Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

March 11, 2018

Deacon Blaine Barclay


John 3:16, (chapter 3, verse 16), is arguably one of the most famous verses in the New Testament. ’’For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life’’.  We read it on roadside billboards, people hold up the numbers ‘3:16’ on signs at sports events. One author says that John 3:16 contains the distilled essence of the whole of the Gospel.  And for such a short verse, it does say a lot.

First of all, it tells us that God Loves.  That God is not a distant, angry God who sent the Son to appease his need for vengeance. God loves, not just those who love God back, not just Christians, not just some small elect group of those who are saved, to the exclusion of all others. ’’God so loved the world’’.  This love is not just some theoretical, self enclosed love, but a love that empties itself, pours itself out, gives itself, a love that in this case becomes the other, takes on the condition of the one who is loved. ’’God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son’’.  In the person of the Son, God embraces the human condition right down to the bottom.  Jesus is the ‘one flesh union’ between God and humanity.  As Saint Gregory of Nazianzen says, ’What has not been assumed, has not been healed’. God takes the initiative in the mystery of the Incarnation and demonstrates for us a bottomless love.

And what is our response to this love, to the gift of this only Son, God for us, God’s self-donation in Jesus of Nazareth?  What does God require of us in response to this love?  John 3:16 says, ’’so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life’’.  Other translations say, ’trusts in him’, ’has faith in him’.  He has joined himself to us, by our belief, faith, trust, we join ourselves to him, we become one flesh with him, become the Bride of Christ, which is also the Body of Christ, the Church.  As such, just as death is not the last word about Jesus’ being ‘lifted up’ on the Cross, he is also ‘lifted up’ in the Resurrection and the Ascension, so death is not the last word about us.  United to him in our Baptism, our dying and rising with him, we live by faith, trust, belief, in Jesus.  As such, we will not perish, but have eternal life’.

What is this eternal life which John 3:16 promises to those who believe in Jesus?  St. Augustine of Hippo teaches us that, eternity is not a long time, that it is more of a quality of time than a quantity of time.  It is the eternal now of God’s time which is really outside time as we know it.  Eternal life is God’s life, and our participation in it, a gift beyond all deserving.

St. Paul in our second reading helps us to flesh this out a bit.  Paul begins by speaking of the ’abundant riches of God’s mercy toward us’.  Of ’the great love with which he has loved us’.  An immense, incredible love for us, ’even when we were dead through our trespasses’, he says.  Other translations speak of our ‘sin-dead lives’, or, our being ’spiritually dead’ because of our sin.  In the middle of this state of affairs God comes to us in tender mercy and love.

On the cross, Jesus embraces the death that is ours, not only our physical death, but our ’spiritual death’ as well.  How does St Paul put it elsewhere? ’For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’. (2 Cor. 5:2). In Baptism we have all died with Christ, we also rise with him. Let us enter into this rest. As our reading today puts it, God, ’’made us alive together with Christ’’.  This is of course pure gift, not something we can deserve or earn. ’’For it is by grace you have been saved through faith’’, ’’this is not our own doing’’, Paul says.  There is an over flowing abundance here that is pure gift, pure excess.

Is this not why the whole of the Christian life is ’Eucharistic’? The word ’eucharist’ means ’great thanksgiving’, gratitude, praise and worship.  As such, the heart of a fully flourishing human life is ‘liturgical’.  Human beings are created to be the liturgical completion of the whole of creation.  Existence is a gift, therefore existence is also gratitude, gratitude overflowing with good works, giving with the same generosity, mercy, and love, that God has shown to us in Christ. ’’For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Begotten Son….Not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him’’, with him, in him, with us, his contemporary hands and fe

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.