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 29th January 2021, 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.

Mark 4:26-34. The need for dormancy.

In this passage from the teaching section of Mark’s gospel, Jesus gives important lessons on how the kingdom of God works. It is mysterious. The farmer sows the seed and nature works in unseen ways to produce the appropriate fruit. These days using time delay techniques we can observe the shoots and seedlings developing, but the actual mechanics of the development are encoded and hidden inside the seed and with the collaboration of nature the seed sprouts. It will grow in its own time and at its own pace. Those giant redwood trees which the world admires all started with small seeds.

One lesson that we can take from this teaching is the lesson of dormancy. Wayne Muller, in a 1999 book entitled “Sabbath” gives useful information about this and I summarise his observations in this paragraph. Without its dormancy period, the seed will not produce. Unlike what it looks like, dormancy is not being idle. It is respecting its rhythm of life. When adverse conditions arise and plants cannot receive cues from the external environment, they then turn to their inner rhythms to receive directives for growth. Dormancy helps the seed to maximise its capacity and also to cope with climatic extremes. 

Jesus uses this example for his own life, death and resurrection: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains a single grain. But if it falls into the ground and dies, it produces a rich harvest” (John12:24). For the Christian, there is the necessity of dying to the old self so that the new person could arise (cf. Colossians 3:3-4). Just as the seed surrenders itself to the care of nature in order to be fruitful, so too the Christian surrenders him-or-her self to the embrace of the Holy Spirit so as to produce fruit – “fruit that will last” (John 15:16). According to this verse (John 15:16), that is what Jesus commissioned us to do.

Lockdown gives us an opportunity to experience dormancy – but in order to harness its benefits we need to learn to cope with restlessness. That we need “to cope” is an indication that it is not easy. The story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:36-42) is helpful in this regard. When looking at this story we are tempted to identify with either the busy Martha or the dormant Mary. In reality they are meant to represent two parts of each of us – the part that works and the part that prays. The placing of this story is strategic in the Gospel of Luke. It occurs immediately after the parable of the Good Samaritan when we are tempted to go out onto the highways and byways to offer service, but it is as if the Gospel is saying: Hold on – you need your dormancy in order to be fruitful. That is what Jesus says at the end of the Mary and Martha episode: “It is Mary who has chosen the better part, and it is not to be taken from her” (Luke 10:42).

I will skip the story of the mustard seed and go to the last line of the passage. “… he explained everything to his disciples when they were by themselves” (Mark 4:34). This is a repetition of what we were taught earlier on in this chapter (Mark 4:10-12). The wording in the original indicates that “he spoke privately to his own” (Mark4:34). There is a strong element of intimacy in these words. In last week’s reflection I commented on Mark 3:14, that he called the twelve so that they “might be with him” and then be sent out. They would repeatedly come back to him as the source, and tell him what they had done; and he would remind them of the need to be by themselves (Mark 6:30-31). This is the pattern or rhythm of discipleship – work and prayer.

Let us pray: Lord, help us to authenticate our work by constantly returning to your Son who called us to bear fruit. Teach us about the rhythm of life which you have placed inside each of us. Help us to honour these rhythms so that our work may flourish. We ask this through Christ our Lord. 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 27 January 2021, 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.

I wish you peace and blessings as we begin this reflection. No matter what happens in our lives, and whatever we encounter, may the Risen Christ always gives us inner peace and trust in him. In the First Reading of today’s Mass (Hebrews 10:11-18) we hear the writer speaking of Christ’s perfect sacrifice, comparing it with the sacrifices of Old. 

