"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
March 11, 2012: The Third Sunday of Lent
Synopsis: Lent is a time of purification and enlightenment. This Sunday in most parishes the first “scrutiny” will be celebrated as part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) process. The scrutinies are special rites “meant to uncover then heal all that is weak, defective or sinful in the hearts of the elect” (RCIA p. 78). In the first scrutiny, God drives out Satan and the “spirit of deceit” so that the catechumens “may attain purity of heart and advance on the way to salvation.”
This week’s readings illuminate these important rites. From the first reading we hear, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.” The Ten Commandments begin by announcing what God has done for his people. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, the commandments “point out the conditions of a life freed from the slavery of sin” (No. 2057). Israel’s liberation from slavery prefigures the liberation from sin in baptism.
The Gospel also speaks of deliverance as Jesus symbolically cleanses the Temple by driving out the money-changers. John’s placement of the cleansing of the Temple at the beginning of the Gospel is significant for it symbolizes the cleansing of one’s soul in preparation for Christian initiation. The baptismal theme is indicated by the fact that the cleansing of the Temple occurs between the wedding at Cana where Jesus turns water into wine, and the story of Nicodemas where Jesus says, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven” (John 3:5). In order to be “born again” and receive the “new wine” of God’s kingdom, God must first drive out evil.
In the second reading, St. Paul acknowledges that “Christ crucified is foolishness” to those who don’t believe. But it is Jesus’ redemptive sacrifice on the cross that frees us from bondage to sin. Those who have been enlightened by Christ and choose to believe, experience the freedom of the children of God. By contrast, those enslaved by a secularist ideology think, like the Greeks of old, that following Christ is crazy. In a world that calls “evil good and good evil” (Isa 5:20) following Christ is crazy.
Key verse: “I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery” (Ex 20:1).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Since baptism signifies liberation from sin and from its instigator the devil, one or more exorcisms are pronounced over the candidate. The celebrant then anoints him with the oil of catechumens, or lays his hands on him, and he explicitly renounces Satan. Thus prepared, he is able to confess the faith of the Church, to which he will be ‘entrusted’ by baptism” (No. 1237).
Benedict XVI: "I have nothing to propose or give to those whom I shall meet except Christ and the Good News of his cross, a mystery of supreme love, of divine love that overcomes all human resistance and even makes forgiveness and love for one’s enemies possible. This is the grace of the Gospel that is capable of transforming the world” (Angelus, March 15, 2009).
Life application: Satan is real. Evil is real. Christ frees us from both. Catechumens and those who’ll be received into the Church at Easter are a blessing and an inspiration to the rest of us. They remind us that following Christ takes courage and conviction. Those who join themselves to Christ renounce Satan “and all his empty promises.” The world may think we’re fools for believing in God. But those who have rejected the “father of lies” (John 8:44) and courageously taken up the cross of Christ find great peace and joy.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
Read Today's Scriptures online
Archives: "Breaking Open the Word"
For an affordable cost, you, too, can publish Breaking Open the Word in your newspaper, bulletin or journal.
For more information, contact Roxanne King, editor of the Denver Catholic Register, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 303-715-3215.