Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Father Shawn Hughes

 

Homilies are never the creative act of one person.  Thus, in posting these homilies on St. Mary’s Cathedral’s website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be little original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it. ‘Tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures and/or the Spiritual Life.

God bless you.

Father Shawn

Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.

These words come from the gospel we have just heard.  John the Baptist points out Jesus to his followers as the Lamb of God.

We use this expression during every Mass:

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world. Have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world.  Grant us peace.

And as the priest elevates the Sacred Host, the bread transformed into Christ’s body, he says:

“Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.”

It is an expression with deep historical meaning for the Jewish people, our ancient brothers and sisters in the faith, and since Jesus is the fulfillment of the ancient Jewish faith, it has deep significance for us.

Describing Jesus as the Lamb of God would resonate profoundly with those hearing it from John the Baptist for the first time.

1900 years before Jesus. Abraham, the great founder of the Jewish Faith and therefore ours, was asked to offer his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice to God, in order to test his trust and obedience to God.  Abraham prepared to do this but, when it was clear that he was willing to sacrifice his most beloved son, the most precious possession he had, his hand was stopped by an angel.   When Isaac asked where was the lamb for the sacrifice, not knowing he was to be the sacrifice, the Scriptures assures us that “God would provide the Lamb.” (Genesis 22:8) 1900 years later he does so in Jesus.

Describing Jesus as the Lamb of God most particularly recalls the Passover Lamb.

  • 1200 years before Christ, on the last night in Egypt as the Jewish people prepared to leave 400 years of slavery and be led by Moses to the Promised land, they killed a lamb and put its blood on the doorframes of their houses as protection from the angel of death who would pass through Egypt that night taking the firstborn of the Egyptians. (Exodus 12:3-14)
  • They used a branch of hyssop shrub to smear its blood on the doorframes of their houses (Exodus 12:21-23)
  • And not a bone of the slaughtered lamb was to be broken (Exodus 12:46).

The Gospel of John presents Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament Passover Lamb. In the Old Testament a lamb’s blood saved the Jewish people from disaster before they left Egypt and now the blood of Jesus, the New Passover Lamb, saves us from our sins.

  • In the Gospel of John, Jesus dies on the cross at the very moment the Passover lambs were being slaughtered in the temple by the Jewish priests. Every morning and every night a lamb was slain and offered in the temple for the sins of the people. John’s Gospel wants us to understand that Jesus has replaced and is the fulfillment of the Jewish rites and liturgies of the Old Testament. Only in the once only sacrifice of Jesus on the cross can we be fully delivered from the power of sin.  Every time we celebrate Mass we participate in that once only sacrifice of Jesus on the cross…receiving and renewing the graces that event bestowed on the world.
  • When Jesus was dying on the cross John tells us, “A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth.” (John 19:29). This recalls the hyssop being used by the Hebrews to smear the blood of the Passover lambs on the door frames. (Ex 12:21-23)
  • Finally no bone, like the Passover lamb, (Exodus 12:46)… No bone of Jesus was broken during his Passion. (John 19:31-33)

The Gospel of John wants us to understand that God has done a completely new thing for us in Jesus. There is a totally new way of relating to God in Jesus. Now the way to the Father is not through the sacrifice of animals but through Jesus, through his self-sacrificial offering of love on the Cross. All the ceremonies and sacrifices of the Old Testament have come to an end. Now Jesus is our way to the Father. Just as the lamb’s blood spared the Jews before they left Egypt so now it is the blood of Jesus that saves us from our sins. Therefore John the Baptist proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

600 years before Jesus, when our first reading was written, the writer of this section of the book of Isaiah, refers to Jesus as a servant and a little later refers to the messiah as a suffering servant led like a lamb to the slaughter. (Isaiah 53:7)  Again this prophecy will be fulfilled in Jesus.  The writer of this section of the book of Isaiah  prophecies one who by his sufferings and his sacrifice, meekly and lovingly borne, would redeem his people.  Again this prophecy will be fulfilled in Jesus.

And an image less familiar to us, about 150 years before Jesus, the Maccabbees were a very brave Jewish family who fought hard to throw off  the Roman oppressors, who had desecrated the temple.  Of them there is the image of the lamb with horns, the ram…the great conqueror.  This image was also used to describe King David and his son, King Solomon.  It was used to describe the great prophet Samuel.  We see this image in the book of Revelation as well.

29 times the writer of the book of Revelation uses the image of the Lamb of God.  We mention it five times in every single Mass.  It has become one of the most precious titles of Christ.  A title, Lamb of God, that sums up the love, the sacrifice, the suffering and the triumph of Christ; the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Foundationally we receive our sins taken away in our Baptism.  In Baptism each of us was redeemed.  The Lamb of God’s self-sacrificial love has redeemed us.  Has paid the price of our sins.  Has restored us to the original value, the dignity we were originally created to have.  Thus, the Church has always taught that if a person were to die the moment after they are baptised they would go straight to heaven.

All are redeemed in Baptism.  This same Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, knew that we would not be able to live at that level…the stain of original sin has been washed away from our souls in Baptism…however we still suffer from the consequences of original sin…We need the grace of the other sacraments to keep us at our baptismal level.  When we fall, we need the grace of Confession to restore us. We need the grace of the Eucharist and Confirmation to keep us strong, to resist evil and temptation so as to live at our baptismal level.  We need the grace of the Sacraments of Vocation…of marriage and priesthood to helps us to live the life to which we are called.  And we need the grace of the Sacrament of the Sick for healing and perseverance when we are very ill or elderly.

The main reason the church exists is to provide us with the grace of Baptism and then with all the other sacraments to keep us at our baptismal level.  We can receive the grace of the Eucharist and Confession over and over again.  And we should.  So that we can live at the level God originally intended us to live.  We receive the redemption of Christ in baptism and through our cooperation with the grace of the sacraments we work out our salvation throughout our lives.

God has done a completely new thing for us in Jesus. There is a totally new way of relating to God in Jesus. Now the way to the Father is through Jesus. Jesus is the Passover Lamb whose blood was shed to save each and every one of us.

We are reminded of this at every Mass before receiving the real presence of Our Lord and Saviour in Holy Communion when the priest holds up the Sacred Host and proclaims,

Behold the Lamb of God, Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.

Our immediate response is that we are not worthy…using the words of the centurion in chapter 8 of Matthew’s gospel we say…

“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the Word and my soul shall be healed.”

…and…we are not worthy.  But he makes us worthy…the Word has been spoken, the Word has been spoken and that Word, who is the Son of God, the Lamb of God, has self-sacrificially laid down his life for us.

The next words spoken by the priest couldn’t be truer!!!!!

“Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”

Blessed are we who are called to the supper of the Lamb.

We have just finished the Christmas season…celebrating our God who so loved us that he humbled Himself to take on our humanity…why ?? so that we could share in His divinity.  Receiving the Grace of His self-Sacrificial Love in His Suffering, Death and Resurrection…if we choose to cooperate with it.

Thus, entering into what St. Augustine would exhort those to whom he was giving Holy Communion.  As he held the Blessed Sacrament up for them to receive Holy Communion he would declare:

“Become the One, Whom you are about to receive!”



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.
PROCEDURAL NORMS FOR
THE NEXT FEW WEEKS

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.
Brevity
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.