Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016

Homily by Archbishop Brendan M. O’Brien
Easter Sunday 2016
St. Mary’s Cathedral
March 27, 2016

St. Paul, in the Letter to the Romans, puts everything on the line when he says, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain”. With these words, he tells us that what we celebrate today, the Resurrection, is not just some event in Christ’s life, it is the event in his life, and, for that matter, in the life of anyone who believes in him. Why is it so important, and why is it so significant for us?

To believe that Christ rose from the dead is to accept that this world as we know it, this environment that surrounds us, is not, in the words of Bishop Robert Barron, the final framework of our lives. In this world, death is a fact; we see it everywhere. Nothing lasts. Everything dies and stays dead. The Resurrection of Christ challenges this assumption. His resurrection was not just a return to life; it was not the resuscitation of a corpse, as when Jesus brought Lazarus back to life, or the daughter of Jairus, or the son of the widow of Naim. The resurrection is of a different magnitude. It implies that God is up to something greater than we can imagine. Jesus takes on a glorified existence; he has a body, but he is not subject to the normal constraints of our life. He has passed through death to new life. The Resurrection means that death is not the final word. As St. Paul proclaims, “Death, where is thy sting?”. (1Cor.15:55) The Resurrection of Christ means that this world, the one we live in, is destined to be transformed into something greater: “new heavens and a new earth.”(2Pt.3:13)

In today’s second reading from Colossians, Paul sees the Christian person as one who has undergone a dying and rising in his or her own life, patterned on Christ’s death and rising. And this is indeed what happens in Baptism, when “we die to sin and rise to new life”. But, as the reading suggests, as does our own experience, there is still a struggle. We can easily forget our true destination as a Christian and live as if this life is all there is and we had better get our chunk of it.

The gospel which we have just heard proclaimed tells the story of the coming to faith of three of Jesus’s followers: Peter, another disciple referred to as the disciple Jesus loved, and, finally, Mary Magdalene. We see in the account how Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb while it is still dark on the first day of the week. It doesn’t say why she came, but any thought of Jesus’s resurrection seems far from her mind. When she sees the stone rolled back from the entrance to the tomb, she jumps to the conclusion that Jesus’s enemies have stolen the body. This is the news that she brings to Peter and the other disciple. When they come to the tomb, they see the linen wrappings, and the account says that the beloved disciple believed; but it says nothing of Peter’s reaction. Mary Magdalene remains after they depart, and, even when she encounters two angels, she still is mourning the fact that “they have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have laid him”. It is only when she encounters Jesus in his Risen Body that she recognizes him when he calls her by name. The Risen Lord then speaks to her of how he is ascending to “my Father”, and then he adds, “and your Father”. In these words, he indicates the world to which he belongs and to which she belongs by her faith.

In the person of Mary Magdalene, we see a real movement in her grasp of what has taken place. She goes from being the one who rushed to tell the disciples that “They have taken the Lord from the tomb”, to one whom, at the end of the account, is able to proclaim to them, “I have seen the Lord”. While the beloved disciple is portrayed as the first to believe, Mary Magdalene is the first to proclaim the Risen Lord. (Apostola apostolorum)

If anything is clear from this account, it is, as Fr. Raymond Brown indicates in his commentary on John, ch. 20, that “the total scenario reminds us that, in the range of belief, there are different degrees of readiness and different factors that cause people to come to faith.” Risen Christ Eastertime p.65 We will see more of this in the Easter Season as we recount the different appearances of the Risen Lord to his disciples and their reaction. Only gradually would Jesus’s disciples be able to take in belief in the Resurrection; only slowly would they understand its meaning and what they were being asked to do.

Today, many centuries later, as we reflect on what the scriptures have passed down to us, we are confronted with the message that, by his death, Christ has liberated us from sin, and, by his resurrection, has opened for us a new way of life that reinstates us in God’s grace, so that we may share in the life of his only Son and be destined for Risen life ourselves. It is not entirely surprising that, like the early followers of Jesus, this news is too much for us. The celebration of Easter gives us the opportunity to once again enter into this central belief and hope of our Christian faith.

To sum up what I wanted to convey today, Easter is not only concerned with recalling the resurrection of Jesus and its impact on the lives of the first disciples. It is also about the meaning of this event for our own lives. As Jesus’s disciples changed, so, too, should we be changing. The sign that we are sharing in the risen life of Jesus is when our lives and actions undergo constant development.

Each year on Easter Sunday, after we have prepared for this feast through the observance of Lent, we are invited to renew our Baptismal Promises, which commit us to die to sin and to live for God in Jesus Christ. Hopefully, we come to see more clearly each year that this involves committing ourselves to struggle against our own selfishness and to respond to the needs of those who suffer from poverty and injustice.

During this Holy Year of Mercy, we are invited to carry this out in a special way, by practising the corporal and spiritual works of mercy as a sign of our commitment to carry forward the work of building up the Kingdom of justice, peace, truth, and love.

It is only with faith in the Risen Lord’s presence among us, and with the guidance and help of His Spirit, that we will be sustained in this work of carrying on the Saviour’s mission.

On behalf of all who serve you here at the Cathedral: Father Shawn Hughes, the rector,
Father Stephane Pouliot, associate, Deacon Blaine Barclay, and in my own name, I wish all of you a Joyous and Blessed Easter.

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.