Every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God

Today we shall pray for those suffering from Covid 19. Let us pray:

Merciful God, hear our fervent prayer for all who suffer from the coronavirus. May those who are infected receive the proper treatment and the comfort of your healing presence. May their caregivers, families and neighbours be shielded from the onslaught of the virus. Give solace to those who grieve the loss of loved ones, and grant eternal rest to those who have died. Protect and guide those who strive to find a cure, that their work may conquer the disease and restore communities to wholeness and health. Help us to rise above fear and to face with courage the uncertainty and anxieties of the future. We ask all this through the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes, and in the name of your Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen. (cf. Chausa.org)

One of the most painful aspects of the pandemic, and one which rebels against human nature, is that we have not been able to visit loved ones in hospital even if they are on their death-bed. It is important to us to be with those we love when they are suffering, even if we cannot relieve their suffering and even when we cannot find the words to comfort them. Simply being present, holding a hand, wiping the brow, are important to us and of great solace and comfort to the one who is ill. “No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main”, wrote the poet John Donne. Human beings are connected to each other, inter-dependent, even if we don’t recognize it at times.

During the pandemic we have been prevented from meeting and interacting with people as we would usually do. So many meetings are conducted on such platforms as Zoom which can with ease bring people together even if they are living on different continents. It is convenient, cheap and efficient. But it is not the same as being with people at a physical meeting. We miss out on other cues which help human interaction, body language for example. We miss out on the small talk which enable us to get to know people better and to exchange information informally. Physical presence, ultimately, is essential for human well-being and balance. This is true for our relationship with God, as well. From the earliest times in the Scriptures we read of the principle of presence.

In the Old testament God was present in the Exodus as a flame by night and a cloud by day. Mary, after the Annunciation, travelled a long and arduous journey to be present to Elizabeth. St Paul travelled to many places to personally proclaim the Gospel and frequently longed to visit and be present to Christian communities when he was prevented from doing so. Most importantly and earth shatteringly, God became visibly and physically present in the person of Jesus Christ. These are just some examples. Last week I mentioned that the most important part of prayer is to make ourselves present to God and allow him to be present to us. This is communion with God.

The celebration of the Eucharist, by its very nature, requires our physical presence. In the celebration of Mass we make ourselves physically and spiritually present to God, just as Christ makes himself sacramentally present to us in the form of bread and wine. The Eucharist is both a deeply personal encounter with Christ as well as a communal encounter. He comes to each of us deep within ourselves but also communally as the People of God. Christian writers in the early Church referred to this as the many grains of wheat united in the one Bread. Sadly, we cannot be physically present to God at Mass during this time of pandemic, due to the lockdown and the need to keep people safe. Because of this we use other ways to express our desire and longing to be present at the Eucharist, such as by participating in a live-streamed Mass and by making a spiritual Communion. It is the best we can do at this time but we must remember it is an imperfect situation and should not be regarded as normal. At Mass we make a total offering to God of ourselves – body, spirit and soul. Just think of the offertory hymn we often sing: All that I am, all that I do, All that I’ll ever have, I offer now to you. All that I dream, all that I pray, All that I’ll ever make, I give to you today. We unite our self-offering with Christ’s sacrificial offering on the Cross, our humble and imperfect offering united the perfect and sinless offering which is pleasing to the Father. We should never see Mass as simply receiving Communion – the whole of the Mass is a great liturgical movement of praise, thanksgiving, petition and intercession. It is participation in the memory, the living memory, of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection, which not only recalls the history of those events, but includes us in their continuing reality of Jesus’ self-giving for the salvation of the world. We can – and must – at this time watch and pray with a live-streamed Mass. We know that this is the best we can do at this time but we hunger and thirst for that time when we can – with our brothers and sisters – meet at the altar of the Lord and make ourselves physically present to God in the Celebration of the Eucharist. Let us pray deeply within our hearts that the day that can happen will not be delayed. 

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R/ And with your spirit

Merciful Father, splendour of the Church and crown of all saints, give to your people that firm faith which begets wisdom and nourish them with a love and desire for the heavenly bread until we can once again be re-united around your table of Eucharist. Through Christ our Lord, amen. And may Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

Ministries Morning of Formation and Reflection

The annual Ministries Morning of Formation and Reflection was held via Zoom at 09.30 on Saturday 23 January 2021 and livestreamed to the Centre for Pastoral Development Facebook page. For those who missed it, here is a video link to the morning’s presentation on Facebook: https://fb.watch/3fxD6P2vBO/

We include below the text of Archbishop Stephen Brislin’s welcome, opening prayer and introductory remarks on Ministry – as well as that of the keynote speaker and Episcopal Vicar for Pastoral Development, Fr Zane Godwin, which present some beautiful teachings on the Eucharist (which, of course, is particularly relevant during this year of the Eucharist).

