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 30 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 to this weekly reflection. Today we celebrate the feast of St Jerome, the great Biblical scholar. St Jerome famously said that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. We give thanks to God for his Word which teaches, guides and inspires us. May we always make a home in our hearts for God’s Word.

In the Gospel of today’s Mass (Luke 9:57-62) we hear of an encounter between Jesus and three different men. This is what happened in the encounter with the first man:

At that time: As Jesus and his disciples were going along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.”

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, you have called us to follow your Son Jesus Christ, and we have responded to your call. Help us, Lord, to understand that we are not called to an easy path and that following your Son always involves self-sacrifice and obedience. Through the intercession of St Jerome, conform us to your Son Jesus, that we may be filled with his grace and compassion and so learn to be merciful, forgiving and generous. 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.

The first of the three men who encountered Jesus is a bit different from the other two, because he does not seem to wait for Jesus to call him to discipleship; he seems to volunteer and take the initiative by saying, I will follow you wherever you go. Jesus called on the other two to follow him, as he did with others on different occasions. All three were cautioned that there was a cost, a price to pay, in following him. 

The first man must have recognized in Jesus something that others had not yet seen; perhaps he recognized that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. In his answer to the man, Jesus refers to himself as the “Son of man”, a term used in the Old Testament, for example in the book of Daniel (7:13) where it refers to “one who is to come” and has a messianic implication. So in a way, Jesus affirms what the man has recognized in him – that he is the Messiah – but also brings him down to earthly reality, the reality of Jesus’ humanity – he is “son of man”, he is flesh and blood like the rest of us. Following Jesus is lived in an earthly reality and does not remove us into a sort of “pie in the sky” heavenly realm. He is cautioning that discipleship involves more than one may expect at first. It involves self-denial, sacrifice and renunciation of “worldly things”. And so Jesus says to the first man, the son of man has nowhere to lay his head, to the second, leave the dead to bury the dead, and to the third, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. Jesus is warning that we should not have false expectations of discipleship, it does not remove us from the hardships and 

realities of human life and, indeed, demands a personal cost, a price to be paid. It is the cost of renouncing a way of life that is not compatible with the Gospel and, in particular, not compatible with the Beatitudes. To follow Jesus will, of necessity, take us out of our comfort zones, those places where we feel safe, protected and insulated. Jesus, the Son man in whom the earthly and the heavenly meet, does not fulfil our preconceived ideas and expectations of who the Messiah is, and what it means to follow him. Jesus frequently had to challenge people about their preconceptions.

The Gospel must always be a challenge to us no matter who we are or whatever our status in life. It must challenge us about our preconceived ideas and our presumptions. It must challenge us about who we think God is and who we try to make him to be. There is often a temptation for humans, we who are made in the image of God, to try and make God into our own image – an image of how we would prefer God to be rather than to learn to know him as he is. The Gospel must challenge us on how we live our faith and how comfortable we so easily become in a routine of external adherence to Jesus’ teaching, rather than an inner acceptance of the Word and allowing that Word the opportunity to transform us. The Gospel must challenge us, too, on how we approach the Eucharist without taking it for granted. In short, it summons us to a deeper and more profound encounter with the mystery of God – God who we have and do experience in our lives, but who always remains beyond our grasp and understanding.

Job captures this most beautifully in the First Reading of today’s Mass when he questions God’s actions but, at the same time, recognizes that it is impossible for him to understand for it is God who does great things beyond understanding, and marvelous things without number. Behold, he passes by me, and I see him not; he moves on, but I do not perceive him. To follow Jesus means that we that we free ourselves from our preconceptions, our comfort zones and our “security blankets”, and embark on this wonderful journey of light, accepting the mystery of God and appreciating how much greater his thoughts are from our thoughts, and his ways from our ways (cf. Isaiah 55:8-9).

