Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 31st, 2016

Deacon Blaine Barclay

At times the book of Ecclesiastes, from which our first reading is taken, reads more like a piece of existential literature. “Vanity of vanities, says the teacher. All is vanity.” Other translations render ‘vanity’ as futility, pointless, breath. “Everything is meaningless.” This belief that nothing has any meaning or value except what the human will imposes is quite common today but one does not expect to find it in the bible. Our Psalm touches on this experience as well, its words raw with the fleeting brevity of this moment that is the span of a human life. “You turn human beings back to dust…. For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past…. It is like a dream”. And we all know the fleeting, ephemeral nature of dreams. Even when vivid, they dissipate quickly, like dust in the wind of waking life. Like a dream, like dust, in contrast to the abyss of God’s eternity our life is but a breath. Of course we all have moments when we are tempted to look at the world this way, life sometimes takes on this texture. But we are a people of Resurrection Hope. Our faith holds out for us a way through such experiences.

So what advice does our psalmist give us in the face of our radical poverty? “So teach us to count our days so that we may gain a wise heart.” Wakefulness in the face of our mortality is a key to wisdom. Mysterium Mortis; the mystery of death. A healthy awareness of his mystery will help us to wake up to the duty of the moment. Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, whose feast day is today, uses a meditation on death as one of his famous rules of discernment. He says, “Imagine yourself at the end of your life, look back on your life, what do you wish you had done with your life? Do it.” If our life on earth is such a quickly passing shadow, it is no wonder that Saint Paul urges is to, “set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” And then, by way of explanation, he says a strange thing. “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” What does he mean, ‘you have died’? The Colossians he is writing to are very much alive, going about the business of everyday life, just as we do. And yet, according to Paul, the Colossians, and by extension each one of us, have died.

Saint Paul is of course speaking of Baptism. In the ancient Church the preferred form of Baptism was by full immersion. You were plunged down into the waters of Baptism. The old fallen human nature was being drowned so that the new restored, elevated, human nature could rise out of the tomb of the baptismal bath. Candidates would take off their old worldly clothes, symbolizing the old life they were leaving behind. Coming up out of the waters of Baptism, dying with Christ, dying to the old false self, the new Christian would rise to new life with Christ. They would put on a white garment symbolizing their new risen life with Christ. This is true for us as well, in Baptism each one of us has died to the old false self, crafted in the image of this world. Our second reading today speaks of being “stripped of the old self with its practices”. What are these practices of the old self that we need to be stripped of if we seriously want to enter into the new life of discipleship that our baptism calls us to? Saint Paul mentions a few. ‘lying’, “fornication (sex outside of marriage), impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed which is idolatry”.

In contrast to the way of life characteristic of old fallen human nature, the Baptized are meant to cultivate the life of the new self that is ‘hidden with Christ in God.’ Human nature has been elevated by the full humanity of Christ. The Christian life is a participation in his divinised humanity. Our fallen tendency however is to mask our mortality, to seek a kind of refuge in the idolatrous practices of the false self, to hold the fear of death at bay, to refuse the healing remedy of the cross and resurrection which is held out to us in our baptism. And so we fill our lives with things, with the trappings of conspicuous consumption, with the pursuit of power and influence. Saint Paul tells us that ‘greed is idolatry’. Idolatry is the fundamental, root sin in the bible. All sin has its root in our tendency to give our allegiance to something other than God. Jesus warns us of the danger of greed.  “For one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions”. He reminds us of what should be for each one of us a wakeup call. To the rich person in our story, addicted to stuff, to feeling in control, he says, “This very night your life is being demanded of you”. Responding to the wakeup call of our fragile woundedness, hanging on the cross, may we gain wisdom of heart, and become “rich toward 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.