Second Sunday in Lent

Deacon Blaine Barclay

February 25, 2018


I decided to give this homily a catchy title.  ‘Transfigured transformation’; and to begin with a quote from the Catechism that ties together last week’s gospel on the Baptism of Jesus and this week’s gospel on the Transfiguration. (CCC # 556). ’’Jesus’ baptism proclaimed “the mystery of the first regeneration”, namely, our Baptism; the Transfiguration “is the sacrament of the second regeneration’’: our own Resurrection’’.  The Transfiguration speaks to our transformation on so many levels.  The story of the Transfiguration comes to us in the middle of Lent, as a fore-taste, an anticipation of the Resurrection of Jesus, of Easter joy and gladness.  There are present in this story all the typical elements of an Old Testament experience of God’s presence, the in-breaking manifestation of the presence of the holy; the overshadowing cloud, the bright light, the fear and trembling, the proclamation of the law and the prophets in the persons of Moses and Elijah, the voice of witness, the imperative to listen.  You could almost say that there is nothing new in this typical story of the tremendous mystery of God’s in-breaking presence, presence that makes us tremble.  Of course, there is always a radical newness, a disruptive, surprising, otherness, to the experience of the presence of God.  The Transfiguration event, however, is all of the Old Testament experiences of God’s presence condensed and distilled into the focus point of the personal presence of the person of Jesus.  “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him’’!  The whole of salvation history, the long, storied journey of God’s saving intervention and presence to his people, is contained and fulfilled in this story.  The cloud is dissipated, the Presence of God is unveiled in the face of Jesus.

What are we to do with this in-breaking, unveiled presence, or, rather, what will we let it do with us?  How can we allow this unveiled presence, shining forth in the person of Jesus, to transform, transfigure, metamorphosis, our ‘cocooned’ lives?

How does St Peter react to the Transfiguration?  He delighted in it, even while he was disoriented and terrified by it. He grasped the dynamite of its transformative power so much that he wanted to camp out, linger with it, draw it out as long as possible.  This is not surprising, we all do this on those occasions where we experience God’s consolations, the healing balm of God’s saving presence in our lives; we too may want to camp out, linger with it, to simply delight the presence of the Savior.  But like Peter, James, and John, we need to come down off the mountain of Transfiguration, to labor with the Lord in the vineyard of the world.  The Christian life is not all, and not often, ecstatic mystical delight, anticipatory Resurrection experiences.  More often than not, it is the long haul of the disciplines of discipleship, the duty of the moment, athletic struggle, Ascesis, the Way of the Cross.

The Christian life is exercised in the back and forth movement between the theological virtue of Hope, animated by Jesus’ Resurrection and our participation in it; and the theological virtue of Faith, our trust in the Lord’s promise, uncovered in the midst of struggle, of life’s inescapable suffering, our participation in the Way of the Cross.

St. Paul, in our second reading, paints for us a picture of this movement of the Christian life.  He begins with utter confidence in the love of God poured out for us in Christ Jesus.  He asks, ’’Can anything separate us from the Love of Christ’’?  He then goes on to list a number of experiences than one might think to be detrimental, or inimical to faith.  Things that might cause us to give up hope, to question or doubt the love of God for us, and lead to a subsequent crisis of Faith.  He asks, ’’Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword’’?  Will any of these experiences, as horrible as they might sound, ever be able to separate us from the love of Christ?

Saint Paul’s answer is really the answer of the Transfiguration, an anticipation of the Glory of the Risen Jesus. ’’No’’, he says, ’’In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us’’.  Other translations speak of our ‘sweeping, overwhelming, complete victory’ over the forces arrayed against us.  We may not yet face some of the hardships St. Paul enumerates, overt and systematic persecution with all its social dislocations. But we do face the powerful engines of persuasion that try to sweep us along, the seduction into trivialities, the torrent of public opinion, the soft, more hidden violence of a culture of death.  Whatever the Cross we are called a carry, Christ has already been there, Christ has already achieved victory over the Cross and the Grave.  The Transfiguration gives us a little fore-taste of that Victory in order to encourage and strengthen us during our Lenten journey. Yes, whatever the difficulties we face, past, present, or future; ’’We are more than conquers through him who loved us’.

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.