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with youAnd with your spirit

Keep your family, we pray, O Lord, in your constant care, so that, under your protection and guiding hand, they may be faithful in good times and in bad times, and that they may always show their dedication to your name by their way of of life and their willingness to follow your Son Jesus. We make this prayer through Our Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

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

I hope and pray, that as more people are able to attend Mass under level 1 of the lockdown we will do so with have a much greater appreciation of the gift of the Eucharist and the grace we receive from the Body and Blood of Christ. So many have hungered to receive Communion over these past months – may we always be grateful and reverent in approaching the Bread of Heaven.

Prayer and Reflection by Bishop Sylvester David OMI

Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 25 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.

Reflection for 25 September 2020. “Time”

We live in a clock-driven world and we ourselves are clock driven. Insofar as this makes us efficient it is fine but if it kills our spirit it is not. Think of the numbers of people who live simply to work. They yearn for quality time but cannot even afford to keep the sabbath. The pace of life has increased. Time means money and that’s the only value many people assign to time. 

The biblical world has three words for time. There is a word for clock time – or a measurement of time such as one hour; another word for a season – or for a specific event; and a third word referring to the end of time. The word that is used predominantly in Ecclesiastes 3 is the word which indicates seasonal time or time tied to an event. Notice that a whole range of events are covered. The logic is that if we are to be fully human, we need a whole range of experiences. Love, pain, joy, and sorrow are all parts of life.

Right now we have a season of the Covid-19 pandemic and understanding that is helpful in that we will be able to make the proper response to the situation. Imagine how difficult it will be if we did not take measures to stop the spread of the virus. This is not a season for doing whatever I want to do under the guise of personal freedom. Freedom is only freedom to do the right thing. My behaviour has to take the event of the pandemic into account. St Paul reminds us that the life and death of each of us has a bearing on others (Romans 14:7). 

Many in the world are angry at those who have ignored the threat and have endangered human life. In South Africa it is illegal not to wear a mask in public spaces and yet when walking in a mall or on the promenade several people carelessly disregard the safety of others. They have not read “the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:3 – where the reference is to seasonal time), or if they have read it, acknowledging it would have interrupted their personal agendas. It is amazing how often scientific information with respect to global warming, the pandemic, etc. is ignored in favour of ideology, personal gain and the so-called personal freedom. The first reading for today assigns a time for every activity, but nowhere does it assign a time for negligence. Let each of us examine our contexts and see what the Spirit is saying to us as Church (cf. Revelations 2:29).

Let us pray: Father of us all, give us the grace to honour the various seasons of our life. Help us to correctly interpret the signs of the times so that our responses might be life giving. We make our prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son who lives with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[Blessing].

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 23 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.

Peace and blessings to you. May this day be a day of closeness to God, as we celebrate the feast of St Padre Pio, St Pio of Pietrelcina. We recall one of his most famous sayings, pray, hope and don’t get upset. Anxiety serves no purpose. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.

Let is begin, as usual, with a verse or two from the Readings of today’s Mass. The First Reading is from the Book of Proverbs (30:5-9), and we hear these words from the prayer of Agur, probably referring to King Solomon:

Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die; Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full, and deny you, and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God.

Let us pray:

Merciful Father, may we always pray to you, as did St Padre Pio, that you will be close to us. Without your love and strength we easily become overwhelmed by the uncertainties, anxieties and disappointments of life. And so Lord, we pray with all our hearts, be close to us to lead, guide and enlighten us, that we may see our way, and come eventually to the fullness of life and light that is only found in you. We make our 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.

In this short, and to the point part of the prayer from the Book of Proverbs, the author pleads with God not to put him in a situation that might cause him to sin. If he has “riches” and more than he needs, he might think himself self-sufficient and not in need of God.  If he is in poverty and does not have enough, he might give in to crime and steal. So, he prays that he will be given just enough in case having too little or too much may cause him to sin.

