Prayer and Reflection by Archbishop Stephen Brislin

Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 2 September 2020, during this time of the coronavirus pandemic. It is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please also see below the text of his reflection, primarily for the deaf.

Despite all the difficulties we experience in life, and this has been a particularly traumatic and unsettling  year, time passes. As we enter into the month of September, so winter begins to fade and the spring, with its promise of new life and new growth, enters in. The seasons themselves bear testimony to the fact that all things pass and there is always hope for the future. Welcome to this reflection. In today’s First Reading we hear Paul addressing the Corinthians (1Corinthians 3:1-9) in his first letter. He says:

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labour. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

We will use the collect of the Mass for the opening prayer.

Let us pray

God of might, giver of every good gift, put into our hearts the love of your name, so that by deepening our sense of reverence, you may nurture in us what is good and, by your watchful care, keep safe what you have nurtured. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever, amen.

The Corinthians were a divided community and some of them even questioned the orthodoxy of Paul’s preaching.  He mildly rebukes them in today’s Reading as some of them were saying things like “I belong to Paul”, or “I belong to Apollos”. He points out that both he and Apollos are servants “through whom you believed” and, while one planted the seed (Paul) the other watered it (Apollos), it is God who gives the growth and not human beings. An important lesson from this encounter is that we all need to have our focus on God and not on our fellow human beings. 

This is a very practical message,  because it is so easy for us to become attached to a priest or deacon because the person seems to be speaking to us and therefore we tend to see fault in others who do not seem to be reaching us. As with Paul and Apollos, God calls people of different backgrounds, skills and talents to his service. We will like some and not particularly like others, but all are servants of God who have been called to preach his message and to water the field. But it is God who gives the growth and so the servant is not who is important. If we put our faith in a human being there is a good chance that, in some way or another, that person will disappoint us at some stage. 

It is remarkable in some parishes, where perpetual or partially perpetual adoration has been introduced how this helps people to focus their lives on God. Many priests have told me of the change that comes about in a parish where it is possible to have regular adoration. And it is equally true, that if we focus on God in our families, we are strengthened to preserve unity and to meet the different struggles of life without being overcome by them. There is an abundance of truth in the saying that “the family who prays together stays together”. Prayer is not just about asking for those things we need or praying for those we love – prayer changes us as people. It makes us conscious of God and his presence in our lives, it reminds us of the meaning and purpose of our existence and that there is something much more profound beyond us. It puts things in perspective and so eases the many worries and anxieties we may have. It calms us down and even if there are still unsettling aspects to our lives we experience an inner harmony that comes from knowing we are not alone.  Focussing our lives on God enables us to live spiritual lives and to bring under control the “unspiritual” things such as jealousy and dissension, which St Paul talks about in the Reading. So we strive, as disciples, to always focus on God in our lives, no matter what our status, profession or situation in life is.

The second great lesson from this Reading is found in the beautiful words of St Paul when he says “For we are God’s fellow workers”.  While Paul was speaking of himself and Apollos in this regard, it is not only those different and varied people who have been entrusted with the specific calling of pastoring to the family of God who are his fellow workers. We should all see ourselves as being fellow workers of God in the service of giving growth to his Kingdom. We are all called to make a difference in the world and to promote the values of the Kingdom – such values as truth, peace, unity, justice, righteousness, love and so on. It is a wonderful reality to realise that we are working with God for the greater good, that we are working with fellow believers – those we get on with and those we have difficulty with – for a common purpose and for the good of others. But, of course, we  can never come to that realization unless we are focussed on God and we are people of prayer. And so it quite right to pray for God to “renew the face of the earth” and to make ourselves willing servants of that renewal.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you                                                                  R/ And with your spirit

Look, O Lord, on the prayers of your family, and grant us the assistance we humbly implore, so that, strengthened by the help we need, we may persevere in confessing your name and uniting all our good works with the sacrifice of your Son Jesus. We make this prayer through Christ Our Lord, amen.

May almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.