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6 March 2016
posted by Canon Dakin on 14-03-2016

4th Sunday of Lent

A Lent of forty days came into the church after the Council of Nicea in the fourth century. Previously in Rome there had been three weeks of fasting before Easter when the emphasis was on preparing the catechumens for their baptism on Easter night. On those three Sundays the catechumens were required to present themselves for scrutiny. What was being scrutinised? Their life-style. In those days a conversion was a strong one - from the standards of a pagan culture to the values of a Christian life. The bishop wanted to be sure you were up to it. Your god-parent - appointed by the Church - was your monitor. So what kind of things did the bishop want to know? Here’s a list from the 4th century. The godparent must attest that the applicant has been zealous for the commandments during his catechumenate,  that he has visited the sick or given to the needy, that he has kept himself from every wicked and disgraceful word,  that he has despised pride and chosen for himself humility.  The bishop is responsible for this man’s admission, so the bishop asks him: “Are you in two minds or under pressure from anything, or driven by convention? For nobody mocks the kingdom of heaven but it is given to those who live it with all their heart”.  The emphasis there is not so much on the ten commandments as on the beatitudes - visiting the sick, helping those in need; the pure in heart, the meek. We are approaching the renewal of our baptismal vows at Easter. If we were subject to scrutiny under those headings would we be judged ready for a sincere renewal of the vows of our baptism? Lent is the time for self-scrutiny. Are we whole-hearted or found to be in two minds about our faith values? Our Lord’s standards are plain enough - are we under pressure to compromise? There will be an opportunity for heart-searching when we celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation on Palm Sunday afternoon.  

Comments
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