June 25, 2017

June 25, 2017

Deacon Blaine Barclay

In our gospel today, Jesus teaches about Fear, what to be afraid of, and what not be afraid of.

We live in an age of fear and anxiety; not just particular fears, like the fear of heights, closed in spaces, nuclear war, climate change; but a more generalized fear, fear without an object, if you will. Sometimes, we are paralyzed by our fears, we fear commitment, intimacy, vulnerability; we try to choose not to choose, floating in the Lotus Land of indecision, but this is itself a choice.  We try to tame our fear, with shopping, alcohol, distractions, entertainment, addictive behavior patterns that will banish our fears, hold them momentarily at a distance.  One author describes our world as, ’the anesthetic society’, so pervasive is our frantic need to banish or not feel our underlying fear.

I take it as a given that anyone who is half awake to the human condition, especially in the modern age, is at some level afraid. Jesus speaks directly to our situation of fearfulness. Three times in today’s gospel Jesus tells us not to be afraid. ’’Fear no one….  Do not fear….  So do not be afraid….’’ Jesus calls us out of our fear, wants to cure us of our pathological fears that are a symptom of our woundedness, our sin, our lack of trust.  Jesus also teaches us about a different kind of fear that will cure the wound of all our other fears, ’the fear of the Lord’.  I would like to briefly walk through these three fears, and in conclusion, say something about the authentic fear that will heal them all.

First. ’’Fear no one: for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known’’.  In other words, do not be afraid to live with transparency, to live in the light, not holding back, full throttle, with the innocence, but not the naivete, of the child.  Do not be afraid of what others will think and say because you are a Christian. ’Proclaim it from the house tops’.  Do not be afraid to openly live the gospel, don’t be a ’closet Christian’. ’’Fear no one….’’

Second.’’ Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul’’.  In other words, do not fear the threat of violence.  If death or suffering is the cost of virtue, bring it on. It may be just the slow, daily, martyrdom of longsuffering, of patience in adversity, of tenderness and kindness in the face of difficulties.  Or, a more shattering violence, a more pervasive threat, that reminds us of ’the cost of discipleship’, that grace is not cheap. ’’Do not fear….’’

Thirdly. ’’So do not be afraid: you are of more value than many sparrows’’. ’’Even the hairs of your head are all counted’’.  Now, we think of sparrows as a song bird, but in the time of Jesus they were the meat of the poor.  If you went to market and couldn’t afford a good cut of meat, or a pigeon, you could always buy some sparrows for next to nothing, to garnish your table.  The point is, that as little and insignificant as the poor, and the meat of the poor, are, ’’not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father’’.  God knows even the little things, especially the little things. God embraces, to the bottom, the little things; the baby in the manger, the 12 year old  studying Torah, the widow who’s son dies, the loaves and fishes, the broken bread, this scared hands, ‘the hairs on your head’.  There is a saying, ’the devil is in the details’.  God is also in the details.  God loves us, not in general terms, but with a particular love, that is not afraid to get messy, or, count the hairs on a balding head, at least in my case.  God is in the details, ’’so do not be afraid’’.

Finally, how do we find our way to live this ’perfect love which casts out all fear’’? (as St. Paul says) How to make a beginning in walking in this fearless way?  In the terms of today’s gospel, ’’Rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul’’.  But how can one authentic fear heal all our other fears, the ones that drag us down, and hold us back?  Scripture tells us in many places, ’’The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’’; This is the fear that Jesus is teaching us today, not a slavish fear, like a fear of punishment, that holds us back from wrongdoing. That kind of fear misreads the character of God. ’The fear of the Lord’, is more like an extreme awe, wonder, astonishment, and reverence, in the face of the over powering mystery of G_d. A ‘wow’ fear.  Think of a moonless, cloudless night, where the stars go on forever; the bottomless depths of the ocean; hanging by your fingernails on the side of a high cliff; the birth of a child; the fierce tenderness of love; these are all pale shadows of the absolute awe, wonder, astonishment, and reverence, that we should experience in the presence of God. In the words of the old hymn, ’’Sometimes, it causes me to tremble, tremble, Tremble….’’

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.