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Homily for Second Scrutiny, 4th Sunday Lent, Year A Gospel

(Deacon Jim mentioned last week that) we have two candidates, Ellie and Tilly, who this year will celebrate the rites of initiation at the Easter Vigil. A central part of this last stage of their preparation are what is known as the scrutinies. (Deacon Jim also mentioned that) last week was the first of their scrutinies. This Sunday and next Sunday we have other scrutinies. They are moments when the Church calls on the candidates, and the community more broadly, to enter more fully into the mystery of Christ’s salvation. This is in order for us to celebrate properly the wonder that is Easter, our life in the risen Christ.


The scrutinies are described as moments for the preparation of the candidates to move from a strongly catechetical emphasis to a more penitential approach. Deacon Jim mentioned last week that there is a focus on the mystery of sin. The focus on the mystery of sin is a reminder that we need to use Lent to bring into the clear light of day all that we want to keep in the dark, all that needs healing, so that we can truly enter into the mystery of salvation, new life.


One of the things I often discuss with couples preparing for marriage is whether they think they are God. The next question is whether they think they are perfect. I usually get the answers I am looking for. Then I ask, if you are not perfect, that means there is room for improvement, right? And the parts that need the most improvement are those that we are probably least proud of, right? Then, I ask, ok, when I meet someone are these the parts of me that I typically lead with, or do I prefer to show my better qualities?


This then leads into a discussion about how hard it is to improve parts of us that we are always trying to hide. The discussion then moves onto the reality that we normally only see these darker parts of our natures when they leak out, when they affect those around us, when we see the effects of the horror we have kept hidden let loose in the world.


However, that is still not the end of the story. I usually only see these effects on another person if the other person sticks around. If the other person doesn’t particularly like me and I am horrible to him or her, the other person will probably leave, and I will never know the depth of what I have done. Likewise, if I don’t particularly care about the other person, I may not care enough about what I have done to want to change, to want to repent, to want to improve. We therefore need a relationship in which not only will the other person suffer my imperfections, and worse my sin, but the other person will also be the motivation for me to want to change, to take all the data they are reflecting back to me about my heart and my mind, and desperately want to stop being that person, indeed, become the person I want to be in their eyes.


We can see something similar in our readings today. In our first reading, the priests and people – the whole people of God – are awful. They have completely abandoned God. And so God shows them this. God allows the Temple to be destroyed. The people understand this as God abandoning his people, but it is not that, as the prophet points out. It is something much deeper. The first reading hints at it, but it is our Gospel the spells it out for us.


The first reading is but a first inkling of what the Cross will be. Jesus has told us that the temple is his body, and God will again allow his people to destroy his temple. But this will become for them, for us, forever, a reminder of the potential that is within us. The weed of evil that constantly needs to be uprooted from our hearts’ soil.


We want to be God. Fine. That is what we are made for. But we don’t want to wait. We don’t want to receive. We want to take. And in the face of evil, we don’t want to struggle. We want to blame others, rather than ourselves. We don’t want to face up with what is inside. We turn in on ourselves and so begin to doubt. To fear. And so we lash out.


Lent then is that special time to realise again that we are in a loving relationship, a covenant with God. God who always sticks around. God who suffers all our horror. God who time and again offers us the opportunity to repent, to become who in love we are called to be, who we are created to be.


And because we are in this relationship, we can show God everything. We can be vulnerable in front of God. We can trust God to treat us tenderly. Not to mock our mistakes, our imperfections, our failed attempts to get better. God will see the tentative steps, the flickering will, the tiny desire to walk the path of love.


Let’s pray then that we know God’s love this purely, that we know there is always room to grow, and room to repent. Let’s know this and show this. As a community, let’s become this space, this opportunity for each other and our neighbours, that others too might come to know God’s peace.

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