Both documents are highly recommended to all.

WELCOME, OPENING PRAYER AND INTRODUCTORY REMARKS BY ARCHBISHOP BRISLIN

MINISTRIES MORNING OF FORMATION AND REFLECTION: 23 JANUARY 2021

Thank you to all of you for joining this “Ministries morning of formation and reflection”. Despite the many hardships and obstacles of this present time, we persevere in the tasks that have been entrusted to us and we continue to try and find new ways to reach out to people and to continue to proclaim the Gospel and to give pastoral solace and care. We recall the words of St Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians (4:1) Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. We are not among those who lose heart, give up or abandon what we are meant to be doing. In the words from the Book of Hebrews (10:39), But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ, and so even as we live in the insecurity of these times, as we are anxious about those we know who are infected with the virus, anxious about the future, our jobs, our livelihoods, or we mourn the loss of a loved one, we look to the future with the confidence that arises from our hope in Christ’s victory over sin, evil and death. So, once again, welcome and thank you for joining this reflection on ministry. 

Let us now open with a prayer, and I will use a prayer for those who are suffering from the Corona Virus:

You shall not fear the terror of the night
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that roams in darkness,
nor the plague that ravages at noon.
Ps 91:5-6

Merciful God, hear our fervent prayer for all who suffer from the coronavirus.
May those who are infected receive the proper treatment
and the comfort of your healing presence.
May their caregivers, families and neighbors be shielded
from the onslaught of the virus.
Give solace to those who grieve the loss of loved ones, 
and grant eternal rest to those who have died. 

Protect and guide those who strive to find a cure,
that their work may conquer the disease and restore communities to wholeness and health.
Help us to rise above fear and to face with courage the uncertainty and anxieties of the future. 
We ask all this through the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes,
and in the name of your Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. 
Amen. (Chausa.org)

Ministries is a broad term which we use in everyday language and within the Church. It is often translated as “service”, which it certainly is, but is much deeper than the simple understanding of service. In can be used in various contexts and has the underlying implication of “sacrifice”, of putting the needs of others first and foremost in one’s mind. We know that the foundational vocation of a Christian is found in baptism, when we are dedicated to Christ and give ourselves over to him, belonging to him and no longer our own property. In baptism we are called to follow Christ who came to serve and not to be served (Matthew 20:28) and who taught us in his preaching and by his example that whoever will be first among you must be the slave of all (Luke 22:26). Thus, ministry, which we so often associate with liturgical ministry or ministry in the Church, is, in fact, meant to be part and parcel of our Christian living in all aspects of our lives. Especially in our families, we are meant to, and do, minister to each other: husband to wife, wife to husband, parents to children, children to parents, each according to their status and their role.

In society we are meant to minister to others. Our secular work is not meant to merely be a source of income but is our contribution to society, a way of serving people, working together in harmony with others who have their roles, in ensuring that the world is an organized and liveable place. But it goes beyond our secular jobs. We have been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation, as St Paul says, And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:19-20). Our task is to break down the barriers and walls between people, to resolve conflicts, to promote unity, justice and peace, to enhance understanding, tolerance and acceptance. This is part of Christian ministry, of the service we offer to society and to the world.

