First Sunday In Lent

First Sunday in Lent

Deacon Blaine Barclay

March 10, 2019



The first reading sets the stage. Abraham, our ancestor in faith, nomadic wanderer, keeper of goats and sheep, lived in a tent. And yet he heard the call of an invisible, nameless, wilderness God, who promised to make Sarah and Abraham’s descendants into a great nation. God is able to take what is small and insignificant and turn it into something great. Generations later after a period of great prosperity their descendants were reduced to genocidal slavery in Egypt. God heard their cry for liberation and under the leadership of Moses set them free. For 40 years they wandered in the wilderness, where they were tried and tested before entering the promised land. In short, the generation that left Egypt, doesn’t  pass the test. Psalm 95 says, “Forty years I endured that generation. They are a people whose hearts go astray and they do not know my ways….They shall not enter into my rest.”
This is where the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness connects with the first reading. Israel is in the wilderness for 40 years. Jesus is in the wilderness for 40 days. Jesus does what Israel would not do. Jesus, the New Moses, passes the test, endures the trial, and in his own human nature makes a way for us, for a new restored humanity.
The Incarnation is the key to understanding the drama of Christ’s Temptations in the wilderness. Hebrews 4:15 tells us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.” The temptations of Jesus teach us that God has embraced our human condition right down to the bottom. God knows us from the inside, in Jesus God has become one of us. God knows the depth of our temptations from the inside.
There are as many ways of being tested, tried, tempted, as there are human beings and experiences. All can be summarized and reduced to the three primal types illustrated by the Temptations of Jesus in the desert.
1)   Hunger. ‘Turn these stones to bread’. The universal need. Whether it be hunger for bread, for food, or the hungry heart. All of us are hungry for something or someone. We can be easily led astray by our appetites. In her moral teaching the Church speaks of disordered appetites, desire not ordered toward its proper end or purpose. The traditional Lenten practice of fasting and abstinence is meant to bring discipline and order to our desires, so we can learn to hunger for the right things, at the right time, for the right reasons.
“Jesus answered him, It is written, One does not live on bread alone.” Matthew’s gospel adds, “but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Lent is for us to learn to hunger for the Bread of God’s Word rather than the scattered stones of our own desire.
2)    Idolatry. The fundamental sin of the Bible is idolatry. To give ones allegiance, loyalty, devotion, worship, to something other than God. “All this will be yours.” Says the evil one. “If you worship me”.  Especially in our consumer society, we often seek to fill the void in our lives with things, consumer goods, ‘retail therapy’. Sometimes this is a way of seeking distraction, or, it makes us feel safe, or insulated from the things that really matter. “Jesus said to him in reply, “It is written: You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.” The traditional Lenten practice of Almsgiving is meant to disengage us from this idolatry of things.
3).  Idolatry. Yes, you heard correctly. I am calling the third temptation, Idolatry as well. We can even turn God and religion into an idol. When we think of the consuming flame of the living God as an object, a thing. Something we can shape and fashion in our own image, bargain with or manipulate according to our own desires. “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and: With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”
This is where the saying, even the devil can quote scripture, comes from. The attempts to seduce Jesus have not been working. So the seducer tries to use the authority of a fragment of scripture against the author of scripture, the living Word of God. It is a temptation to quote scripture out of context. Jesus is the living context of the whole of scripture. ‘Jesus said to him in reply, It also says, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’
Tempting God, putting God to the test, is the ultimate idolatry. We say to God, ‘If I do this, you do this. As if we were in charge, as if ours were the sovereignty. The traditional Lenten practice of Prayer is meant to disengage us from this religious idolatry, a growing awareness that God is God, and I am not.
Fasting and Abstinence, Almsgiving, and Prayer. Three fundamental ways of accompanying Jesus in the desert this Lenten season. Entering into his alternative Exodus, leaving behind the disordered hungers of Egypt, and the slavery of its double idolatry. Entering into the Promised Land of Easter.

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.