Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Deacon Blaine Barclay-June 17, 2018

Parables. Did you know that Jesus told about forty-six parables in the gospels? That over a third, 35% of Jesus’ teaching takes the form of parables. Did you know that the literary form of parable is unique to Jesus?  That no one before him ever used this method of teaching in parables, and that no one since him has been as good at it as he was.  When it comes to teaching in parables, Jesus has his imitators, but not his equals.  So, if we want to understand the teaching of Jesus, it is important for us to understand something about parables.

Most of the parables start off with the phrase, ’the Kingdom of God is like…; except in Matthew’s gospel where it says, ’the Kingdom of Heaven is like….’ Strictly speaking there are no parables found in the Gospel of John, only in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  Our gospel today, which is taken from Mark, tells us, ’’He did not speak to them (the crowds) except in parables’’; to which it adds,  ’’But he explained everything in private to his disciples’’.  There is a clear distinction here between public and private instruction, and as a teaching tool, parables are at the heart of this distinction.

Pope St. John Paul II in his 1979 Apostolic Exhortation, Catechesi Tradendae, On Catechesis in Our Time, says, ’’The definitive aim of Catechesis (that is the systematic teaching of the faith) is to put people not only in touch, but in communion, in intimacy with Jesus Christ’’.(#5).  The purpose of the use of parables as a teaching method by Jesus has to do with the personal, face to face, nature of this encounter, this intimacy with Jesus to which each one of us as disciples are called.  Jesus invites each one of us into his inner circle of friends.

Parables are actually designed to provoke questioning. To call ourselves into question and our assumptions into question. The structure of a parable is that the illustration at the heart of the story is taken from everyday life, it is familiar to the listeners. For example; a sheep gets lost, your teenager runs away from home and squanders your money, a woman of loses some money, somebody helps someone at the side of the road, a grain of wheat or mustard seeds grows when you plant it.  Average, everyday stuff, but then comes the part of the story that turns the world on its head, the unexpected twist, the ‘reversal’ that turns the everyday story into a parable of Jesus.  The impossible thing that happens in the story.  The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine sheep undefended and goes in search of the one sheep that was lost. The wayward teenager comes home and the forgiving Father welcomes them back with an excess of generosity.  The woman spends a whole day of looking for a lost coin and has a party which she finds if.  The villain turns out to be a hero of the story.  The wheat farmer plants a single seed and doesn’t have a clue how things grow and come to fruition.  The mustard seed, the tiniest of all seeds, grows so big that the birds of the air nests in its branches.

We often miss this impossible thing because we have heard the stories so often that even the surprise twist, the reversal, has become familiar to us.  But to the crowds of Jesus’ time most of these stories on some level did not make sense.  There was something about the story that just didn’t fit with their everyday understanding of life.  This coming up against the limits of our capacity to understand.  This confrontation with our own fragmentation, the dead ends of our ability to grasp both what God and the meaning of the Kingdom of God are about, is the purpose of a parable.

Jesus tells the story, its familiarity hooks us in, he has our attention.  Then, ‘wham’, we’re confused, we no longer know what we are about, dislocated by the teaching of Jesus.  How can we know what the Kingdom of God expects of us?  Privately, in the secret intimacy of prayerful encounter, each of us needs to go to Jesus.  This is what the first disciples did. Lord, help me to understand, to stand under your teaching, help me to open myself up to the way of life that you make possible and invite us into as your disciples.  Your kingdom come, your will be done.

Plant the seed of your word in the ground of my heart, help my life to bear the fruit of the harvest grain; let the little mustard seed that is my life grow into a great tree, providing shade and shelter for the others who travel this way with me.  Teach me your ways so that I may walk in them.

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.