Deacons Beacon: RCIA and The 3 Scrutinies

Posted on April 5, 2022 by Published by

Someone recently said that the gospel I mentioned in my article in last Sunday’s bulletin was different from the gospel they heard at Mass. They were right!

If you were at the 11:30 Mass, you heard the gospel where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead; at the other Masses you heard the gospel about the woman caught in adultery.

You might ask, “Why different readings on a Sunday?” That’s a great question – On the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Sunday’s of Lent the RCIA candidates and catechumen celebrate the “Scrutinies” where the focus is on what’s at the heart of Jesus’ message. It’s a “breaking open” of Jesus’ message and what He expects of us.

This year the Scrutinies were celebrated at the 5:30 Mass on March 19; the 9:30 on March 27; and the 11:30 on April 3. All of the other Masses on those Sunday’s were the normal readings we hear in Cycle C (Luke) which I discussed in last week’s bulletin article.

The Scrutinies are a key part of the RCIA formation process for those preparing to celebrate acceptance into the Catholic faith. But it’s important for all of us to understand and follow their message. The Scrutinies teach us about the mystery of sin and guide us to repentance and fill us with the spirit of Christ.

The Woman at the Well

In this first Scrutiny the primary symbol is water. Jesus asks the woman for water; as they talk, He tells her that He offers her the water needed for eternal life. The woman’s life is revealed to her. Jesus offers healing, forgiveness and new life. Jesus is the living water we all need for eternal life. We need to ask ourselves – “What do we thirst for? Do we thirst for God – or for earthly pleasures?

The Man born blind

The Second Scrutiny is the encounter of Jesus and the man born blind. The main focus of this gospel is not so much the physical healing by Jesus, but the way it changes the man’s life after the physical healing. Some people who knew him said “this is him” others said “no, he just looks like him.”

There was division among the people – some saying there was no healing, some claiming it was an evil spirit who did the healing. Finally, they take the man in front of his parents. The parents do not want to get involved and regarding the miracle they say “ask him.”

The message in this Scrutiny is when we encounter God’s miracles, “How do we respond?’ Are we willing to accept God and make a commitment – or do we just continue in denial?

The Raising of Lazarus

In the third Scrutiny Jesus raises Lazarus (dead for four days) from the dead. There is no doubt that Lazarus was dead; no debating whether this is a miracle. But still people doubt. But John’s message to everyone is “Do you believe that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life? In the gospel we hear that Martha believes.

Summarizing the Three Scrutinies, in the First, do we see our sins and repent? In the Second, how do we respond to that message? In the Third, do we believe that Christ is the Resurrection and the Life?

All three of these readings are only in the Gospel of John. WHY only John’s gospel? John’s was the last canonical gospel to be written. It was written around 90 AD, approximately 60 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The apostles were probably all deceased the original “hearers” of their message were dying. Christ’s message needed to be written down for future generations. The three “synoptic” gospels were already written. Why another gospel?

The reason was to re-enforce that Jesus truly is the Son of God, and our path to God is through Him. Twenty centuries later that message is alive and relevant for all Catholics.

Our Lenten Journey is coming to a close. We need to reflect on our life – did we grow in our faith this Lent? What changes do we want to make as we go forward?

We will soon be starting Holy Week. Then we celebrate the Easter Vigil (April 16 at 7:30 pm). This celebration is my favorite liturgy in the whole year. This also is when we welcome the Catechumen and candidates into our faith.

Please join us for these services as we thank God for all He has given us.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact Deacon Tom Corcoran at

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