Opening of the Holy Door Jubilee of Mercy

Homily by Archbishop Brendan M. O’Brien
Opening of the Holy Door Jubilee of Mercy
Sunday, December 13, 2015

Occasionally, I get mail which is signed not only with a name, but also with a Happy Face or two, which I guess is meant to cheer me up. And when I go into a corner store, the clerk will often say “Have a nice day, love”. But what if I don’t want to have a nice day; what if I am having a lousy day?
Some people, of course, always seem to be upbeat and perky no matter what – whereas other people’s state of mind can be up and down with the weather and is dependent on how they are getting along or not getting along with those close to them.
We heard in the second reading today St. Paul’s exhortation to rejoice – and not only to rejoice, but to rejoice always! Is he a “Have a Nice Day” person? I don’t think so, and let me tell you why.
First, St. Paul is not writing to the Philippians from some beach or resort. He is in prison and has been put on trial for his life. So these are not the words of someone who is having a good day and everything is going right for him.
The second reason I say that Paul is not just a “Have a Nice Day” person is that he doesn’t say “Rejoice always”. What he says is “Rejoice in the Lord always”. What he is telling us is that the cause of our joy is not the fact that the sun is shining or that things are going our way. The cause of our joy is not the circumstances that surround us; the cause of our joy is something we have within us – the belief that God is near. This is what carried Paul through all his trials and opposition and imprisonment.
When we say that “The Lord is near”, we are not only thinking about Christ’s coming at Christmas, but all that Christmas makes possible: God sent His Son into our world; He suffered and died out of love for us; and He continues to be present among us through the power of the Holy Spirit and the ongoing Gift of Himself in the Holy Eucharist.
So when Paul tells us to “Rejoice in the Lord always,” he is not saying “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile”. Paul is not just an optimist; because of his belief that the Lord is near, he is able to draw consolation, strength, and hope in his difficulties, which are many.In today’s gospel, John the Baptist proclaims a similar message of hope. He, too, will be imprisoned and later beheaded, but he knows that something great is happening; he knows someone is coming after Him: Jesus the Messiah, who is much greater than he is. His message excites his hearers, who, for the most part, are just ordinary people. And they want to know what they should be doing to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. John’s answer is very simple and very concrete: be fair; be just; be honest; look after those in need. That’s the way to prepare.
Both Paul and John the Baptist had this extraordinary sense that God was close to them. This was the power that carried them through all their pain and suffering. They didn’t have to deny the difficulty of their experience; they faced it, but not alone.
Today, we opened the Door of Mercy, the Door which is a symbol of Christ who invites us to come to him. “Come to me all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” We are being invited during this Year of Mercy to experience the Father’s mercy which is made present to us in Jesus, the human face of God.
In response to the question of his hearers, “What are we to do?”, John the Baptist gave practical advice: be honest, be fair, and be just. In our response to the message of God’s mercy which we proclaim in this Jubilee Year, an equally practical path is recommended. Express your needs in trusting prayer to God and “Be merciful like the Father”, practicing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Help the materially deprived; show your concern for the lonely and the sick; lend a hand to those who are experiencing inner emptiness or spiritual and moral confusion. This is how God helps us to change our anxiety into “the peace that surpasses all understanding”.

The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.