First Sunday in Lent

February 18, 2018

Deacon Blaine Barclay


The first and second reading today both refer to the story of Noah’s Ark.  The universal flood that cleansed the world from sin and made possible a new beginning for humanity.  The waters of the flood have always been understood as a prefigurement, a ‘type’ of the waters of Baptism; and Noah’s Ark as a prefigurement of the Church.  Baptism cleanses us from sin and holds out for us the new beginning of life in Christ. Before the flood, before baptism, there is the old creation, after the flood, after baptism, there is new life, new creation, gestating in the Ark that is the Church.  This Sunday is also the Rite of Election for the candidates for baptism at the Easter vigil, which give us another reason for reflecting on these matters.

In our gospel today, Jesus is Baptized in the River Jordan by his cousin John the Baptist.  Jesus’ Baptism was not a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin. For Jesus had no sins to forgive.  As the author of the book of Hebrews says, ’He was like us in all things except sin’.  But Jesus’ Baptism was for him a new beginning. It marked the end of his old hidden life, and the beginning of his public ministry. It was also followed by forty days of fasting, solitude, and prayer, a prefigurement of Lent; an extensive period of spiritual exercises that even Jesus needed to cultivate.  The Holy Spirit drove him into the wilderness where he was tempted, ‘tempered’ for the arduous mission of his public life.

Our gospel today ends with the call to Repentance. ’’Repent and believe in the good news,’’ it says. These are the same words spoken when we received the Ashes of repentance on Ash Wednesday.  So, the readings today are about Baptism and Repentance. There is an intimate connection between baptism and repentance, between baptism and conversion. The New Testament greek word that gets translated as ’repentance’ is ’metanoia’.  It literally means to ’change your mind’, but it is deeper and far more transformative then that. We can of course change our minds about trivial matters, what shirt to wear, wether to eat rice or potatoes. Repentance however, is not just on the surface. Jesus said ‘Repent’, not ‘Repaint’. This word of repentance can also be translated as ’turn around’, ‘change your heart’, or, ‘the turning around of the soul’, which is to say the whole person.  Each one of us is called to repentance and conversion of lifestyle. Baptism initiates us into this ’turned around’ life.  St. Paul says, ’Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ’, (Rom.3:14) and, ‘We have the mind of Christ’ (I Cor.2:16), and this is no small matter.

The mind and heart of our fallen humanity has been colonized and seduced by the false attraction of sin; which these days has powerful engines of persuasion, the advertising industry, and screen culture to market its consumer way of life.  Jesus has come into our lives up to show us a different way.  Not just to show us the way, but to himself be that way for us.  He is, ’The way, the truth, and the life’ (Jn.14:6). In baptism we are joined to Christ; given a full participation in his way of being.  This is a given, God has acted decisively in Christ, and initiated us into this new regenerated humanity.  Repentance and conversion are our disciplined lifestyle response to what has already been given to us in Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist, the three Sacraments of Initiation.

The Lenten call to repentance and conversion reaches down into all the sedimented layers of who we are, all those areas of our lives that stand in need of the many disciplines of discipleship.  Our emotional lives, how we cultivate the use of our imaginations, inform our conscience, instruct our intellect, exercise our wills, cultivate a healthy lifestyle.  Jesus came to save the whole person, to heal us and to make us whole. The Gospel is medicine for our wounded humanity.  ‘Holiness is Wholeness’, as I have heard said. St. Irenaeus express this in the 2nd century as, ’’the glory of God is the human being fully alive’’.  Each one of us is created for a life of virtue, of human excellence. Each according to our own measure.  We are made for Beatitude, for the vision of God, to be together the image of Christ in the world. God want us to flourish, to maximize our participation in our own humanity. In the midst of the torrent of this world, sheltered together in the Ark which is the Church of God. On this side of the flood, on this side of baptism, there is new life, new creation, embedded in our daily Lenten lives, preparing oursel

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.