Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Deacon Blaine Barclay

September 29th, 2019

Our gospel today tells the famous story of a destitute beggar named Lazarus, and an unnamed rich man. Lazarus hungers even for the crumbs from the rich man’s table. His poverty is so extreme that the household dogs, who are presumably eating the scraps from the table, are licking his open wounds. Even though Lazarus is lying at the gate of his mansion, the rich man, whom tradition give the name Dives, passes him by without seeing him. This kind of destitute poverty makes someone invisible to those of us who are so sunk in our own comfort that we no longer have the eyes to see.This is as true today as it was at the time Jesus told this story. The poor are often invisible.
Lazarus finally succumbs to his hunger and his wounds, and dies. He is carried by the Angels to ‘the bosom of Abraham’, an ancient Jewish way of talking about paradise or heaven.
On the other hand, when the rich man dies he finds himself in Hades, the place of the dead, a shadowy place of suffering and torment. Only then does he see Lazarus, across a great abyss, in the bosom of Abraham. Their fates have been reversed, the last has become first and the first has become last. The Kingdom of God is the great reversal.

Our first reading from the Prophet Amos also paints a picture of the fate of those who live a life of luxury, deaf to the cry of the poor. Sleeping on beds inlaid with ivory, while the poor of the land sleep on thin woven mats. Eating veal and lambs, the most tender cuts, fine wines, and perfumed oils, while the poor of the land dine on veggies and grains, and maybe a little fish. The heart of the matter, however, is their blindness to the cry of the poor. As it says, ‘they are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph’, which means the people of Israel as a whole. As as consequence, Amos says ‘they shall be the first to go into Exile’.

This all raises the question of where God is in all this? In the face of such extremes of wealth and poverty in the world. Then and now. What kind of God is God? Psalm 146, our Psalm for today, spells it out clearly and without ambiguity. It reads like a list, of an Old Testament version of the corporal works of mercy.

“It is the Lord who…
executes Justice for the oppressed
gives food to the hungry
sets the prisoners free
opens the eyes of the blind
lifts up those who are bowed down
loves the righteous
watches over the strangers
upholds the orphan and the widow’.

Such is the character of God, the God of bottomless compassion, and tender mercy. Who wants to transform us into this image, this way of life. The opposite of a way of life that makes the face of the other invisible, that insulates us from the pain of the world, and deaf to the cry of the poor.

Finally, St. Paul admonishes Timothy to ‘fight the good fight of the faith’. He uses this language elsewhere, urging us to put on the armour of God, take up the sword of the word, and to not just train as if for shadow boxing. For this is a fight. A fight against the insulated heart, the sheltered life, that refuses the face of the other. How do we do this? St. Paul’s advice to Timothy is advice for us also. ‘Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.’ Other translations speak of justice, meekness, patience, holy living, and a life of wonder.
But it amounts to the same call for virtuous living with a heavy dose of generosity toward others. The last verse of our gospel today kind of sums it up. For those of us who persist in our insulated self protective bubble, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead”. For those of us with a heart that can still be broken for the broken hearted, we can turn this verse on its head, ‘listen to Moses and the Prophets, and Jesus, the one who rises from the dead’.

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.