3rd Week in Lent

Father Stéphane Pouliot
February 28, 2016

Is the Lord among us or not? (Exodus 17:7)

Ouch. This question so clearly displays a lack of grateful remembrance for the Lord’s deliverance that God must be amazed at the hardness of heart of those asking it.

Let us recall that mere weeks before this moment in the wilderness God had abundantly displayed His mighty Mercy for the people of Israel in delivering them after 400 years of Egyptian oppression, sending as many as 10 spectacular plagues to break the arrogance of Pharaoh and going so far as opening a dry path through the Red sea for close to two million men, women and children to pass into freedom.

“Is the Lord among us or not?” Unbelievers and skeptics ask this question and God does not flinch. God demonstrates again and again His steadfast love regardless of the ungratefulness with which we respond to His miracles in our lives.

To those among us who in a moment of doubt question God’s existence (Are you there God?), God’s providence (Why aren’t you doing something God?), and God’s benevolence (Do you really want what is best for me God?), God answers: “I am with you always to the end of the age (Mt 28:20)”.

How does God prove his love for us, we might ask?

“God proves his love for us in that while we were sinners Christ died for us”, saint Paul told us in today’s Second Reading from the Bible (Romans 5:8).

In other words, God loves us and pursues us with His love steadfastly, constantly, tenderly and unconditionally.

God is determined to save us, if we will let Him. Let us never forget that saint Paul wanted passed on to us the instructions to his disciple saint Timothy that “God our saviour, … desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).

Every person faces this choice of accepting or rejecting salvation. The Mercy of God knows no other limit than our freedom to accept or refuse to receive it. This freedom is real and in today’s Gospel, the Samaritan woman will exercise it for her good, giving us an example to follow.

When she meets God by the well, he looks very Jewish, very different than the Samaritan culture which she calls her own. She does not know who He is, but He strikes her as odd. That a sinner would find Holiness itself strange is not surprising. As God said through the prophet Ezekiel: “Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it… Again when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life” (Ezekiel 18:25-27).

Jesus is God’s Face, Voice, hands and feet. In Jesus, we feel the Father’s merciful heart. Jesus is thirsty to reveal to us the truth about the Father. Ever since Adam and Eve were deceived by Satan, we have been tempted to distrust the goodness of our Heavenly Father, thereby rejecting the goodness of His commandments and His attempt at rescuing us from our slavery to sin.
But Jesus won’t give up. Even when we do give up hope. The Samaritan woman is no longer waiting for a rescuer. Maybe the fifth marriage did it for her. She has now settled into a temporary and unsatisfying relationship with her current boyfriend.

She is quite shocked when Jesus asks her for a drink. She quizzes Jesus repeatedly and challenges the truth of His statements. How could this stranger be right, she asks herself? How could this holy stranger be interested in my pain? Centuries before, the prophet Ezekiel said it best when, inspired by the Holy Spirit, God chose him to speak on his behalf that He has “no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but (wishes) that the wicked turn from their ways and live” (Ezekiel 33:11).

Jesus knows that the Samaritan woman wants to live, and be happy, and yet her unsettled and restless life is the result of seeking happiness in a human relationship which she expects to satisfy her completely.

… the one who drinks of the water that I will give, Jesus said, will never be thirsty (John 4:14).

Jesus proposes to each one of us a happiness which comes from being known, loved, forgiven, and made whole by Him. Jesus is quenching our thirst for love with His undeserved and free gift of Mercy. Jesus is not repulsed by our brokenness, and therefore we can admit before Him that we are unable to save ourselves, and in a desperate need of His definitive answer to the problem of our will enslaved by so many cravings.

Jesus approaches us to say: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Let us place before the Lord our past, our failures, the heaviness of our stumbling walk through life, and may we dare to look upon the Consecrated Host and the Chalice of Jesus’ Precious Blood and recognize that we are not too far from God!

Remember the question which started this homily: “Is the Lord among us or not? (Exodus 17:7)” What is the answer?

Yes, the Lord is among us to heal and to save! His name is Jesus! His name is Mercy!

Let us say to Him (tonight or this morning): “Because of you Jesus, I know the Gift of God’s merciful love for me (cf. John 4:10).”

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.