First Sunday in Lent-Archbishop B. O’Brien

February 18, 2018

Archbishop B. O’Brien

As you perhaps noticed, references to water are prominent in the scriptural readings today.  We see how the first reading speaks about the waters of the flood, and, in the second reading and the gospel, there are references to baptism – Jesus’s baptism by John and our own.

We are all aware of the destructive power of water when streams and rivers overflow their banks and wreak havoc and loss.  But water has another side to it.  We need it to live, to grow crops, and to sustain life.  Without a clean and ready supply of water, life is difficult.

It is for this reason that, in the Scriptures, the desert is considered a dangerous, forsaken place, devoid of what sustains life.

Each year, on this First Sunday of Lent, we hear a gospel account of the temptation of Jesus in the desert.  This year, you have to listen carefully or you might miss it, because St. Mark’s gospel moves at quite a clip.  Within a few lines, we are introduced to the Baptism of Jesus, his temptation in the desert, and, finally, the call to repentance in light of the coming of the Kingdom.

Repentance and doing penance are certainly an important part of Lent.  The gospel on Ash Wednesday calls us to pray, fast and give alms.  In this way, our spiritual awareness is heightened and our determination to avoid sin is strengthened.  But another important focus of Lent is to recall and recognize all that God has done for us as we prepare for his greatest gift: the resurrection of Christ and our own participation in it.

And, so, during the Sundays of Lent, the first reading talks of great deeds:  the covenant with Abraham, the exodus from Egypt, the return of the exiles from Babylon, etc.  In our first reading today, we see that the great deed was saving Noah and those who were with him in the ark.  God promises Noah and every living creature that there will be a new start, a new creation, the sign of which will be the rainbow.  We may associate the rainbow with leprechauns and pots of gold and focus on its beautiful colours, but, for the people of the Old Testament, it represented the bow and arrow of God, which he placed in the sky, as the first reading indicates, “to recall the covenant that I have made between me and you and all living beings”.  As we heard in the second reading, it was not long before the followers of Jesus would see a parallel or a connection between the story of the Great Flood and the waters of baptism.  They made an association between the ark, which saved the eight, and the barque or ship of Peter, the Church.  The covenant which God made with Noah and his descendants now comes to an even greater fulfillment in the new covenant in Christ which we enter through baptism.

So while Lent is a time to express sorrow for sin and a time to intensify our spiritual awareness through prayer, fasting, and charitable giving, it is also a time to deepen our awareness of God’s desire for our good – his desire to save us – as we recall what God has done in the past and is doing for us through the death and resurrection of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

As we go through this period of Lent, let us keep the image of the rainbow before us, the sign of God’s powerful love for us even when our love for God is sometimes weak and uncertain.  Let us think of those who will enter the Church this Easter.  Let us pray for those who have become estranged from the Church through discouragement, scandal, or neglect.  In this way, we will emerge at the end of Lent more eager and more prepared to commit ourselves to the Lord when we renew our baptismal promises on Easter Sunday.



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.