Divine Mercy Sunday

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday.  Both our capacity to receive and extend the Mercy of God is powered by the Resurrection of Jesus from the Dead, so let us begin with the Gospel.  We have before us the story of ’doubting Thomas’, a nickname that gives him a bad reputation of course.  I prefer to think of him as ’verification’ or ‘proof’ Thomas, or ’concrete evidence’, Thomas. ’Seeing is not believing’ for Thomas.  If he was a modern person he might fear that the vision of Jesus could be an illusion or a construct of wishful thinking.  Thomas wants ’hands on proof’. Only by touching Jesus will he really know that this Resurrection claim is ‘real’.  Only the wounded flesh of Jesus will give him access to the explosive power of the Resurrection.  As the Early Church Father Tertullian says in the second century, ’’The flesh is the hinge of salvation’’.  After all, touch is the foundation of all the other senses, the prime sense, so to speak, and the ground of many of our certainties.  Thomas is no different, he agrees with St John who says in his first letter; “We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and ‘touched with our hands’, concerning the Word of life’’.(I Jn.1:1).  For some disciples, just seeing Jesus is not enough, the empty tomb, the linen cloths laid off to the side, the testimony of the angels, the sound of Jesus’ voice calling us by name.  The Risen Jesus is more than concrete, he opens his still wounded Risen flesh for Thomas to touch, he eats fish, breaks bread, and gives it to them, and to us, to eat.  Yes, Tertullian, ’The flesh is the hinge of salvation’.  Faith is Incarnate, ‘the Word made flesh’, concrete givenness, transformed with Resurrection Power.  Like the Apostolic community, only the power of the Risen Jesus can break us out of the prison house of our upper room fears.

Our first reading gives us a powerful hint of just how transformative the power of the Risen Jesus was and is in the midst of his Church.  It tells the story of what has been called ’early Christian communism’.  An unfortunate label, because it too easily allows our biases against the modern political ideology of the same name to interfere with our capacity to really hear this story of ‘mercy in action’.  It says, ’’The whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possession, but everything they owned was held in common… There was not a needy person among them’’. (Acts 4: 32, 34).

Given the divisions among the social classes of the time, in both ancient Jewish and Greco-Roman society, this radical transformation of not only their personal lives, but their socio-economic lives as well, is really quite pronounced.  The poor and the rich do not mix, then or now, unless something more powerful explodes these social categories and brings us face to face with each other.  Our reading from the book of Acts tells us what this power was and is. It says, ’’With great power the Apostles gave their testimony to the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all’’. (Acts 4: 33).  Obedient attentiveness to the testimony of the Apostles, (for us, prayerful  reading the New Testament), will bestow great grace upon us as well, a grace that can turn our lives upside down with mercy, and bring us face to face with the other.

Having a merciful heart is how we show our love for God by touching the wounded flesh of Christ in the person in need. In answer to the question, “Who is my neighbour”? (Lk. 10:29) Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan, and concludes with the phrase, ‘Go and do likewise”. (Lk. 10:37). This is how we ’keep his commandments’, which, ’are not burdensome’ when they are kept in this way.  This lived faith is also how we, ’overcome the world’, or, as one contemporary translation puts it; ’’This is the victory that has conquered the cosmos, our faithfulness”. Faith in the Resurrected Son of God who comes to us by ’’the water and the blood’’ that flows from his wounded side. With Thomas, let us also, “Go and do likewise”.

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.