 At every Mass, and frequently in our private prayers, we pray the words of the Lord’s Prayer,  lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. There is certainly doubt as to whether the Lord would ever lead us into temptation, but certainly we are praying that he does not allow us to fall into temptation. We know that the Lord never allows us to be tempted beyond our capacity to resist. St Paul writes in his First Letter to the Corinthians (10:13), No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. We have the strength to put up with temptation but, in our weakness, we do not always have the will to resist. And so it is right and important that we do pray that we will not fall into temptation, but the prayer itself must be accompanied by action to avoid temptation;  such avoidance is not running away from reality, but rather a wise and prudent decision. And so, we must always be aware of the need to avoid the occasion of sin. One form of an act of contrition commits us to that by ending with the words: I resolve, with the help of your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the occasions of sin.

What does it mean to avoid the occasions of sin? There are two types of occasions of sin – remote and proximate. Remote occasions of sin are those things we encounter, together with other people, that could potentially lead us to sin but while the possibility is there for sin, it is not that likely. We are not obliged to avoid remote occasions of sin and it is probably not possible to do so because we always exposed to such temptations. But the proximate occasions are different. These are the occasions that, if we think about it for a moment, we know that such situations could well lead us to sin against God and neighbour. Most often our experience has taught us what the proximate occasions of sin are for ourselves – and they differ from person to person. So, for example, one person can easily have a few drinks with his buddies and have a pleasant evening. For another, having that drink may lead him to all kinds of bad behaviour, such as violence against one he loves. It is incumbent on every Christian to avoid those occasions that he or she knows may weaken their defenses against sin and where there is an increased likelihood to sin.

To be able to avoid the occasions of sin can only be achieved through prayer, the Sacraments, examination of conscience and vigilance. Through prayer and the Sacraments we are strengthened by God’s grace and so we can follow the advice of St James (4:7):   Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. In all our prayers we commit ourselves to doing God’s will and so commit ourselves to resisting those occasions that can lure us away from God. Examination of conscience enables us to look honestly at ourselves, and to search deep within ourselves, to identify the occasions that play on our particular weaknesses and that are the forerunner to us giving in to sin. Through vigilance we put all this into practice and, before we give in to our weakness, we take ourselves out of the situation before things go any further.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you                                                              And with your spirit

May God, who has given us the saints as an example of Christian life, through the intercession of St Padre Pio, strengthen us to be constant in prayer, and faithful in our service to you, Lord, and to our neighbour. We make this prayer through Christ our Lord, amen.

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

Please use the app

In line with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s request, Archbishop Stephen Brislin has requested all Catholics to download the COVID Alert South Africa app on their smartphones – from the Play Store if you have an Android phone, and Apple’s App Store if you have an iPhone – and to spread this as widely as possible.

Prayer and Reflection by Bishop Sylvester David OMI

Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 18 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.

Reflection for 18 September 2020

An aspect of the liturgy of the word is done silently by the ordained minister reading the Gospel. Those who are not familiar with the Church’s liturgical practice may not realise what is said albeit quietly: “Through the words of the Gospel may our sins be wiped away”. In a recent reflection (two weeks ago) I pointed out that Christ is present in the proclamation – and wherever Christ is, there is the forgiveness of sins. Still, can the mere words of the Gospel bring about the wiping away of sin without any action on my part? Well, listening is not passive. Listening attentively is in fact quite active and quite deliberate and that action of receiving the word with well prepared hearts brings blessings. Remember the teaching of Jesus when he spoke the parable of the sower in Mark 4. The seed that fell into good soil produced much fruit.

Perhaps some biblical background will be helpful. When God speaks the word for “speak” in the Hebrew bible it is always a strong verb. Hebrew verbs show the quality and strength of the action being described. God’s word is always deliberate and always intentional and one of these intentions is that we be converted. Read Ezekiel 18:23 for example. The letter to the Hebrews tells us that God’s word is a two edged sword, living and active (Hebrews 4:12) and Isaiah 55:10-11 tells us that the word will not return to God until its purpose is accomplished.

