Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Deacon Blaine Barclay

July 30th, 2017

We have in our gospel today three short kingdom parables, and they are all very instructive for us. Most of Jesus’ parables start off with the phrase; ’’the kingdom of heaven is like…’’(Matthew) or ’’the kingdom of God is like…’’(Luke) This is followed by some story or illustration that is meant to open us up to the mystery of the reign of God, to help us to live under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Heaven. As we pray daily in the Our Father; “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’’.

Jesus tells us today that, ’the kingdom of heaven’ is like three things.  The surprise discovery of a treasure hidden in a field; the search for a pearl of great price; and a fishing net cast into the sea.  In relationship to all three of these parables Jesus teaches his disciples about the, ’’scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven’’.

As disciples of Jesus, each one of us is called to be a ‘scribe’, ‘trained for the kingdom’.  The word disciple means, learner, apprentice, someone who is being trained in a certain craft,   way of life, or, lifestyle practice.  The word ‘scribe’ implies that each one of us needs to spend time studying the word of god, or, as one author puts it, living our life ‘under the gaze of the bible’. We are not all meant to be scholars of course, but, as disciples, as those who want to take seriously the task of following Jesus, we all need to cultivate a greater familiarity with the Word of God, to expose ourselves to the leavening  influence of the bible, to allow our lives to be cultivated by a growing engagement with the holy scriptures, especially with the gospel narratives.  This can take the form of being especially attentive to the readings at mass, praying the liturgy of the hours, reading the gospel of Matthew during this year of Matthew, participating in a bible study or faith formation circle, or, some other form of praying with the scriptures.  Notice that in all these examples, the context is communal, liturgical, and personal prayer.  The ‘scribe’ being trained in the kingdom of heaven is in every case, called to personal encounter with the Lord Jesus.

The parable of the hidden treasure tells us that we are called to plow, to dig around in the field of God’s word.  The ancient Rabbi’s talked about the Torah, the Law, the scriptural text being like a field in which we are meant to dig and plough so as to uncover the hidden secret of the surpassing treasure of God’s wisdom.  Jesus is teaching in this Rabbinical tradition, but there is a twist in how Jesus hands on this teaching.  When we are digging around in the field of his word, and uncover hidden treasure, we are not meant to dig it up right away.  Although according to Jewish law, the person who found a treasure hidden in a field had a perfect right to that treasure.  Or, as we might say, ’finders keepers’.  No, the person in our story covers it up, hides it again, so as to allow this mystery of the kingdom of heaven to take root in the field of their heart, in their desire. To give them an opportunity to root out everything in their life that will prevent them from really making this surprising treasure their own, from experiencing the joy, the excitement of its discovery.

Next, we have the merchant in search of ‘the pearl of great price’, the ‘beautiful pearl of surpassing value’. Like wisdom itself, in the ancient world, the pearl with more precious than gold or fine jewels.  The merchant may have spent their whole life in search of this beautiful pearl.  You think they would have been prepared for its discovery, but no, first they must dispossess themselves from anything that would hold them back from really entering into the mystery of the kingdom.  Only the one who has been reduced to poverty can enter into the mystery of the Reign of God. ’’Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’’; says Jesus in the first Beatitude, the beatitude that contains all the other the beatitudes.

Sometimes our possessions own us more than we own them.  This is why it is so necessary for us to sell everything we have in order to allow ourselves to be owned by the ‘hidden treasure’, the ‘beautiful pearl of surpassing value’.  The wisdom of God, the kingdom of heaven is the only thing that really matters.  This surpassing joy of its discovery, of finding it after life’s long search, in turn compels us into the territory of the third parable of the net.  We want others to share in this joy, to find the hidden treasure, the beautiful pearl, to be caught in this net thrown by the word of God into the field of our lives.  “The kingdom of heaven is a like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind.’’

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.