Sixth Sunday in Easter

May 26, 2019

Deacon Blaine Barclay

I would like to relate two scriptures today. From Acts 15:24 “….certain persons have said things to disturb you and have unsettled your minds….” And from John’s gospel 14: 27 “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

Jesus promised to send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who “will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit, God’s Teacher/Apologist, is Jesus’ new way to be present in our midst. “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” We are meant to trust this Spirit of the Father and the Son. “Whom the Father will send in my Name”, says Jesus.

The first gift of the Holy Spirit is Shalom. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you”, says Jesus. This is not just some trite ‘peace, love, and grooviness’, nor the mere absence of conflict. More than a polite way of saying hello and goodbye, although it can be that, the Hebrew word Shalom means, ‘peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, and tranquility’. The kind of Peace that only Jesus can give, and that only the Holy Spirit can mediate to us in the midst of our conflicts and struggles in the Church.

With this backcloth, our reading from the Acts of the Apostles, is quite instructive for us today. Listen again to the text we started with from, “….certain persons have said things to disturb you and have unsettled your minds….” This could have been written today. Think of the various currents of dissent and disagreement in the Church today. Some of it bordering on Schism. Its ready availability on the internet, the ‘Catholic blogosphere’. Without authentic discernment, getting our faith formation from the internet is like getting a drink from a fire hydrant turned on full blast, ‘if you are not careful it will rip your lips off’, as a librarian friend once said.

The dramatic setting of the Book of Acts is a ‘case study’ for us. It can inform our present situation and help to restore our Shalom, our authentic Catholic  ‘peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, and tranquility’. Notice the overlap, between the meaning of the word Shalom, and the meaning of the word Catholic, ‘according to the whole’, or, ‘toward the whole’. Back to the tensions and struggles in the early Church.

It is easy to lose our peace. Even with the tremendous outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the dynamite of Pentecost, it was easy for the Early Church to lose its peace. How much more for us. The gift of the Spirit was like a wildfire set loose upon the earth. Jesus said, “I have come to light a fire on the earth”. Burning bushes everywhere, first among the messianic Jews, set on fire with the evangelion, the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. But they couldn’t contain the wildfire, more and more non-Jews, pagans, gentiles, pork eating, uncircumcised converts were flooding into the Church, becoming ‘followers of the Way‘. The Spirit was setting them on fire as well. What was the infant/childhood Church to do, now that it was becoming a teenager? If a non-Jew became a Christian, did they have to keep Jewish kosher food laws, if they were a male did they have to get circumcised?And so we come to the situation in Antioch in our first reading. “Certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching…, unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved”. Imagine how disturbing this was for “the believers of Gentile origin”, need I say, especially for the male converts. The question really is, if a non-Jew becomes a Christian, do they have to become ritually Jewish first? Eat kosher, get circumcised, not associate with unconverted, unclean, gentiles. The Holy Spirit didn’t think so, didn’t discriminate between Jewish and Gentile disciples, and neither did the proto-Council of Jerusalem, the teaching Magisterium of the day. According to the first ‘Apostolic Letter’ ever written, the first published statement by a Church Council; “since we have heard that certain persons who have gone out from us, though with no instructions from us, have said things to disturb you and have unsettled your minds, we have decided unanimously…”. Then follows their apostolic judgement distinguishing between Jewish ritual identity and the moral demands of the gospel.

What can we learn from this lesson from the Early Church? In our electronic social media saturated culture, what can we learn about what voices to listen to? Minimally, don’t listen to every voice, use discernment, and considered judgement. What does our text say, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials…”. In our own time and place how are we to find back this ‘essential’ voice, this pedagogy of the Word made flesh? Like our ancient friends in Antioch, let us look to the ‘Apostolic’ voice. If what we are reading or listening to on the internet, if “certain persons have said things to disturb you and have unsettled your minds”. Like our ancient fellow believers we need to listen to the voice of authentic Apostolic Teaching, as found in and rightly interpreted in Scripture and Tradition. In our own time and place, the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, the voice of Peter in our midst, Encyclicals, Apostolic Letters and Exhortations, the voice of our local Bishop. On the internet, anything found at  . And each one of us, living a life saturated with Scripture and informed by the ongoing dialogue that is Tradition. This is the only way to restore the Peace of Jesus in the Church, finding back the ‘essential voice’. The rest is just noise and clutter, dust in the wind. “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

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.