Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 20th May 2020, during this time of the coronavirus pandemic.
Blessings on you and thank you for joining me for this reflection. As usual, we will start with a reading from Scripture. It is from the First Reading of today’s Mass.
“Men of Athens, I have seen for myself how extremely scrupulous you are in all religious matters, because I strolled around looking at your sacred monuments. I noticed among other things an altar inscribed: To an unknown God. In fact, the unknown God you revere is the one I proclaim to you. ‘Since the God who made the world and everything in it is himself Lord of heaven and earth, he does not make his home in shrines made by human hands. Nor is he in need of anything, that he should be served by human hands; on the contrary it is he who gives everything – including life and breath – to everyone.” (Acts 17: 22b-25)
LET US PRAY:
Almighty Father, we pray that you will open our hearts and minds to listen to and to live by your Word. May we, your family, experience the joy that you have called us to, and may we always be willing to share that joy and hope with those we meet. We make this our prayer through Our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who live and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever, amen.
As we approach the celebration of the Ascension of the Lord it is beneficial to remind ourselves that the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, is Lord of all creation. “In the beginning was the Word…Through him all things came into being” (Jn 1:1-3) we hear in St John’s Gospel. It is by the Word that the world and all it contains was made. In our humanness and uncertainty of truth, we may sometimes think how much better it would have been if Christ had not ascended into heaven – we may even question why he did so. Would it not be lovely if he were still with us to teach us and guide us – and to put the world right! But we trust his words: It is for your own good that I am going, because unless I go, the Paraclete will not come to you (Jn 16:7). The Ascension is the celebration of the Universal Christ, the Cosmic Christ – he is Lord of all that exists, and no world can hold him. Thus, St Paul said to the “men of Athens” “since the God who made the world and everything in it is himself Lord of heaven and earth, he does not make his home in shrines made by human hands”.
Christ is the Lord of all nations, peoples, languages and countries. He is the Christ of every age. We, who are confined by time and geography cannot possess Christ for ourselves, the cosmos itself cannot contain or confine him. As St Paul says in his letter to the Colossians: “He exists before all things and in him all things hold together, and he is the Head of the Body, that is, the Church. He is the beginning, the first born from the dead, so that he should be supreme in every way” (1:17-18). In celebrating his cosmic nature, we rejoice in our unity – with God and with each other. As St Paul says in today’s first Reading: “since it is in him that we live, and move, and exist, as indeed some of your own writers have said: we are all his children” (Acts 17:28).
Not only does the Ascension celebrate the Lord of the Cosmos, it is also a celebration of hope. Because we know that where he, the Head, has gone so we, the body, shall follow. He descended to earth taking on our humanity, in order that we may rise with him and share in his divine nature. Our true home is with the Lord and that is why we understand ourselves as being the pilgrim people, that this life is a journey which leads us to God. We are transient, on our way to something much greater. We may be in the world, but we are not of the world (cf Jn 17:16). We do not cling to worldly things because we know they pass away – rather we cling to those things that do not pass away.
So as we near this great solemnity of the Ascension we anticipate what it holds out to us and the hope we have. What we anticipate is not foreign to us, because we already experience it here and now, although not perfectly. But we have a foretaste of what life in Christ means, we have a foretaste of the joy of being united with him and the knowledge that all pain and suffering will pass away when “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev 21:4)
During this most difficult time may we celebrate the Ascension in a fitting away, glorifying and praising the God who is supreme, above all and to whom all should bow. May we be filled with hope and anticipation of that day when we shall be fully united with him, knowing that where he has gone we too shall follow. In the meantime, as we journey on our way, let us reach out to each other, giving each other the support and the strength we need, knowing that we are united with them by the One who is above all. The hardships of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to come (Rom 8:18) and so let us not despair nor become discouraged.
LET US PRAY FOR GOD’S BLESSING:
The Lord be with you R/ And with your spirit
Bow down for the blessing:
Father of all that exists, we thank and praise you for your glory and power. We thank you for sending your Son, Jesus Christ, into the world for our salvation, to reconcile us to you so that where the Head has gone, the body will follow. We ask you Lord, that as we continue on this journey, anticipating the day when we shall be fully united with you, that you will be gracious in bestowing your blessing upon us so that we may courageous in the face of adversity, compassionate when we encounter the needs of others and filled with hope as we face the future with confidence. We make this through Our Lord Jesus Christ R/ Amen
May almighty God bless you, The Father, Son and Holy Spirit R/ Amen
Stay in the peace of Christ, and I wish you joy and happiness in celebrating the Ascension of the Lord.