We also speak about prophetic ministry, of reading the “signs of the times”, of challenging prevailing culture that is not in harmony with Gospel values, of challenging those who abuse others for their own purpose and see others as commodities, to uphold the dignity of the poor, infirm, elderly, the challenged. It is about calling people back to the love of God, to accept his love and to learn to love him in return. To give people hope with the words of the prophet, as by your will you first strayed away from God, so now turn back and search for him ten times as hard; (Baruch 4:28), and so witness to the values of God’s Kingdom

And then there is ministry that we are more accustomed to talk about in our context, liturgical ministries and other Church ministries. We speak of the ordained ministries – that of bishop, priest and deacon, and the non-ordained ministries such as Proclaimers of the Word, Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, ushers, choirs, altar servers, liturgical dancers and so on. There is ministry to young people, catechetics, to particular groups such as refugees. In short, there is a great variety of ministries and gifts, all meant to work in harmony for the building up of God’s Kingdom. We are privileged – and it is a privilege – to have the opportunity to participate in the ministries of the Church, because they are life-giving, filled with hope giving those we serve purpose, strength and courage. But it is important to reflect on what is necessary to worthily exercise ministry and I would like to mention some important pointers.

  • Firstly, our motivation must arise from our relationship with God. St Paul says in his Second letter to the Corinthians (5:14), For Christ’s love compels us. This is most basic and essential motivation for ministry – we are not motivated by a desire for status or dominance, it is Christ love that compels us to offer what we have and the gifts we have been given in the service of others.
  • Our ministry in Church must be rooted in our baptismal vocation, our commitment to be disciples of Jesus and our understanding and practice of faith in our families and in society. There must not be a dichotomy between what we do in Church and how we express and witness to Christ in our everyday life. We need to appreciate that we are ministers in our families, and in our role in society, as well as the Church.
  • Ministry must always have, at its end goal, to witness and proclaim Christ – in the words of St John the Baptist, He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30).
  • While we are ministers as individuals, and each individual has been blessed with particular gifts, ministry is not individualistic. It is communal, at the service of the community and in harmony with the ministries and gifts of others. This demands respect for the ministry of others, respecting boundaries, not domineering (1 Peter 3:15), rejoicing in the gifts of others without envy or obstruction.
  • A worthy practice of ministry requires nurturing our spiritual life. A lively, consistent and disciplined prayer life is essential, for this is our communion with God, the openness to his grace and life within us. It is only by grace and his power that we can exercise ministry in a way that leads people to God. It is not simply a matter of going through the motions, of doing things ritualistically properly. It is our communion with God that gives depth and authenticity to what we do.
  • Our belief in and appreciation of the Eucharist as Christ’s sacrificial gift, his passion, death, resurrection and ascension is both the perfect example of generous, sacrificial ministry, as well as the source our ministry. In short, we must learn to love the Eucharist more and more. In the Eucharist we, as the priestly people, offer and celebrate Christ’s perfect sacrifice and join our own self-offering to his. St Paul says in his letter to the Romans (12:1-2), Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. The Eucharist is indeed the source and summit of Christian life. It enables us to joyfully offer service to God and others, it fills us with hope in the abiding presence of God, it gives meaning to life even in the midst of great suffering, and it fills us with the love and strength to persevere in all circumstances.

Thank you once again.

FOUNDATIONS FOR MINISTRY PRESENTATION on 23 January 2021 by Fr Zane Godwin

Firstly, thank you to all of you who are joining us this morning via Zoom or Facebook Live. Your presence is an act of faith in these challenging times.

The tradition has been that at the beginning of each year, this meeting would gather all those involved in ministries in their home parish for a morning of discussion, prayer and teaching, culminating in a commissioning for ministry in home parishes for the coming year. This year not only does the meeting have to be virtual, but parish churches are closed for public worship and ministries are essentially dormant. Taking this into account, it would be reasonable to ask about the purpose of this meeting.

Purpose of this meeting

The short answer is that we look forward in hope to the reopening of our parish churches in the near future, and when that happens those who exercise ministry in the Church will be needed even more, to rebuild, to start again. Your presence today is a sign of hope of better times, and a sign of your love for the Church.

Year of the Eucharist – relationship between ministry and Eucharist

This year we celebrate the Year of the Eucharist, and this theme will be incorporated into all our celebrations. Today, as a broad theme, we will consider the relationship between our ministries and the Eucharist.

