Fourth Sunday in Easter

There are seven “I-Am” statements in John’s gospel.  Jesus says; ‘I-Am the Bread of Life’; ‘I-Am the Light of the world’; ‘I-Am the True Vine’; ‘I-Am the Resurrection and the Life’; ‘I-Am the Way the Truth and the Life’; ‘I-Am the Good Shepherd; and todays, ‘I-Am the Gate’.  Each one of these statements is a treasure house to be explored.  As a whole, these statements illuminate each other.  Perhaps the most obscure for us is, ‘I-Am the Gate for the sheep’.

Jesus is the Door, the Gate, the way into the sheep fold, and the way out to pasture.  The person of Jesus is both the entrance into the Church, the sheepfold, and the missionary gate through which we are sent out into the world to gather the lost sheep.

In ancient Palestine, the shepherd was quite literally the gate for the sheep.  A sheep fold was a cave or a square enclosure of walled rocks with thorny brambles on the top to discourage thieves and predators.  There was only one way in or out.  The shepherd would sleep across this threshold.  The body of the shepherd was literally the gate for the sheep; protecting them from harm, providing them a place to rest, and during the day, a way to go in and out to find pasture.  The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

In ancient Palestine, the shepherd did not drive or herd the sheep, with the help of a sheep dog, like we do in western countries.  In Palestine, to this day, the shepherd leads the sheep.  As John tells us, ’’the sheep follow the shepherd because they know his voice’’.  Not just in a vague impersonal way, for John also tells us, ’’he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out’’, another translation says, ’’he walks in front of them’’.  I love the intimacy of the story, he calls each one of us by name, we know his voice.  There is mutual tenderness in the relationship between shepherd and sheep, between Jesus and the baptized, those he has called by name.

We are also called to use discernment in recognizing the voice of the Good Shepherd; and warned not to listen to the voice of strangers. ’’They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers’’.  A very powerful warning to us. To listen to the recognized voice of the master, who calls us by name, to not listen to the voice of strangers.  But how to discern the difference, that is the question?  Can the voice of strangers not sometimes be seductive and alluring?  The key to discerning the difference is in the last verse of our passage. ’’I came that they may have life and have it abundantly’’, to the full, overflowing, pressed down, shaken together, running over. The voice of the stranger calls us to be less than what we can be. The voice of Jesus calls us to life; to be fully alive, to grow to the full stature of human flourishing. He calls us my name.

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.