Fifth Sunday in Easter

Deacon Blaine Barclay


“I-Am the True Vine and my Father is the vine grower’’. This saying is part of a cluster of seven I-AM statements found only in the Gospel of John.  For example, ‘I-Am the Bread of Life’…. ‘I-Am the Light of the World’, last week’s, ‘I-Am the Good Shepherd’, and this week’s, ‘I-Am the True Vine’.  The rootedness of this cluster of sayings in the sacred name of God, ‘I-Am-Who-I-Am’, is of course important, and it was precisely this rootedness that was one of the things that got Jesus into trouble. But let’s not miss the intimacy, the invitation to intimacy with Jesus, that is embedded in these statements, especially in our gospel today. ’’The I-Am the True Vine.…  You are the branches…. Abide in me’’.

We know that it was common in Jewish circles at the time of Jesus to think of the people of Israel as a vineyard and God as the Vine-grower, the one who cares for and cultivates the vine and the branches so they will bear much fruit.  It was also common to think of the Torah itself, the scriptures, as a vineyard.  The connection here is that the people of God allow themselves to be cultivated by the study of the word of God.  By digging around in the vineyard of the scriptures, we allow God to dig around in our lives, to water, fertilize, weed, and prune us, so that we can live more fruitful lives.

So, there was a familiarity about the language that Jesus is using.  But with a twist, there is also something fresh and new.  Jesus identifies himself with the Vine and his disciples with the vine branches.  The father is the Vine-grower, Jesus is rooted and grounded in the Fathers planting and care.  Jesus surrenders himself completely to be cultivated by the activity of the Father.  The Father is the Gardener, the keeper and cultivator of the vineyard.  But Jesus is both the True Vine and the one who cultivates us by the Word he has spoken to us.  What does the text say, ’’My Father is the Vine-grower…. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit’’.  But Jesus adds to this, and joins himself to the pruning activity of the Father.  He goes on to say, ’’You have already been cleansed by the Word that I have spoken to you’’.

It is important for each one of us, if we hope to grow in the spiritual life, that we build into the disciplines of our discipleship, prayerful reading and study of the Word of God, especially the words of Jesus in the Gospels, Jesus, who is himself the Word of God made flesh. Our task is to grow in our attentiveness to his teaching, his living word to us.

But that is not all that is needed.  Jesus is, The Vine with a difference, a Vine that prunes and cultivates the branches from within. ’’Abide in me as I abide in you’’, he says, and a little later, ’’If you abide in me and my words abide in you’’, and again, “Whoever abides in me bears much fruit’’.  I love this little word, ’’abide’’.  We don’t really use it in everyday modern English so it needs a little unpacking.  The New Testament Greek word can also be translated as, ’remain in me’, ’stay united with me’, ’live in me’, ’joined with me’, ’continues in me’, ‘dwells in me’.  This relationship of mutual in dwelling between the Vine and the branches is both organic and intimate.  The words of Jesus, the Word who is Jesus, has become the interior principle of our life, the sap that flows through our Christian veins, so to speak.

Given this relationship of intimacy with Jesus, to which each one of us is called, our lives will bear much fruit, fruit that will last.  What is this fruit, you may ask, this entering into the obedience of discipleship?  John’s first letter tells us today, ’’That we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another’’.  Love, of course is the sap, the life blood, that flows through the Vine and the branches.  What is this fruit? St. Paul tells us in Galatians, ’’The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’’.  These are the practices of discipleship, the virtues, the juicy fruits that God wants our lives to bare. Bearing these fruits is how we give glory to God. Close to the vine, pruned by his living word, may our lives continue to bear such virtues, such lasting fruit.

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.