Fifth Sunday in Lent

Disclaimer:

Homilies are never the creative act of one person.  So as we begin to post these homilies on our website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be nothing 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.  

God bless you.

Father Shawn

 

Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.  He had been in the tomb for four days, and Jesus calls his name, orders him to come out and he does.  Death itself submits to Christ the Lord.

The Church presents this reading to us at this point near the end of Lent, as we soon approach Holy Week.  Earlier in Lent Christ told the woman at the well that he was the Messiah;  Last Sunday we heard about the cure of the man born blind, something never done before; and now he tops everything by raising Lazarus from the dead,…all for God’s glory; and through these miracles the Son of God is glorified as well.  Jesus knows that in order to fulfill the Father’s plan he will soon suffer humiliation, torture and death.  As that moment draws near he performs miracle after miracle to bolster his disciples’ faith so that the coming events of his Passion will not snuff out their hope in him.  They are to remember these moments of miraculous glory when he is suffering and dying on the cross so that they will not lose hope.    We are presented with these displays of God’s glory each Lent so that our hope will be built as well…So that we will remember these moments of miraculous glory when darkness is visited upon us; when we are suffering and dying.

As important as Lazarus’ being raised from the dead is…it is not the most important part of this narrative.  The most important part is Jesus’ proclamation that he is the resurrection and the life and the following question to Martha.  These explain the meaning and importance of the miraculous raising of Lazarus from the dead.

Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.* Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ (John 11:25-26)  This key question to Martha is also the critical question for each one of us, because, unless one believes in Jesus and his word, the transformed life he offers is rendered void.

For Jesus to be the resurrection means that physical death has no power over believers.   The future of each believer is determined by their faith in Jesus, not by their death.  For Jesus to be the life means that the now, the present of the believer, is also determined by Jesus’ power for life, experienced as his gift of eternal life.

This past week we celebrated the funeral of a parishioner Al Tamasauskas…Al lived his life as an architect and loved to read history and theology…He would often say to his wife and son:  “I want life…but I want eternal life…I want to live forever.”  Such faith makes a pastor’s heart just soar.

The miracle of the raising of Lazarus from the dead concretely illustrates the truths that Jesus declares:  “I am the resurrection and the life.”  It is these truths, not the miracle, that have the lasting significance for the life of faith.

What truths do these verses offer us as we prepare to begin Holy Week one week from now?  First, they offer the truth of the identity of Jesus. When Jesus identifies himself with the images of the resurrection and the life he gives concrete expression to his unity with the Father, to show what it means that Jesus and God are one. Jesus’ self-revelation as the resurrection and the life points to his sharing fully in the power of God.   The magnitude of this claim can’t be overstated.  Because it announces that when one sees and hears Jesus one sees God’s will for the salvation of the world at work in the world.

Jesus defeats the power of death because in him the world meets the power of the love of God incarnate.  Because God loves the world as we hear clearly proclaimed in the famous 16th v of chapter 3 of John’s gospel…“6‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life,”…Because God loves the World God gives Jesus to the world for its salvation, so that the world might come to know fully God’s love for it and live grounded in that love.  Jesus’ own death is a measure of this love, because in it Jesus’ power as the resurrection and the life comes to fullest expression.

“I am the resurrection and the life” gives us, Jesus’ disciples, the opportunity to claim that truth for our own lives.

‘I am the resurrection and the life.* Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”  (John 11: 25-26) are the most far-reaching promises anywhere in the Gospel of what relationship with Jesus offers those who embrace it…they offer a vision of life to the believer in which his days do not need to be reckoned by the inevitable power of death, but instead by the irrevocable promise of life with God.

These two verses invite us, believing disciples of Jesus Christ, to a vision of life in which one remains in the full presence of God during life and after death.

Faith is not assent to a series of faith statements, but assent to the truth of Jesus’ relationship with the Father and the decisive change that relationship means for the lives of each one of us, those who believe.

Jesus proclamation of himself as the resurrection and the life should be very comforting to us…it announces that the world is now definitively under God’s care and power.

When we believe in Jesus, when we accept what he says about God and about life and stake everything on it, in truth we are resurrected for we are freed from the fear, the frustration, and sense of futility which is characteristic of those who do not believe.  Life is raised from sins’ death and becomes so rich that it cannot die but must find in death only the transition to eternal life.

John’s whole gospel is written on the theme that in Jesus we see the mind of God.  The purpose of the restoration of Lazarus is so that Martha can see “God’s Glory revealed.”

St. John points out that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus”   And yet he let Lazarus die.  He told the messengers:  “This sickness will end not in death but in God’s glory, and through it the Son of God will be glorified.”  Jesus loves them, and yet he lets then suffer.  He lets them experience their helplessness, their weakness, the separation of death, and the loss of a loved one.  Did he do it to punish them?  Did he do it because he had no power to remedy evil?  No, he let them suffer precisely because he loved them. He wanted to give them the great gift of knowing him more deeply and more intimately and he wanted them to experience his power and his love more profoundly. The suffering afforded him an opportunity to act in their lives in a new way, revealing himself to them more completely.  This is God’s glory – that we know and love him and experience his love more completely.

We urgently need to contemplate this moment in our Lord’s life.  Suffering death, pain, and sorrow touch us all. If we exercise our faith in Christ’s wisdom as shown in his relationship with Lazarus and his two sisters, we will be more ready to find and embrace him when suffering strikes closer to home.

As we begin to walk through Holy Week one week from now, as we walk through the suffering, pain and death of Jesus,…And as we walk through the suffering, pain and death in our own lives, we must always remember these foundational words of today’s gospel:

‘I am the resurrection and the life.* Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die…

Do we believe this?’

 



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.