Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 24, 2019

Father Shawn J. Hughes

 

Disclaimer:

Homilies are never the creative act of one person.  Thus, in posting these homilies on St. Mary’s Cathedral’s website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be little original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it: ‘tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures and/or the Spiritual Life.

God bless you.

Father Shawn

 

 

The Gospel today indirectly gives us a portrait of our God.  Jesus shows us what kind of Lord he really is:  a lavish one.  Nothing limits his generosity – not ingratitude, not opposition, not concern for himself – nothing. Generosity is at the core of who God is.

He is also giving us a portrait of the qualities of anyone who follows him.  Nothing should limit the generosity of the follower of Christ – not ingratitude, not opposition, not concern for oneself – nothing should limit the generosity of the follower of Christ.

What does such lavish generosity look like?

A Christian loves his enemies, meaning we pray for God’s blessing upon them, upon those we hate, upon those who curse us, on those who abuse us.  A Christian is called to an amazing generosity towards those who are against us.  It almost seems impossible for us and certainly is not the standard of the world.

A Christian gives, even to those who take from us and especially to those who beg from us.

A Christian is good, does the right thing, and lends…expecting nothing in return.

A Christian is merciful just as the Father is merciful.

A Christian does not judge, meaning not that he doesn’t recognize wrong, a Christian always stands in the truth, but that he/she does not look down on others, that he recognizes the equal dignity of all before God no matter what they have done.  And thus, a Christian does not condemn anyone.  No one is completely hopeless.  There is always hope no matter what has taken place.

A Christian forgives.  Why? So that we will be forgiven.

A Christina gives.  Why? So that we will receive.

In the midst of this portrait, Jesus also teaches us one of the most basic laws of his Kingdom:  the amount we measure out is the amount we will be given back.  Our generosity will be matched in the generosity shown to us.  Our lack of generosity will be matched in an absence of generosity shown to us.

‘The more generous we are to others, the better we learn the art of self-giving, of self-forgetful love,  the more intensely we will experience the fulfilling life we have been created for. The reason is quite simple.  We are created in God’s image and God is love; his very divine nature is all about self-giving love.  So the more we develop our capacity for love – authentic, self-forgetful love –  the more we mature into what God has created us to be.  And just as a mature, healthy apple tree bears abundant fruit, so a mature, healthy human soul overflows with the spiritual fruits that St. Paul lists in his letter to the Galatians 5:25: love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, gentleness, faith,  generosity,  self-control, chastity and modesty.

This gospel made me think of last Monday’s, daily Mass’ Scripture Reading.  It was the foundational iconic story of Cain and Abel.  Cain brought an offering to the Lord from the fruits of his soil.  Abel’s offering to God was “one of the best of his flock.”  Cain brought some.  Abel brought his best.  God was pleased with Abel’s offering.  He brought his best.  God was not pleased with Cain’s offering because he did not bring his best – he simply brought some.

Cain’s failure began with selfishness, perhaps even carelessness, simply not giving his offering enough thought.   Cain lacked in generosity.  This lack of generosity put him in a disposition to sin grievously.  We need to take note here.  When we are selfish, when we fail in generosity, we have put ourselves in a disposition to sin even more grievously.

God was not pleased with Cain’s lack of generosity, but he did not condemn him.  He was patient with him.  God gently, mercifully and compassionately, corrected Cain.  Listen to what God says to Cain:

“Why are you so resentful and crestfallen.
If you do well, you can hold up your head;
but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door:
his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.” (Genesis 4:6-7)

We need to remember this.  Of course if we do well.  If we are generous and selfless we can hold up our head…But if we are not generous, if we are selfish, God says we will be tempted to sin further.  But he clearly says we have the ability to master our selfishness and lack of generosity.

But Cain’s lack of generosity and his disposition of selfishness, when corrected by God, rather than accepting God’s correction and changing.  He resented God’s correction.  And as God noted, that put him on dangerous ground.  He was ripe for temptation.

So, selfishness, lack of generosity unless corrected leads to discouragement; leads to resentment.  Discouragement and resentment lead to envy.  And Envy leads to much worse and in Cain’s case, envy led to the murder of his brother Abel.

In our daily lives we need to pay close attention to negative emotions.  We can’t pretend they aren’t there.  We can’t cover them up.  We need to be honest with ourselves, God, and others when they come.  We need to be aware of them.

As we are aware of our negative feelings we must seek understanding and ask ourselves, “What happened that I am feeling this way?”  I need to stand in the truth.

As I grown in understanding I discover that my own behaviour or attitude, my own selfishness, my own failure to do my best is at the root of the issue…I fix it as God encourages Cain to do.  I need to try it again.  I need to seek advice.  I especially need to admit fault.  It would have been a very simple solution for Cain to go back to his harvest and say, “Oh, I get it now, I need to give God my best.”

Instead Cain discovered…too late…that God expects not only our personal best…but also God expects us to be our brother’s keeper.  It isn’t just about us and God.  It’s about us, God, and others.

Cain failed in generosity.  Followers of Jesus Christ are called to be generous in all things.  The measure we give is the measure we get.

In light of today’s Scriptures, the key question throughout this coming week is:  Am I being as generous as I am called to be?  With your spouse. With your children, your parents, your siblings.  Am I being as generous as I am called to be with my talents, with my time, with my patience, kindness, gentleness, with my self-control?  Am I being as generous as I am called to be?

I’d like to end with a parable:  it is more effective when told in the first person.  “A beggar comes to my door asking for water to quench his thirst. I will not turn him away fearing some neighbour might observe my disdain.  At the same time I do not consider the beggar worthy of touching with his lips more than the smallest tin cup in the house, which I quickly fill and brusquely hand him, so carelessly that half the cup spills.  The cup is so small and of such little value, in fact, I just tell him to keep it.  In reality, I don’t want to waste my time in his company.

Much time – a whole lifetime – passes, and I find myself in the presence of Christ the King and Judge.  I anxiously await my reward:  I have always revered God, kept the commandments, observed the Lenten fasts and celebrated the Church’s feasts with due solemnity.  The King hands me back my tin cup, which I had long forgotten and certainly did not expect to see again in this eschatological setting.  Seeing the look of dismay on my face, and with an infinite kindness, Christ says to me: “I’m sorry, my friend.  Even I, the King, have no other cup to give you.” (Fire of Mercy: Heart of the Word, Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, pp. 290-291)

The measure we give is the measure we get.

Generosity is at the core of who God is.  Therefore, generosity must be at the core of who we are as well.

 

 



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.
PROCEDURAL NORMS FOR
THE NEXT FEW WEEKS

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.
Brevity
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.