Acknowledgement of the situation for the past 10 months

But first, we have to take into account the situation over the past 10 months and the likely scenario for a few months to come. It would be naïve to understate the impact the lockdown and the pandemic has had on parish life. This time last year we could not have imagined that churches would be closed, that gathering for the Eucharist and the other sacraments would be rare, and in some cases and for some of the time, not at all.

We have to acknowledge the suffering and loss that this pandemic has caused. So many have died suddenly, leaving shocked and grieving families; so many have lost their jobs and cannot buy food and pay rent and school fees. Let’s not overlook that the Church has to a large extent responded in concrete ways to these needs.

This is appropriate because the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World says, “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.” (GS 1) The Third Eucharistic Prayer for Various Needs, prays that we as Church may look into the signs of the times by the light of faith, and constantly devote ourselves to the service of the Gospel. Certainly, we are called to look into this time of pandemic with the light of faith, and be especially attentive to the needs of others, sharing their grief and pain, their joy and hope.

In these last months, priests and laity will have had flashbacks to previous years, of packed churches for the Triduum and Christmas Masses, of pews bustling with families for Sunday Mass, and catechism classes and parish activities. How stark the contrast has been since Easter last year! How strange that this time will be remembered for livestreamed Masses, a term that would have been foreign and incomprehensible 10 months ago.

For many it has felt that the Church and all of us have been paralysed in the face of the challenge of the lockdown. I mean paralysis in the sense of hanging in there and just waiting for better times. 

Perhaps it could be said that rather we should have been, and should be, asking what are the opportunities that this time has offered and continues to offer us. There is no doubt, that this time, as difficult as it is, and perhaps because it has so much to teach us, is a school. So, what are the lessons that are being taught by the coronavirus school? 

Lessons of the coronavirus school

Perhaps some of the most important things we have learned are the importance of the sacramental life of the Church, public worship, and the community life of the Church, which is so essential to our nature as Church.

Perhaps, it could be said that for many, this enforced retreat and isolation, has presented opportunities to read, to study, to pray, to deepen an understanding of the faith. I’m sure that this would have taken place to a certain limited degree.

On a more critical note, we may have realised that for many Catholics, the Sunday Mass may have been the only source of religious formation and practice, and with that removed, they were not prepared or disciplined enough to nourish their spiritual lives using material online and in print, or at least they haven’t persevered in this through the long months of lockdown.

Over the past decades the Church has emphasised that the family is the domestic Church. The family is an evangelising and praying unit which is basic to Church in the broader sense of the word. We have preached about it over and over again. To what extent can it be said that the lockdown has been an opportunity to enter more deeply into this reality, or should we just be blatantly honest and admit that for the most part this just has not happened, or at least it has not persevered? I wonder if this pandemic has not shown us that in the face of secularism, this is an ideal that is largely not being realised.

Related to this, I think we should be asking what has happened to the youth. I think it is reasonable to assume, and anecdotal evidence suggests that they have gone missing. What have we been trying to do concerning the youth and their faith formation in the past, which will simply not work going forward?

In many ways it could be said that the pandemic has not caused the difficulties and weaknesses in the Church; it has merely unmasked them. If we just try to respond to the pandemic, I think we will miss the boat. We need to go deeper to the root of who we are meant to be as Church and how we are meant to be Church. This crisis is presenting opportunities to us that perhaps we are just not seeing yet.

You, as those who serve in the ministries in your parishes, are the needed leaders to rebuild the Church. In this time before we are able to open up our parish churches again, we need to start thinking about what the Church will look like post-Covid and what we should be working towards. 

The phrase that has been repeated over and over again during this lockdown is “the new normal.” It suggests that things will never be the same again, and while in some kind of nostalgic sense that might seem sad, there is a realism in it and we should be looking forwards rather than reminiscing over how things were in the past.

Questions that we should be asking and seeking answers together for, are: What should we try to get going again, resurrect and renew? What should be left untouched because it would not be worth reviving? What wasn’t working anyway, and we need to be creative in finding new ways to do? 

