Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 17, 2017

Deacon Blaine Barclay


In last week’s gospel we had Jesus teaching us about mutual accountability and correction in the context of genuine community; the capacity of his living body, the Church, to bind and loose on earth and in heaven; the risk of moral relativism; as well as Jesus’ promise to be with us wherever two or three are gathered in his name.  This context raised the question about the limits of mercy and forgiveness.  In response to this teaching Peter probably thinks he is being generous when he asks, ‘’How often should I forgive my brother or sister if they sin against me?  As many as seven times?’’ Jesus immediately overturns or subverts this claim of human generosity when he says in response. ’’Not seven times, but seventy-seven times’’.  The depth of God’s mercy, the bottomless tenderness of God’s compassion and forgiveness are without measure. By comparison they seem to cancel out our still measured generosity. Jesus then goes on to illustrate this measureless abyss of mercy with yet another parable of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Parables as a rule are meant to overturn, to subvert, our habitual everyday way of understanding ourselves and our world. To open the crack where the light gets in. To open the listener to the conversion of lifestyle that the Kingdom calls for.  For the Kingdom of Heaven is not just a teaching, a doctrine, a theoretical construct that we believe in or assent to, but more like an habitual cluster of practices or moral virtues that witnesses to the transforming power of grace in our lives.  Over and over again, in a whole variety of ways, Jesus teaches that the heart of the, ’Good News’ of the Kingdom is the practice of mercy and forgiveness.  Not just our reception ‘of’, or our belief ‘in’ the mercy of God towards us, as important as this assent is, but precisely in our tender-hearted mercy, our bottomless compassion towards others.  If our heart is not moved by the pain of the other, by the face of the other, how can we claim to have experienced the very mercy we say we believe in? ’’Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us’’, we pray in the Our Father. Or, as the letter of James puts it, ’’There will be judgement without mercy for those who have not been merciful themselves’’.  He continues, ’’but the merciful has no fear of judgement’’.(James 2:13).  From the Gospel of Luke, ’’Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap, for the measure you give will be the measure you get back’’. The heart of the gospel is ’’Mercy’’.  ’A revolution of tenderness, as Pope Frances puts it.

This is how God overturns and subverts the present world order, the kingdoms of this world.  With the tenderized, transformed heart; a heart of flesh, not of stone, a heart of mercy. How does our parable of the unforgiving servant illustrate this teaching?  First of all, the King forgives the crooked slave an unfathomable debt. Ten thousand talents.  A ‘talent’ was a unit of measure in the ancient world.  One ‘talent’ was 75 pounds of silver.  One author says that 10,000 talents was the equivalent of 200,000 years wages. I can’t even wrap my head around that amount of debt.  Does this not illustrate the bottomless compassion of the tender mercy of our God?

The heart of this crooked bureaucrat, this unforgiving slave, should have been transformed by the experience of such measureless mercy.  The fact that it was not should give us pause.  Has my heart been tenderized by my own experience of the depth of God’s merciful love for me?  How do I express this in the tenderness, the solicitude, the merciful presence, the love that I show to others, especially the poor, the naked, the sick, but also my own family, spouse, colleagues, fellow parishioners?  ’’I never knew you’’, says Jesus to those who do not show mercy. ’’I never knew you’, and, obviously, ’you never knew me’.  Notice the unforgiving servant’s hardness of heart toward their neighbour, their fellow slave who owes them, by comparison, a paltry sum, one hundred denarii, a mere three months wages for a day labourer, more for a peasant, but still nothing in comparison to their own prior experience of mercy. May each of our hearts be so moved by the tenderness of God toward us that we, in turn, will become revolutionaries of such tenderness towards others.

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.