Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Deacon Blaine Barclay

The focus in the gospel and other readings today is the contrast between pride and humility.

It would be a mistake to take Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Tax collector as simply a story about something that took place a long time ago. The Pharisee is a type, a representative standing in for all of us who are religious, and because of that can tend toward self-righteousness. Jesus knows that holding others in contempt is a perennial temptation of those who have given themselves over to the practice of living a righteous life style. It is all too easy for us to fall into this sin, the vice of pride and self-regard. This story is the story of us.

The question is, concretely, how do I fall into this very subtle trap, turning repentance on its head by turning it into a form of self-justification. “God, I thank you that I am not like other people, thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector”. Just so we don’t let ourselves off the hook because we don’t happen to be thieves or adulterers, let’s go with the first part of the text. “God, I thank you that I am not like other people”. Are we not all in some way infected with this disease of pride. Granted, we are each one of us an unrepeatable gift, a mission from God, but let’s not let it go to our heads. The vice of self-righteous pride is very subtle, and takes on many forms. ‘Not being like other people’, could take the form of thinking I am better looking or of more proportionate size than person X. Or that I go more regularly to mass or the sacrament of penance. That my liturgical tastes are more refined than person Y. Or, that I read better books, have nicer clothes or lots of toys. Am more orthodox or open minded than person Z. Clericalism is also a form of this disease. It’s forms are as varied as the persons who fall into this trap. “Contempt for others’ is at the heart of this particular form of pride, and why Jesus so frequently speaks out against it. Genuine humility is its only cure, and only solidarity with the poor, the excluded, and the marginalized, will give us the humility of the tax collector. The humility of Christ who emptied himself taking the form of a slave, the ultimate act of solidarity.

So we continue to contrast the sin, the vice of pride, with the virtue of humility. “The tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast (x3) and saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’. The tax collector, by way of participation in a simple liturgical act which corresponds to the condition of his heart, goes home ‘justified’. Do we not also participate every Sunday in a simple liturgical act, the Penitential Act, expressing our humility before God. (x3) ‘Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault’. May our simple liturgical act of humility come also from the heart so that we too can go home ‘justified’.

Humility is a wide eyed, open hearted embrace of our common human condition. Knowing ourselves to be sinners, but in gratitude and confidence knowing ourselves to be ‘loved sinners’. Each one of us, along with all the others, ‘loved as if we were the only one’, as Augustine puts it. We should cry out, ‘God, I thank you that I am like other people’. Recognizing our own shared ‘poverty of spirit’.

In conclusion, what does it mean, like the tax collector, to go home ‘justified’? To be made right with God, who “is near to the broken hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit”.As our psalm today tells us. The one who “boasts in the Lord”, not in ourselves. The one who knows how to praise God because they know how not to praise the self. The shadow of religion is sometimes, the subtle idolatry of the self, together with the tendency to hold the other in contempt. To lift ourselves up at the expense of putting other people down. This is also part of the great reversal that is Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God. “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted”.

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.