There is a strong thread in the Bible that shows the power of God’s word but I want to focus on the “wiping away” of sins. This notion comes from the Old Testament. A prime example is Isaiah 25:6-9, which is recommended for funeral liturgies. This reading tells us that God will wipe away our tears. Hebrew words are like a story and need to be unpacked. The word translated “wipe” means more than merely clearing a chalkboard with a duster. It means to remove the stain in such a way that there will be no more evidence that it was there in the first place. It also has another deeper meaning and here we need an analogy from family life to illustrate the point. Suppose a child is scolded and embarrassed and starts to cry. Perhaps s/he was not at fault, was scolded and now feels hurt. After a few minutes the tears subside and the child runs around again. A few minutes later the child lets out a deep sigh – the emotional pain is now gone. That’s how God deals with us when we are hurt. The context of this passage from Isaiah is important. It starts with “On this mountain…” On which mountain? A study of the passage shows that it was the mountain where they suffered severe pain and degradation. The point is that in the very theatre of their misery, God acted to take away their shame and their pain. Yes indeed, the theatre of our misery e.g. the pandemic, an unhappy home or family, an unhappy marriage, a poor work context, the neighbourhood, etc. can actually become the theatre of our redemption – for nothing is impossible to God (Luke 1:37).

Let us pray: Father through the words of the Gospel may our sins be wiped away. Help us to receive  your word as gift each day. We make our prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.

[Blessing].

Bishop Sylvester David OMI
VG: Archdiocese of Cape Town

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.    

Prayer and Reflection by Bishop Sylvester David OMI

Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 11 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.

Reflection for Friday 11 September 2020

In our first reading for today’s Mass Paul speaks about the urgency of preaching the Gospel saying in effect that he would perish if he did not preach it. The word used indicates that he is under compulsion to preach and will be distressed and incomplete if he does not. This sounds like an echo of the prophet Jeremiah who got into trouble whenever he preached and became a laughing stock. He announces that he will not preach again – but with the next breath declares that he cannot not preach the word because it is like a fire burning in his very bones (Jeremiah 20:9).

Fire is an important symbol of Divine presence in the Bible. Moses met God in the burning bush and Elijah was taken up in a chariot of fire. When John the Baptist introduces Jesus in Luke’s gospel he refers to someone coming after him who will baptise “with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3:15-18). Jesus in the same Gospel declares that he came to cast fire upon the earth and he wished that it was blazing already (Luke 12:49). Later on in the Gospel the fire had taken at last – in the hearts of the disciples as they declared: “were not our hearts burning within us?” (Luke 24:32). Luke, in writing the Acts of the Apostles, describes the Holy Spirit as tongues of fire (Acts 2:3).

This symbol of fire is something the Oblate Congregation is used to. St Eugene de Mazenod, like St Paul, said that if he did not preach the Gospel he should perish. When looking at what type of man he wanted for his Congregation he declared that he wanted men who were on fire with love for Christ. Once a formator in the Congregation reported to him that the novices were good men, but lacked fire. They did have some flickering embers. De Mazenod’s response was: “let them burn brightly or get out. We have no use for smouldering wicks”. This notion of fire has been strong with him. Writing to the Oblates he said: “Your destiny is to be apostles, and so tend within your hearts the sacred fire that the Holy Spirit lights there…” (Eugene de Mazenod, Nov 17, 1851).

For those who are not Oblates you probably wonder what the Oblate preoccupation with fire has to do with you. Well on 3 December 1995 when Pope John Paul II canonized St Eugene de Mazenod he became a model not only for the Oblates but for the whole Church. And that being the case, we might well ask: “what type of men, women and children do we need in the Church of today?” The answer is the same – we need men, women and children whose hearts are on fire with love for Christ. Nothing else will matter, and nothing else will empower us to preach the Gospel in word and in deed.

Hint: You might want to check the internet for the hymn “Are not our hearts burning with us” by the liturgical music composer Carey Landry.

Let us pray: God our Father, at our baptism and at other strategic moments of our lives you placed within our hearts the fire that was lit by your own divine spark. Like the Emmaus disciples we too want to feel our hearts burning within us. Give us the grace to fan the flames of faith which you have placed within us so that we can make the most meaningful responses possible in our homes, our families, and our communities. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

[Blessing]