Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Deacon Blaine Barclay

Sunday November 11, 2018

Today we have a tale of two widows. They are like the book ends of the readings for today’s liturgy. What do these widows have to teach us? For in both stories they are being held up as heroic examples of the practice of the faith.

In both cases what is being held out for us, for our imitation, are outwardly very little things done with the courage of a trusting heart of faith. As St. Teresa of Calcutta tells us, ‘do little things with great love’. As background we need to be clear about the situation of widows in both the time of Elijah and of Jesus. Widows were often among of the poorest of the poor, with no economic or legal status in the community. Forced to rely on the generosity of family or strangers in order to survive. Gleaning for leftover food in the already harvested fields of the rich. Sometimes forced into a loveless marriage to the nearest eligible male relative of their dead husband. As an aside, most scholars agree that Joseph was dead by the time of Jesus’ public ministry, so Jesus would have been quite aware of the difficulties and hardships of the life of a widow in Jewish society. Our Lady was a widow.

But let’s begin with the story of the prophet Elijah and his encounter with an impoverished widow. Outside of a small town, after a long fast in the desert, a very hungry Elijah comes across a widow gathering sticks in order to cook a last meal for her and her little son. Elijah asks her for a little water to drink. As she brings him the water he asks also for a morsel of bread. Her response is that she only has a little meal or flour in a jar which she is going to bake for her son and herself. She is convinced that this will be their last meal, she is at the bottom of her rope, hers is an abject poverty, a poverty that is without resources, with nowhere to turn for help. Jesus speaks of this poverty and teaches us that it is foundational to the life of a disciple. The first Beatitude in Matthew says, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’. Another translation says ‘blessed are those who have reached the end of their rope’. Luke’s first Beatitude simply says, ‘Blessed are the poor’. Elijah’s widow exemplifies for us this first Beatitude. In the middle of her destitution Elijah invites this poor widow to find within her heart, her battered, defeated heart, a final act of charity, a moment of tenderness toward another person in need. To see beyond her own poverty, and the possibility of solidarity with someone else’s poverty.

But first Elijah speaks to her and to us a word of encouragement. ‘Do not be afraid’, he says. He also speaks a word of promise. ‘The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.’ Her response is what is decisive for us. ‘She went and did as Elijah said’. And what was the result of her capacity for generosity? It says, ‘that she as well as her house hold ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.’ Truly, as our Psalm today says, ‘It is the Lord… who gives food to the hungry…. The Lord upholds the orphan and the widow’.

Our gospel today begins with Jesus providing a double edged criticism of religious people, who like other people to notice how religious they are. As an aside this is also a kind of early warning system against clericalism in the Church. But the real cutting edge of his critique brings us back to widows. ‘They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearances say long prayers’. Inauthentic religion and injustice are often found together. Just like love of God and Neighbour are an inseparable whole, and faith and justice always go together.

The final widow book-end for today is often called ‘the widows mite’, mite being an old word for the smallest form of currency. In our society a penny or one cent, so small for us that it only exists electronically. In the case of the widow in our story, two copper coins, each less than a penny. Jesus sees lots of people giving lots of money to the temple treasury, that’s like an ancient collection plate. He doesn’t criticize their generous giving but he does recognize that it is proportionate to their capacity to give. They are giving out of their abundance. Then he witnesses something that moves his heart, an impoverished widow gives the smallest possible offering, almost nothing, but with one crucial difference, her gift proceeds from the heart. All true giving proceeds from the heart and flows from our sense of God’s prior generosity to us. The generosity of God is a self-emptying gift, it always involves Gods self-communication. It is because of this self-giving nature of the gift that Jesus calls his disciples over and holds the widow up as an example for all of us. When the widow puts the penny in the temple treasury she includes herself in her gift, and by doing so shows us what God is like.

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.