Rite of Election-Archbishop B. O’Brien

Homily by Archbishop Brendan M. O’Brien

Rite of Election

Sunday, March 10, 2019

St. Mary’s Cathedral


This afternoon,  within this Liturgy of the Word, we celebrate the Rite of Election and the Call to Lenten Renewal.


In the Book of Deuteronomy, from which our first reading today is taken, we see how the faithful Jew offers the first fruits of the harvest to God, reciting the ancient lines of remembrance, “My father was a wandering Aramean…”  This is a reminder that the Israelites’ beginnings were humble; God chose this people not because of its greatness, but because of its need.  They were slaves in Egypt, and they cried to the Lord, who saw their affliction, their toil, and their oppression.  As we begin Lent, we remember what God did for them – how God rescued a people unable to help themselves – and we do so with the conviction that, what God was once able to do, God is able to do again for us.


The story of God’s people, however, has many chapters.  After their liberation from slavery in Egypt, they wandered in the desert for 40 years.  It was a time of testing.  They were divided in their hearts about God.  They wanted to trust him, but their empty stomachs made them doubt.  The promised land was far away, and their hunger was here and now.  It is against this backdrop of Israel’s testing in the desert that the Gospel passage of today is told.  Jesus is the new Israel; he has spent 40 days in the wilderness; he is hungry and is tested – tested to see if he will serve the Father’s plan for Him.


The key to understanding Jesus’s temptations is contained in the prayer that the faithful Israelite prayed, called the ‘Shema’.   It goes like this: “Hear, 0,Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone.  You shall love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might”. Dt. 6:4-5 


To love God with ‘all your heart’ means to love with a heart undivided by contrary desire.  The Old Testament people’s craving for food in the desert wilderness divided their hearts from trust in God’s care for them.  Jesus, on the other hand, would not let his craving for food divide his heart from complete trust in the Father’s care for Him.  As he says, “one does not live on bread alone”.


To love God with ‘all your soul’ means to trust God even if you should lose your life.  In the wilderness, the people of the Old Testament were afraid they were going to die of thirst, and demanded evidence of God’s presence.  Jesus would not ask God to prove his presence by saving Him if he jumped off the temple parapet.


‘With all your might’ means with all your wealth.  After the Israelites reached the promised land, they were warned that their wealth would cause them to forget the Lord and to worship false gods.  In the gospel, the devil, knowing the allure of wealth, promises Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if he would forget God and worship the devil – the temptations that Jesus successfully met point back to the temptations of Israel in the past, but they also point forward to the trials that each of us face today.



Each of us in our own lives is subject to temptations that shake our resolve, that threaten our identity as a follower of Jesus and tug us away from our life’s true course.  Our temptations may not be as dramatically illustrated as those of Jesus – they may be more ordinary, quiet, and frequent, happening a little at a time.  Yet they have the same effect.  They attempt to steer us off course.  As we go about our daily lives, we are tempted to make compromises, little lies, shortcuts, that have the cumulative effect of taking us away from our baptismal commitment whereby we promised to resist evil in all its forms.


The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in which our candidates have been taking part is a journey of conversion and a deepening of their faith, through its emphasis on catechesis, prayer, and community, which has helped them grow in their appreciate of the sacramental life of the Church and the moral demands of Christian life.  But this journey that the catechumens make is really something that all of us are called to continue to make, especially during the season of Lent.


As one author puts it, “Only over the course of time have Christians come to realize that God’s invitation to conversion follows a discernible pattern.  At first, God’s call demands that we relinquish what is blatantly sinful.  Later, it summons us to leave the comfort of any given stage of our growth and to enter into an unknown area of faith.”  Ellebracht, p. 29





I want to say to the Catechumens that your journey of faith is an encouragement to all of us, because it reminds us that faith is a gift, a gift that Christ continues to pour out on his Church.  The Rite of the Christian Initiation of Adults is an invitation to all of us to share in the growth that the Spirit is engendering today in the Body of Christ.


I want to acknowledge and welcome, as well, those who are already baptized and desire full communion with the Catholic Church.  In taking this step, you remind all of us of the importance of the faith community and the help which we receive from the Eucharist and the other sacraments to live our life in Christ.


A sincere thank you also to all those sponsors and members of the RCIA teams who have accompanied our catechumens and candidates for full communion over these last months. I am sure that you have been of great assistance to them, and no doubt this has helped to strengthen you on your own journey of faith

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.