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 28 October 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 all joining this reflection. As the weather become warmer and we enjoy the bright sunshine, it reminds us of how much we need the warmth of God’s light in our lives, to dispel the darkness of anxiety and despair. May his light always shine on you and, through you, may it shine on others. Today we celebrate the Feast of the Apostles, Simon and Jude, who brought that light of salvation to those who did not yet know Christ.

Let us now listen to verse from Scripture, a verse from the First Reading of today’s Mass, found in the Letter of St Paul to the Ephesians (2:19-22):

Brethren, you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone….

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, to enlighten the world you sent us your Word as the sun of truth and justice shining upon mankind. Illumine our eyes that we may discern your glory in the many works of your hand, and so inspire others to seek justice in all things. 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.

We know very little about Saints Simon and Jude. Tradition has it that St Simon preached the Gospel in Egypt and then went to Persia where he met up with St Jude, and that both were martyred there. We do know that Simon was called “the zealot” (Luke 6:15). A zealot is someone who is enthusiastic , has very strong opinions and tries to get others to accept those opinions. There can be a negative connotation, too, that it is a person who is single-minded and fanatical. Those known as zealots among the Jews of the time, were a sect that vigorously opposed the Roman occupation. It is not clear whether Simon belonged to that sect, or if he was just assigned the name of zealot because of his strong opinions and energy. Whichever is true, it is clear that he was a person of great zeal and that his zeal translated into his commitment to proclaim the Gospel and the truth of Jesus Christ.

Many of us know St Jude as being the saint of “hopeless cases” – when all else fails and things seem particularly dismal, we turn to St Jude in prayer, seeking his intercession to get us out of whatever mess or difficulty we are in. We also have the short letter of St Jude in the New Testament, which encourages us to keep ourselves within the love of God (v21). It is interesting that both Saints Simon and Jude are named as being among “the brethren of the Lord” (Matthew 13:55), presumably indicating ties of kinship with the earthly Jesus.

Despite the little historical knowledge we have of these two saints, it is remarkable what we can learn from them. Firstly, we should all be zealots. Unfortunately the term does have a negative sound to it today, especially when used in the context of faith – religious zealots are considered to be fanatical and uncompromising people, seeing only truth in what they believe and dismissing any other view. On the other hand, to be known as a zealot for environmental justice, for care of the earth, is considered to be laudable and inspiring. If we are followers of Jesus, truly trying to conform our lives to his and believing with all our heart the call to love God and to love our neighbour with authentic sacrificial love, then we should certainly be zealous in this. We should embark on this journey of discipleship filled with zeal, energy and enthusiasm, filled with the joy of God’s presence in the world. In this we are meant to be like Simon.

But we can imitate St Jude as well, the saint said to be the one we turn to in a hopeless situation. Surely that very idea captures the essence of Christian salvation. When a child or an adolescent gets into a mess, does his or her parent just stand by and do nothing? I think every loving parent will do their absolute best to try and get their child out of whatever mess he got into, even if the parents are disappointed at his behaviour. Haven’t we all depended on others, at some time or another, to help us get our of situations when we have messed up? To me this is what Christ’s coming into the world means – he came to get humankind out of the mess it was in, the mess of sin, evil and even the mess resulting from the stupidity of human actions. He came to save. It is the task of the Church to help people get to resolve messy life situations they have got into as a consequence of their bad choices. It is not the task of the Church to look from a distance (like the priest and Levite passing the man wounded on the road) and from a detached distance to judge and condemn. Jesus did not come to condemn the world (John 3:17). We are meant to be there for people and to help them find their way out of whatever mistakes they may have made, so they may put things right, and find their way again. We do not abandon them. This is part of what it means to reconcile people to God – we have been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).

I have also mentioned that Saints Simon and Jude were counted among the “brethren of the Lord”. This is exactly the relationship we are called to – to be brethren of the Lord, not united by blood or by DNA, but united to him and to each other through faith, “members of the household of God”, no longer “strangers” or sojourners”, all of us living stones of the building that has Christ as its cornerstone. In short, we belong. We belong to God, we belong to each other, we belong in the Church – weak, human, sinful, stupid at times, but we belong. Who can forget the words of Jesus, when told that his mother and brothers wanted to see him, asked, who is my mother? Who are my brothers?… Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother (Mathew 12:58-50). The Church is our home on earth until we reach the heavenly Church, the heavenly Jerusalem. None of us should make others feel as if they do not belong. And none of us should give up in having the Church as our home simply because we fail God and each other so often. What is important is that we keep trying honestly and sincerely to do the will of the Father.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R./ And also with you

Loving God, we ask you to look kindly upon us and to fill us with a zeal for living and witnessing to the Gospel of love and forgiveness. May we always be willing to reach out compassionately and kindly to others who are in need of our support and solidarity so that, together, we may strengthen each other as we journey on our way towards the heavenly Jerusalem. We make this prayer through Christ Our Lord, amen.

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