Ash Wednesday-Archbishop B. O’Brien

Homily by Archbishop Brendan M. O’Brien

Ash Wednesday

St. Mary’s Cathedral

March 6, 2019

 

Today, on this Ash Wednesday, we begin our Lenten period of personal and communal conversion and spiritual renewal, the purpose of which is to renew our adherence to the gospel and to the mission given us at baptism to be ambassadors for Christ.

 

In the second reading, we are reminded that Jesus, in taking on the sins of the world through his death on the cross, brought about our reconciliation with God.  On Good Friday, when we come to venerate the cross, we acknowledge this when we say, “Behold the wood of the cross on which hung the saviour of the world.”

 

On Ash Wednesday, we use the symbol of ashes and the words, “Repent and believe in the Gospel”, to express our belief and desire to be forgiven of our sins, a forgiveness made possible through the cross.  When the ashes are placed on our forehead in the form of a cross and we hear the words, “Repent and believe in the Gospel”, we are reminded that repentance is not just feeling bad about the past and asking for forgiveness, but involves something more positive, as well as a desire to look at our life and correct the direction in which it is may have been going.

 

To assist us in making this happen, we are given certain tools: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  We see in our gospel passage that Jesus doesn’t say, “if you pray, if you fast, if you give alms”; he says, “whenever you pray, whenever you fast, whenever you give alms”.  The emphasis is on the way to carry out these actions so that they will have the desired effect.

As the prophet Joel says in the first reading, “rend your hearts and not your clothing”.  The emphasis is on an inner change of the heart and not  just an external show or observance.

 

So today, in our Ash Wednesday liturgy, we give thanks for  the great sacrifice of Christ on the cross, which makes our reconciliation with God possible.  And as we are signed  with this image of the cross traced in ashes on our forehead, we acknowledge our need for forgiveness as individuals and as Church, and our desire to commit ourselves by our words and deeds to that great message so succinctly stated in the gospel of St. John:

 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” 3:16



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.