays, with the usual intervals between celebrations. They are not celebrated on solemnities of the liturgical year. (see RCIA 30)

In every case the ritual Masses “Christian Initiation: The Scrutinies”are celebrated and in this sequence: for the first scrutiny the Mass with the gospel of the Samaritan woman; for the second, the Mass with the gospel of the man born blind; for the third, the Mass with the gospel of Lazarus.

Many pastors are reticent about using the cycle A readings every Lent. The RCIA however, seems to present these three gospel stories as essential to the liturgical observance of the scrutinies. The Church would never mandate them, aware that pastoral situations are many in which a case could be made for using the regular B and C cycle readings. But the reason for not using them really needs to be significant.



Presentation of the Creed 

Not just the liturgy of the word, but also a quick rubric on when to celebrate this rite, a strong preference for a parish liturgy:

157.  The presentation of the Creed, which takes place during the week after the first scrutiny, should preferably be celebrated in the presence of a community of the faithful, within Mass after the homily.

The description of the liturgy of the Word follows:

158. In place of the readings assigned for the weekday Mass, the following readings are used, as indicated in the Lectionary for Mass, ritual Masses, “Christian Initiation: Presentation of the Creed.”

Deuteronomy 6:1-7

Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 11 Refrain: Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.

Romans 10:8-13 or 1 Corinthians 15:1-8a or 1-4

Matthew 16:13-18 or John 12:44-50

159. After the readings and guided by them, the celebrant explains in the homily the meaning and importance of the Creed in relation to the teaching that the elect have already received and to the profession of faith that they must make at their baptism and uphold throughout their lives.

The selection of readings is no surprise: the greatest commandment and a hymn to the law of God from the Hebrew Sscriptures. The choice of Paul is interesting. Romans 10 is in the middle of his long discourse on his own shift from the Mosaic Law to discipleship in Christ. The alternate passage finds Paul urging the Corinthians to maintain their faith, an apostolic faith. The gospel passages you know, I think: Peter the rock, and Jesus the Light.