Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 22, 2017

Deacon Blaine Barclay


Jesus is known for his tender mercy, his bottomless compassion toward sinners.  He was accused of being a drunkard because he hung out with people who no doubt liked to have a few pops.  He taught that hookers and treasonous tax collectors will get into the kingdom of heaven before self-righteous religious types.  He said things like, ’judge not least you be judged’, and, ’blessed are the merciful for they will obtain mercy.’ To the woman caught in the act of adultery he said, ’neither do I condemn you.’ Of course, he also said, ’go and sin no more’, because after all, Jesus was not a moral relativist, and the gospel calls us to a radical conversion of lifestyle.  But you get the idea, Jesus was and is for us the human face of God’s tenderness.  He came to heal the festering wound of sin, not to condemn sinners.

He was and is moved with heartfelt compassion for the lost sheep, the prodigal son or daughter, the excluded outsider, the tax man working for the despised Roman occupiers, the marginalized sex worker.  Yes, he came to call sinners, all of us, each one of us as if we were the only one, to repentance, because each one of us is loved with a bottomless love, right down to the bottom of who we are.

So why is Jesus so tough on hypocrites?  Some of the harshest words that ever came out of the mouth of Jesus were addressed to self-righteous religious people who had fallen into the sin of hypocrisy.  Not just in our Gospel today, where people were trying to trap him with their lying words; presenting him with a dilemma, the choice between a rock in a hard place, so to speak, where either solution could lead to his downfall, but in general terms. ’White washed tombs’, ’brood of vipers’.  The ones who walked by the wounded man on the road.  The person in church who is secretly glad that they are not like other people are.  Jesus even uses biting sarcasm against self righteous religious zealots. ’Let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone’. ’Hypocrites all’, ’whoever warned you of the wrath to come’?

Not given mercy because we do not show mercy.  Excluded because we exclude the other.  Finding ourselves outside because we divided the world up into insiders and outsiders, making sure we defined ourselves as part of the ‘in’ crowd. We recognize that Jesus is all about reversals; ’The first shall be last, the last shall be first, the Samaritan is a good person, the smallest of all seeds grows into a great tree, the lost are found, the blind see, whereas those who say they see are blind, outsiders are insiders, self-thinking insiders are outsiders, etc.

So, what is it about the sin of hypocrisy that makes it exceptional?  Is it because the hypocrites already define themselves as the exception? ’I thank you Lord that I am not not like other people are’. The word ‘hypocrite’ originally referred to an actor on the stage.  They were the one projecting their self under and through the mask of their stage persona.  It is really all about being a phony, a fake person, a false self, the projected self that we want other people and ourselves to think we are, instead of the wounded, vulnerable self of the crucified, the one in solidarity with all the victims of history.

And let’s not try to get around Jesus’ harsh treatment of hypocrites by reducing it to some kind of anti-Pharisee polemic limited to the time of Jesus, as if the problem of self righteous religiosity was only a problem for other people, not for us, not for me.  I am a hypocrite sometimes. There is a great danger here for all of us who want to take our faith seriously. Hypocrisy is like a leaven, it affects the whole. These texts are scripture, as such, they are a living word.  The gospel today is addressed to you and me, not just somebody else, way back when. ’Now is the time.  Now is the day of salvation’, says St. Paul.  Our baptism calls us to die to the false self, the idolatrous self, like the image of Caesar on the coin in our story.  This hypocrite self has drowned in the waters of baptism.  The new self created and re-created in the image of God, rises to new life. ’Give to Caesar what is Caesars’, let it drown in the Red Sea, drowned in the waters of Baptism. ’Give to God what is God’s’, namely, ourselves as the image of God.  In all our poverty, taking off the garments of the false self, with the availability of those who have nothing to claim for themselves, without hypocrisy, with the transparency of the child, let us give ourselves to God.

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.