Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Times

August 21, 2016

Deacon Blaine Barclay


On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus has been teaching in the different towns and villages.  We know what he was teaching from the context in Luke and from the parallel passage in the gospel of Matthew, ’’Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’’ From Matthew we know that he has been teaching, ’’Enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it.  For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it’’. (Mat. 7:13-14) Or, as Jesus says in the gospel of Luke, ’’Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, we’ll try to enter and will not be able.’’ Jesus has been teaching about how narrow the gate is that leads to life.  And like his listeners in the story we tend to understand this as a narrow gate of exclusion, that only a small elect group will be saved, and the rest, well you know where they are going to end up?  This way of interpreting the narrow gate teaching can also produce a lot of anxiety and worries about whether or not we will be one of those who will manage to squeeze through the narrow gate.  So, instead of rejoicing and resting in the good news of salvation, in the knowledge of the deep love and tenderness that god has for me, I fall into the distraction of trying to earn God’s love so I can be worthy to fit into the narrow gate

Sisters and brothers, god’s love is not narrow, it is as wide as the east is from the west, as deep as the ocean, as wide as the arms of Christ stretched out upon the cross,’’ I’d love you this much’’. ‘Where can I run from your love, where can I hide from your face’, says the Psalmist.  No matter where we are, we can run, we can hide, but nothing can ever separate us from the love of God.

So what about the narrow gate?  How are we to rightly understand this teaching?  We know from John’s gospel that Jesus himself is the gate. ’’I am the gate for the sheep….  I am the gate.  Whoever enters by me will be saved….  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly’’. (Jn. 10:7-10) So the gate, or the door, into the fullness of life that we call salvation, is a person, the person of Jesus.  The personal encounter with Christ is decisive, everything hinges on this door, this gate.  It is narrow, not because the love of God in Christ is narrow.  It is narrow because it is particular, concrete, face to face, ‘now is the day of salvation ‘, in the moment of encounter, of conversion.  It is narrow because it is personal.  I can’t squeeze through this gate in a group or a crowd.  There is no such thing as an, ’’anonymous Christian’’.  Being a nominal Catholic will not be enough, we are not saved because we belong to a club, or because we know a secret handshake.  Of course, neither are we saved as isolated individuals.  Without ceasing to be communal, after all it is the faith of the church; faith is a personal act of trust in the love of God revealed to us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  Saint Augustine tells us that ‘God loves each one of us as if we were the only one’.  The gate is narrow because it is personal.

There is another reason that the gate is narrow.  For the same reason that Jesus teaches that it will be hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.  We will not be able to get through if we’re clinging to a lot of baggage, a lot of stuff, a lot of idols in which we place our trust, and from which we get our sense of security.  Like in the baptismal liturgy of the early Christians, we can only go through this gate, this door, naked, stripped of the status and trappings of the old fallen human nature, ready to be clothed with the white garment of new life in Christ.

The commitment to Christ and his cause is meant to be total and transforming, not because of our own efforts, as if we could earn our way through the narrow gate, but because of the ever prior claim of the love of God’s self-communication in Christ.  Our task, to surrender to the discipline of discipleship, to be the leaven of his word in the world, and to call each of the others to enter the narrow gate of God’s wide mercy.

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.