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 16 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.

Welcome once more to this weekly reflection. During the past week it has been wonderful to enjoy the warmer weather and to feel the warmth of the sun. We give thanks to God for all things, the rain, the cold, the sun and the warmth. All come from God and all are necessary.

In todays’s Gospel Reading from St Luke (7:31-35) we hear these words of Jesus:

To what then shall I compare the men of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the market place and calling to one another, “We piped to you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not weep”.

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the blessings we have received from you. Give us grateful hearts, Lord, that we will always be able to recognize your presence in our lives and the good things you have given us. Preserve us from negativity, ungratefulness and from despair. Give us hearts that always seek the good and the courage to meet the difficulties of life with faith, hope and love. We make this prayer 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.

Whenever we sing or pray the Gloria at Mass, we begin with the words, Glory to God in the highest, and peace to people of goodwill.  The generation that Jesus spoke about in the Gospel could not be satisfied by anything. They were like children who would not dance to the pipes, nor weep to when there was wailing – there was simply no pleasing them. They lacked goodwill. If we lack goodwill, we will find fault in anything and everything, there will be no pleasing us. If you are intent on finding fault you will find it. You could give me any of the greatest speeches of all time and, if I set my mind to it, I would find something wrong – too long, too short, too complicated, too repetitive, whatever. On the other hand, if you have goodwill, you will be able to find something helpful and something positive in just about anything. It’s a bit like the “half glass full, half glass empty” idea. We have a choice as to how we look on life and with what attitude we have towards life. It is true even of something as simple as a priest’s homily on Sunday. No matter how brilliant it may be, if we want to find fault we will. If we have goodwill, even if it is the most awful homily, we will be able to salvage something from it that is helpful, uplifting or thought provoking.

We live in an age of deep discontent. The many problems that we face as families, society, the country or the world, often hang over us like a deep cloud of depression. But it goes much deeper than that. There are forces within society today that instil discontent. For example, the powerful aim of advertising is to make us unhappy with what we have and to desire what is advertised. Competing ideologies, the to-ing and fro-ing and spin of a democratic society, aim to draw us into different camps by often promising us something better than what we have. None of this is wrong as such, but it does impact  on us in very subtle ways and may result in a restlessness within ourselves.  

It is true that in every age there has been discontent, in a way it is part of the human spirit because we are searching for something more authentic, more perfect and more satisfying. Like St Augustine, we must come to the realisation that, Our heart is restless until it rests in you. True peace and acceptance will only happen if we find communion with God and our hearts rest in him. To be in communion with him means to share in God’s love.  And to love is only possible if we strive to be people of goodwill who seek to find and build on what is positive and not to be weighed down and submerged by what is negative. Goodwill is very much part of the transformation to be people of love.

And St Paul tells us what true love is in the First Reading of today’s Mass (1Cor 12:31-13:13). This is not the soppy, sentimental love that we often fantasize about. This is the hard, practical, sacrificial love supremely demonstrated on the Cross as Jesus abandoned the last breath of his life for the sake of others. St Paul tells us that Christian love is not jealous, boastful, arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice in wrong. Rather it is patient, kind, rejoices in right, it bears all things, believes all things, hopes and endures all things. It never ends and unless we have love, we are nothing he says. Let us pray and work on ourselves so that we may have the goodwill to grow inlove.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing.

The Lord be with you                                                                          R/ And with your spirit

May the effects of your sacred blessing, O Lord, make themselves felt among your faithful, to prepare with spiritual sustenance the minds of all, that they may be strengthened by the power of your love to carry out works of charity, through Christ our Lord, amen.

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

May God bless you and keep you.