Third Sunday in Lent

Both our first reading and our Gospel are about water. Both point to the sacrament of baptism. Both also speak to fear. Here we are, in the middle of our journey through the desert of lent with the added vulnerability of Covid19 pressing upon us. We thirst for hope, for the living water that only Jesus can give us. The Elect are entering into the death and resurrection of Christ in the waters of Baptism at Easter. The rest of us, the renewal of our Baptismal vows.


We are all thirsty for God. “Like the deer that longs for running streams, like a dry, weary land without water, so my soul is thirsting for you my God’. How does Augustine put it? ‘You have made us for yourself O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you”.


Picture the people of Israel in our first reading. They have just been liberated by God from slavery in Egypt, and what are they doing? Grumbling, accusing Moses, complaining. They have experienced the mighty hand of God acting on their behalf. God has delivered them from mighty Egypt. Their oppressors drowned in the waters of the Red Sea, which the Early Church understood as representing the waters of Baptism. And what do they have to say to this destiny changing event? ‘‘Did you bring us out of Egypt, only to have us die of thirst in the desert?’ They were afraid for themselves and for their loved ones, afraid that they were going to die of thirst. Perhaps our present fear of Covid19 can help us to understand their fear. What were they expecting, a five star all inclusive resort in the wilderness of Sinai? What are we expecting, a life without vulnerability? Freedom is a gift and a task ahead of them and us. The decisive defeat of their enemy in the waters of the Sea, was their founding event as a people, but it was still a long journey to the promised land.


Likewise, Baptism is for us a radical new beginning, our founding event as a people, birth into a restored and elevated humanity. The old human nature buried with Christ in Baptism, the new human nature rising with Jesus out of the waters of the font. Does this mean that life will no longer be a struggle, that we will no longer be afraid, hunger and thirst for meaning, for God, for the Promised land? Indeed, these are given to us in Baptism. We are plunged into the very life of God in Christ. But this is also our journey to Jerusalem, entering into the life and mission of Jesus. A life where Jesus says to us over and over again. ‘Do not be afraid…Let your hearts not be troubled…I am with you always…am I not the Word made flesh, your broken and vulnerable flesh.


The story of the Israelites in the desert is the story of us, of those about to be baptized, and of those renewing their Baptismal promises. Moses strikes the Rock and living waters flow out, sustaining the Israelites in their desert journey. St. Paul, recounting this same story says, ‘I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors…all passed through the sea,  and all were baptized into Moses…in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.’ Living waters flow from the wounded side of this rock, sustaining us in the wilderness of our journey into God’s promises. Even in our present crisis the gift of Faith sustains us.


So now we come to the story of the Samaritan woman at Jacobs well. Jesus went out of his way to visit this dangerous place. Jewish travellers avoided Samaria. Samaritans were considered ethnically unclean. This woman was also a serial monogamist, 5 husbands, and now on her 6th relationship. She is 3 times an outsider, a Samaritan, a Woman, and someone living in a sexual relationship outside the Law. And what does Jesus do? He gets into a theological discussion with her about human thirst, living water, and about Jesus himself being the Messiah. ‘The one who drinks of the water that I will give will never be thirsty. The water that I will give you will become in you a spring of water gushing up to eternal life’. She says, ‘give me this water’. Then she goes and tells everyone about her encounter with the person of Jesus. ‘Come and see’, she says. Our gospel tells us, ‘That many Samaritans from that city believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony’. This unnamed woman is an evangelist, sent to proclaim the good news of Jesus to her neighbours. So that they say, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the saviour of the world.’ Because of her testimony, and our testimony, people encounter Jesus. The woman at the well was vulnerable, so are we, so are our neighbours. She did not let her vulnerability hold her back from giving the living water to others. May we be as bold as she was in being a missionary disciple. During this time of crisis may we drink deeply from the Rock of Christ, from the living waters of Baptism.

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.