Fifth Sunday in Lent

Homilies are never the creative act of one person.  Thus, in posting these homilies on St. Mary’s Cathedral’s website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be little original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it. ‘Tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures and/or the Spiritual Life.

God bless you.

Father Shawn

When the Greek-speaking visitors mentioned in today’s gospel hear about Jesus, they give us one of the most beautiful, most powerful yet simplest prayers in the whole Bible. They say to Philip; “We wish to see Jesus.”  It is the deepest desire of all believing hearts.

However, when Jesus hears this, he responds with a long explanation of his hour.  It seems that he denies their request.  But his last statement shows that he will grant it:  “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”  It is in his crucifixion that all will “see him.”  It is in his crucifixion that he reveals himself to everyone.  On the cross we see the heart of God.  On the cross we see a heart blazing with so much love that it is willing to die for our sake, to suffer unspeakable pain and humiliation in order to reopen for us the gates of heaven.

The crucifixion is the revelation of the heart of God.

If we want to “see Christ,” to see and know God, we have only to behold him dying on the cross in order to give us true life.

We are so fortunate here in our wonderful cathedral to have such a beautiful depiction of the Crucifixion with Our Lady, St. Mary Magdalene and St. John at the foot of the Cross.  As we begin Holy Week next Sunday take some time to go there and contemplate the depiction of our God’s love for us.

There, on the Cross, paradoxically, Christ is most attractive to us – and we should always remember that we are no less attractive to him when we bend under the weight of our own crosses and weaknesses.

As we have been praying the Stations of the Cross throughout Lent each time I am deeply moved by Clarence Enzler’s meditation at the sixth station where Veronica wipes the faith of Jesus.  In that meditation, first Christ speaks to us saying:  Can you be brave enough, my other self, to wipe my bloody face?  Where is my face, you ask?  At home whenever eyes fill up with tears, at work when tensions rise, on playgrounds, in the slums, the courts, the hospitals, the jails – wherever suffering exists — my face is there.  And there I look for you to wipe away my blood and tears.

And we reply:  Lord, what you ask is hard.  It calls for courage and self-sacrifice, and I am weak.  Please, give me strength.  Don’t let me run away because of fear.  Lord, live in me and act in me and love in me.  And not in me alone – in all of us – so that we may reveal no more your bloody but your glorious face on earth.”  (Everyone’s way of the cross by Clarence Enzler, Ave Maria Press, 1970)

To be a Christian is to be where Christ is. Christ is amidst those in need.   Holy Week begins next Sunday with Palm Sunday.  Throughout Holy week we contemplate Christ pouring out his life for others on the cross, giving himself for the good of others through self-forgetful love.  On the cross we see Love.  Christian Love is self-giving:  “No greater love can man have than to lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)  And Jesus calls us to love: “This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)   Christian lives must bear the sign of the cross – of self-giving, of self-sacrifice.  Followers of Christ should expect crosses, expect difficulties, and expect persecution.  Jesus himself said “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too.” (John 15:20)  Similarly, from the cross, it is as though he says to us, “if they crucified me they will crucify you.”

In response to the Greeks desire to see Jesus he speaks the parable: “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)  Then he goes on to state what Pope Benedict called “the fundamental law of existence”: “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25)  Pope Benedict,  in the Palm Sunday homily in 2009 explains that “the one who wants to have his life for himself, living only for himself, keeping everything to himself and exploiting all its possibilities – is actually the one who loses his life.  Life becomes boring and empty.”  Pope Benedict went on:  “Only by self-abandonment, only by the disinterested gift of the “I” in favour of the “you”, only in the “yes” to the greater life, the life of God, does our life also become great. Thus this fundamental principle established by the Lord is ultimately identical to the principle of love. Love, in fact, means letting go of oneself, giving oneself, not wanting to possess oneself, but becoming free from oneself.  This principle of love, which defines man’s path, is identical to the mystery of the cross, to the mystery of death and resurrection that we encounter in Christ.”  Pope Benedict said this great “yes” to self-sacrifice must be renewed every day in the situations of daily life when we have to abandon our “I” over and over again in the constant re-giving of self.  He concluded “There is no such thing as a successful life without sacrifice.” (Pope Benedict: Palm Sunday, April 05, 2009)

Last weekend I was on the Cursillo retreat with several men of the parish and others around the Archdiocese… It was a very profound, some described as a life changing experience.  The leader of the retreat told a story that profoundly resonates with our readings tonight.

There was a group of young skiers who flew out to Whistler for Reading Week.  Late one afternoon, still close to the top of the mountain making their final descent, a storm came up very quickly and they had to take shelter part way down the hill.  As the last of their group arrived one young fellow noticed that his girlfriend was not among them and as it was getting dark he bravely struck out to search for her.  After some time in the now blizzard he found she had gone of the trail, fallen, struck her head and was unconscious.  Not knowing how he could get the two of them safely back he  managed to lift  and with great difficulty bring her back to the cabin the rest had taken shelter in.  When he arrived he told the others the difficulty and the risk of his own life he had taken.

They had similar reactions to the characters who populate the biblical stories…A) some applauded him admiring his courage.  B) some jeered him for being so full of himself and bragging.  The young lady who was slowly regaining consciousness, hearing all of this marvelled:  “All this for me?”

“All this for me?” was my immediate thought the first time I saw that great movie The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson. As the scourging of Christ at the pillar took place, in its brutal reality, I couldn’t help but think “All this for me?”

Imagine those standing at the foot of the Cross that first Good Friday…..hearing the jeers of the non-believers…imagine them standing there and thinking seeing the revelation of God’s heart unfolding before them in Jesus crucified…and thinking… All this for me?  Is my soul really worth this much?  Not only does a resounding  yes come from the cross,..Yes,  All this for you and yes, each of our souls is worth that much…but as His Disciples we are called, in imitation of him,  to give all for others.  Christian Discipleship is costly.  It always involves the Cross.  It always involves self-sacrificial love for the sake of the other.

In Holy Week we stand at the foot of the Cross dwelling in the mystery of that question: “All this for me?” “Is my soul really worth this much?”  In Holy Week we stand in the mystery of the self-sacrificial response the Cross demands in each of our own lives.




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.