News & Events
Homily of the Mass for Ash Wednesday
St Andrew's Cathedral
February 10, 2016
“Lent is to receive a Mercy that transforms lives so that solidarity with my neighbour becomes the only way we can live, so that solidarity and communion becomes the way to peace on this earth. But it can only happen when our hands looks like the hands of Jesus: always open.”
~ Bishop Gary Gordon
I want to show you something. It looks pretty familiar, doesn’t it? But there’s something very, very special about this cross, as we begin this Lenten journey toward Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It’s important to note the hands on the cross.
They are open.
The hands on the cross are open. I would say that is probably the most endearing sign of the mercy of God. It is a wonderful image for the Christian people: hands that are open.
As we begin this beautiful time of Lent, a word that means ‘springtime’, we will begin to notice, as indeed we already have, the opening of the trees, the opening of the daffodils, and the opening of the blossoms. Literally, we see the opening of the earth, to bring life, new life. And so the image of hands that are open is important for the building of solidarity as Christian people with our planet and as Christian people with our brothers and sisters around the world.
To live with open hands is to live in a vulnerable way. It is to be vulnerable. Can you see my hands? There is nothing concealed. This is why the image of Jesus on the cross with his hands and arms outstretched is the image of the Church. Because open hands are vulnerable hands. To receive the mercy of God, to receive our brothers and sisters who are on the peripheries, to receive those who are in need, you’ve got to have open hands.
It’s also the ability to give. You can’t give anything with closed hands. You can’t let go. This is a massive struggle. Just watch a two-year-old with a toy! They can’t let go. Watch a two-year-old with two other two-year-olds and a toy. They can’t let go.
It’s built in to the woundedness of our frail, broken humanity. It’s called ‘fear’. If I let go, I might lose myself. If I let go, what will happen to me? If I let go, Little Billy is going to have my toy. And that is why the season of Lent is an invitation to a springtime. To literally imitate the earth, and the trees, and the flowers that are opening up, pouring out, and giving away their lives.
Lent is to receive a Mercy that transforms lives so that solidarity with my neighbour becomes the only way we can live, so that solidarity and communion becomes the way to peace on this earth. But it can only happen when our hands looks like the hands of Jesus: always open. Always open.
As we take this pilgrim journey through Lent, as God’s people we are invited to vulnerability. To openness. To receive mercy, and to give mercy, whenever and wherever it is needed.
Lastly, I want to tell you about a need for solidarity, an indication of the needs of the world which are right here at home. About a year-and-a-half ago I was visiting the Snuneymuxw First Nation (translation: Nanaimo). It was my first visit to that community, and I like to talk to people and find out what’s going on. I said to somebody towards the end of the evening, “What are the needs of this community?” And she said to me, “We have no more land to build homes for our grandchildren.”
Solidarity in our own land, with our own people, is going to take an enormous opening of hands. We have no more land to build homes for our grandchildren. That has stuck with me, and is rooted in my heart as I contemplate that reality within our own Diocese. We need to know this. We need to contemplate this, to consider this, with our brothers and sisters in this Diocese.
It is a springtime; it is an awakening to the power, the grace, and the life of mercy, which is way more than a word. It’s hard work. It’s solidarity. It’s the way to peace on this earth.
Let’s see your hands . . . they look good! I think we’re ready for Lent. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
We’ve got Lent started—we are ready to go! Forty days. And you know what? You are all VIPs.Very Important People. Do you know what VIPs are for? VIPs, Very Important People, are for Vulnerable Islanders on the Peripheries. VIPs are for VIPs—we are Very Important People for Vulnerable Islanders on the Peripheries.
Have a good Lent. And the way you are smiling now—that’s like a cherry blossom opening up. You’ve got to bring that to everybody you meet. Bring that smile. I know it’s a small thing, but it opens people. Hands open wide . . . we are ready.”