Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday  March 20, 2016

Father Stéphane Pouliot


Holy Week has begun.  This beginning can be puzzling to many of us.  After all, we began Palm Sunday with the Gospel of Jesus entering into Jerusalem, and by the first reading, we have already plunged into the mystery of the Lord’s Passion and Death on the Cross.  The complete name of today’s feast is fuller than full: Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion.  Why covering so much of Holy Week on the first day?  The answer is simple: the Church wants to give us an overview of all of Holy Week on the Sunday which launches it, to incite us to spend more time on smaller portions of the mystery of our redemption as the week unfolds.  Let us lift the veil over the drama of this Week of all weeks with the Gospel we heard at the beginning of today’s Mass.

“Then they brought the colt to Jesus; and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.  As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road (Luke 19:35-36).”

The celebration of Palm Sunday invites us to be like the colt, the young donkey, which we encountered in the Gospel proclaimed at the beginning of the Mass today.  We are to welcome Jesus and carry Him to others.  Our reverence for Him will encourage others to follow suit:

“… the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully and with a loud voice… ‘I tell you, (Jesus said) if these were silent, the stones would shout out’ (Luke 19:37,40).”

Throughout this Palm Sunday Mass, we are called not to remain silent as Jesus passes in our midst, but to praise Him joyfully with a loud voice.  By recalling briefly what we have heard from the Word of God today, we will now anticipate our upcoming journey from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday.  As the prophet Isaiah told us earlier: “The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. (Isaiah 50:4)”

Let us recall that the hearts of the Apostles were weary on the night of the Last Supper, and that Christ’s words on that day would indeed sustain their hearts and ours, since those Holy Ancient Words would powerfully give us the Real Presence of Christ at every Mass.

On Holy Thursday, the night he washed their feet, he told them:

“I am among you as one who serves (Luke 22:27).”

The lover always serves the beloved, and since God is love, God serves us, incredibly, unconditionally, and generously.  For us sinners, God lets us know that He is mercifully there for us, that we are not orphans, that we have not been forsaken, that we have not been forgotten.  We are so loved and Christ told his Apostles the night He would be arrested and surrendered to His enemies:

“You are those who have stood by me in my trials… (Luke 22:28)”

On Holy Thursday, Jesus encourages us before we even show heroic courage that every past action of ours which has been a choice for Him has not been forgotten.  Jesus is incredibly grateful for our friendship offered at a time when He is rejected by so many.  He tells the first Pope on that ominous night:

“Simon, Simon, listen!  Satan has demanded to sift all of you like what, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers (Luke 22:31-32)”.

We are Simon.  Jesus promises us to pray for us throughout this Holy Week as we choose to spend time with Him, setting aside any unnecessary commitments for Him who spared nothing to save us.  He stands by us, and offers us His strength.  He invites us to look out for every man, woman and child who are being tormented by doubt, violence, and fear.

We are to reach out and come to their help taking our cues from our Master teacher who on Good Friday:

“…humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).

This humiliation of our Saviour leads him to descend into the hellish realm of death on Holy Saturday:

“…so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend in heaven, on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11).”

At the conclusion of this Holy Week, we shall see, hear, and feel the Glory of God who helps us (Isaiah 50:7) in our hour of greatest need, who will not give up on us, and who triumphs over the nightmare of sin, death and hell, clearing the fog of despair and discouragement, restoring our hope and promising us that death cannot keep us, rather that we will rise from the dead if we stay with Him.  Since Palm Sunday acts like a compelling movie trailer encouraging us to go and be part of the experience which it introduces us to, shall we let the Church lead us this Holy Week to Jesus who can change our lives?

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.