Twentieth Sunday

-August 18th, 2019 Deacon Blaine Barclay

 

‘I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning!’ What does this mean? Is this Jesus, the ultimate revolutionary, calling us to burn it all down? ‘The old has passed away, the new has come’. Or, ‘Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, enkindle in them the fire of your love…. Or both, Burning bushes everywhere.

The analogy of fire is used throughout the Bible. It represents a number of themes. Together they form the background for understanding what Jesus is teaching us here. The fire that passed through the animal parts, sealing the covenant between God and Abraham. The fire of the altar of sacrifice that Abraham built that prefigured the altar of sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins that was central to Jewish Temple worship. The fire necessary for the burning of incense, representing our prayers rising up to God. My personal all-time favourite is the Burning Bush, burning but not consumed, when God’s presence called Moses to liberate the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt and revealed to Moses the sacred name. The pillar of fire that lighted the way for their desert journey at night when they were fleeing the slavery of Egypt. The fiery furnace into which the faithful Jews were thrown during the time of the prophet Daniel, and they danced with holy joy in the midst of the flames.

The ‘Refining Fire’ that purifies God’s people, as in Isaiah 48. ‘Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.’ Fire lights our way, cooks the bread that feeds us, warms us at its hearth, sends our prayers to God, ‘like incense before you’.

In the New Testament the Holy Spirit Is especially associated with a mighty wind and tongues of flaming fire, the fire of Pentecost. Where a small band of scared disciples, hiding behind locked doors because of their fear, are filled with holy boldness to go out to all the world proclaiming the gospel, the glad tidings of salvation in the Risen Christ. They were on fire with the love of God. ‘I have come to set the world on fire’, says Jesus, and this is just what the Early Church set out to do. To set up fiery outposts of a counter Kingdom, Messianic communities that embodied a totally other set of personal and political loyalties, than the prevailing world.

Just how the Early Church set out to do this is hinted at in our reading from the letter to the Hebrews today. First of all, they were not starting from scratch, from ground zero. Our reading tells us that they were ‘surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses’, reaching all the way back into salvation history. They were inspired by the faith of Abel, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Rahab, and the Prophets, to mention only a few. The previous chapter of Hebrews, after listing them, says, ‘They were all Heroes of the Faith’.

As Catholics we also have our many ‘Heroes of the Faith’, that is why we canonize so many Saints. And we all have our favourites whose intercession we seek, and whose example of heroic faith inspires us. A few of my own favourites, for different reasons, are St. Augustine, the teacher of interiority, St. Francis of Assisi, master of simplicity, St. Thomas Aquinas, the universal teacher of the faith, St. Edith Stein, philosopher saint. And not all our faith heroes are canonized. For example, Thomas Merton, or, Catherine Doherty of Madonna House. What do they inspire us to do? To live the faith in the midst of our struggles and difficulties. ‘To lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely’. They inspire us, with God’s good help, to do the work of Ascesis, the athletics of the soul, the disciplined training of the athlete. ‘To run with perseverance the race, the athletic contest, that is set before us’.

The most powerful inspiration and exemplar we have is Jesus. The letter to the Hebrews puts it this way, ‘Looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfector of our faith’. The language here is actually much stronger and more focused than this. One commentary suggests, ‘Keeping our gaze, a continual and steady gaze, directed to Jesus’. Jesus is [our ‘archegon’,] our ‘prime leader’, archetype, pattern. Jesus ‘endured the Cross, disregarding its shame’. He embraced our poverty right down to the bottom so that we could participate in his Resurrection life.

The power, the dynamite of this resurrection fire, is the only thing that can change us, wake us up from our nightmare fantasies of self making. and heal this poor broken world of ours, addicted to its own imploding power structures. ‘I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning!’

 

 



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.