Good Friday, March 25, 2016

Homily by Archbishop Brendan M. O’Brien
Good Friday 2016
St. Mary’s Cathedral
March 25, 2016

Anyone who listens to the account of Jesus’s passion and death cannot help but be struck by the suffering it contains: the excruciating physical pain, the grief of betrayal and abandonment. But the account of the Passion and Death of Jesus is not just the story of one man’s suffering, or even a representation of the suffering which takes place in the lives of so many people today. No, the account of Jesus’s Passion and Death is painted on a much broader canvas. Because it involves Jesus, God made man; it is the story of our salvation.

Salvation literally means healing. To be saved means to be healed or made well. But from what do we need to be saved? The answer we usually give is ‘sin’. But what is that? It is both our flawed human nature, which we sometimes refer to as original sin, as well as the actual sins we commit.

At the heart of sin is separation – the kind of separation we experience in ourselves, between the person we should and want to be and the person we are. Sin is also about the separation we experience between ourselves and other people. And sin is the separation we experience from the ultimate purpose and meaning of our lives – or, in religious terms, that sense of separation or distance we feel from God. What has the power to heal sin is grace: the recognition of God’s love for us.

We are all familiar with the Hymn “Amazing Grace”. Its author was John Newton, a sailor involved in the slave trade in the 18th century. He was caught in a raging storm at sea, and, relying on his childhood memory of his Christian faith, he prayed for deliverance. He was rescued, and eventually got out of the slave trade, became a minister and notable preacher, and penned that famous hymn whose most memorable words are surely, “I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see.”

This is an example of the grace that is able to heal our separation from God, from others, and also from the conflict within ourselves. St. Paul gives us a memorable description of this inner conflict when he says, in Romans 7:19, “I do not understand my own actions……For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”

The Cross, which dominates today’s liturgy and which we will venerate in a few minutes, is the symbol of God’s love for us which is given to us freely and unconditionally – not because we deserve it, but simply because God loves us, because we are his. The Cross is the ultimate symbol of self-sacrifice and compassion. To prove the extent of God’s love for us, Christ chose the worst possible kind of death, being crucified as a condemned criminal.

When we look on the Cross, it is meant to elicit in us love in return. This is how it brings about the healing effect of salvation – the realization that, despite our failings and imperfections, we are loved by God; and, because God’s merciful love extends beyond us to others, they, too, should be the recipients of our love and concern.
As sign of God’s love, the Cross is a powerful symbol. Its vertical beam represents the reuniting of heaven and earth, God and humanity. Its horizontal beam with Christ’s arms outstretched on it signifies the reuniting of human beings with one another, since we are all the beneficiaries of that same great love.

On this Good Friday, during the Year of Mercy, may we be ever more mindful of God’s love for us exhibited in Christ’s death on the Cross. May we realize and accept its power to heal the separation within us, our separation from others, and our separation from God.

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.