Epiphany-Archbishop B. O’Brien

Homily by Archbishop Brendan M. O’Brien

Epiphany 2019

Each year, on this feast of the Epiphany, we have the Gospel account which tells the story of the wise men who find their way to Jesus.  We call this feast ‘epiphany’ because this word of Greek origin means ‘manifestation’ or ‘showing forth’; the manifestation or showing forth of Jesus as the Son of God, as Saviour of the world.  Through his gospel account of the journey of the Magi, these foreigners from afar, St. Matthew shows his hearers that Jesus did not come simply for his own people, the Jews, but that He is a universal saviour. Jews and Gentiles have access to salvation.  The Good News is not fenced in by distinctions of race, class, language, or sex, but is meant for all.

The story of the Magi, which we see depicted at our crib. is a journey narrative.  They were people on a quest, looking for more in their lives.  If they had simply been satisfied, they would have stayed put.  I would like to suggest that we can see in their quest something of our own journey, our own unique story of faith.  Some of us came to faith in Christ as adults, drawn perhaps by the witness and example of others.  Some of us grew up in the faith, being baptized as children and nurtured by the example of our family, our parish, our school.  In either case, like the Magi, our journey of faith needs to continue, as we seek to know more deeply the presence of Jesus in our lives.

When we look at the biblical account of the journey of the wise men, we may find some similarity with our own journey of faith.  The first thing we notice is that God took the initiative.  God showed them a light, the light of a star.  This is how the wise men were attracted to Christ.  It was not through the traditional channels of religious revelation.  At the start of their journey, they did not have the benefit of the Jewish scriptures or the Jewish tradition.  Rather, it was through a sign, a star, which was in keeping with their own line of learning and reading of the heavens.  This is how the call of God came to them.

If we consider the journey of faith today, we can see that God’s call to us may come in many different ways.  It may start in admiration and love of God’s creation, both in its immensity and grandeur and in its microscopic intricacy.  A journey of faith may be prompted by some crisis in our lives or by our experience of love and relationships.  The Word of God may be what draws us – some word or phrase of Scripture suddenly understood or highlighted in a new way.  Whatever it is that may lead us to a new religious awareness, this needs to be pursued. Just as the wise men set out on a journey to find the Christ Child, so we can call our religious search a ‘journey of faith’.

The second observation I would make is that both the Magi and Herod ask the question “where” is the Infant King of the Jews.  But they are spoken from two very different hearts. Herod is panic-stricken at the thought of losing his power to another “King of the Jews”.  For their part, the Magi’s question is a posed out of a genuine desire to find something, to find someone.  We see that the path of the Magi led them through unexpected suspicion and scheming, and even placed them in peril.

When we respond to God’s call to know him more deeply, we can recognize a certain journey unfolding before us. There are moments when all is tranquil and peaceful, when we may feel close to God; whereas other moments may be more stormy and questioning,  as more is asked of us or as we face opposition or lack of support from those around us and from our own resistance to growth and change.

The third observation I would make is that, when the journey of the Magi ended in success, when the seekers became finders, their response was to offer gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.  The gospel passage tells us as well that they didn’t remain there; they moved along.  In fact, the text says that they went back “by a different way”.  Perhaps this is not just a reference to geography, but rather that they returned with a new and different way of relating to life.

When our journey of faith is successful, a similar transformation is meant to take place.  In the third Eucharistic Prayer, after the consecration, the priest offers the gift of the Body and Blood of Christ to the Father.  He says, “Look with favour on your Church’s offering, and see the Victim whose death has reconciled us to yourself”.  And then he says: “May he (Christ) make us an everlasting gift to you (the Father).”  In the Eucharist, we are the receivers; we are nourished by the body and blood of Christ and filled with his Holy Spirit.  But this is meant to make us gifts offered back to the Giver, ‘God the Father’.  How do we become gifts?  We do this when we give of our most precious commodities: our time, our love, whatever abilities we have; in this way, we can become for someone else that ray of help and hope that will encourage them on their journey of faith.

One author, commenting on the journey of the Magi, makes the connection with our own faith journey in this way:

“Our life is a journey home to God.  Like the Magi’s trip, there will be detours, questions,  and risks along the way.  We know where we are going… to eventual union with God.  How and when are unknown, but, through faith, our destination is assured.  Our gifts to the Christ Child are the gifts we have left along the road, the gifts we give in response to others: the food we give to the poor, the shelter to the homeless, the gift of ourselves beside the vulnerable and the outsiders.”

As we continue our celebration of the feast of the Epiphany, let us pray that we may be attentive to the signs through which the Lord manifests himself to us today, so that we can journey forward in faith, being a seeker, a finder, and, finally, a giver, as were the wise men of old.

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.