This thinking applies to teaching catechism and RCIA. Perhaps it will mean new ways of expressing faith in small Christian communities. Perhaps it will mean re-formation of families as communities of prayer and faith. Given this Year of the Eucharist and the connection of ministries to the Eucharist, we need to ask what role the Eucharist can and should play in the post-Covid Church.

Let’s turn then to that theme, the topic of the Church, the Eucharist and Ministry.

The Church, the Eucharist and Ministry

Firstly, to remind us all that the Eucharist is the great prayer of thanksgiving, what we popularly call, the Mass, in which the bread and wine on the altar really and truly become the body and blood of Christ. Because Christ is really and truly present under the appearance of bread and wine, the Eucharist is a source of sanctifying grace, that is, a sacrament.

Henri de Lubac, the French Jesuit whose writings played a key role in shaping the Second Vatican Council, revived an ancient understanding of the Church in terms of the Eucharist. We see this profoundly expressed in the double principle that he used, that the Church makes the Eucharist, and the Eucharist makes the Church.1 In other words, while we, as Church produce the Eucharist, through our ministries, our ritual, and our prayer, at the same time, the Eucharist is constituting the Church. While we celebrate the Eucharist, the Eucharist is making us into Church.

So, the Eucharist and the Church which celebrates it, are intimately connected. The Eucharist is basic to the very nature and existence of the Church. Not only would there be no Eucharist without the Church to celebrate it, but correspondingly, there would be no Church without the celebration of the Eucharist. The Eucharist and the Church mutually cause each other.

De Lubac beautifully described the intimate relationship between the Eucharist and the Church in his book, The Splendour of the Church. He writes of the relationship between the Church and the Eucharist, standing as cause to each other, and that each is entrusted to the other by Christ.2 In the same book, he calls the Eucharist, ‘The Heart of the Church.’3

This eucharistic way of understanding the Church, and associated with it, an ecclesiology of communion, was the predominant way of understanding the Church in the early centuries. An ecclesiology of communion emphasises the importance of the community of the faithful gathered together to celebrate the Eucharist. With the help of de Lubac and others, the Second Vatican Council returned to this understanding of the relationship between the Eucharist and the Church.

We see this in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, which declares that the [the Eucharist] is “the summit towards which all the Church’s activity is directed, and the source from which all her power flows”.4 Similarly, Lumen Gentium describes the Eucharistic sacrifice as “the source and summit of the whole Christian life”.5 We see that the Council was making it clear that not only is the relationship of the Church to the Eucharist fundamental, in the sense of being intimate, but it is also an essential and dependent relationship. 

How does the Eucharist make the Church?

How can it be said that the Eucharist makes the Church? Well, the Eucharist makes the Church in and through the fundamental relationships that are created and nourished in its celebration. The Eucharist unites us, not only with Christ, but also with each other, and in this way it turns us into the Church. 

Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, made this clear in saying that, in the Eucharist, Christ, present in the bread and the wine, builds the Church as his body, and through his resurrected body, unites us to God and to one another.6

This means that through the Eucharist, a communion between God and human beings, and human beings among themselves, is made sacramentally present. This unity which is made present, is the Church.

This Eucharistic unity is seen in St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, where he writes, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (10:16-17) So, we can say that it is not for nothing that, from apostolic times, the Eucharist and the Church have both been called the “Body of Christ”. 

De Lubac referred continually to the Fathers of the Early Church, and specially to St Augustine, to point out this incorporation into the Church through the celebration of the Eucharist. Commenting on St Augustine’s writing in which he has Jesus say to him, “You will not change me into you, but you will be changed into me”,7 De Lubac says that while it appears that we receive Christ in the Eucharist, more profoundly, it is Christ who receives us, and transforms us into his Body, the Church. To receive the body of Christ in the Eucharist, is to be received by him into his body which is the Church.8

Lumen Gentium, quotes a similar text from St Leo the Great. St Leo says that “the partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ does nothing other than make us be transformed into that which we consume.” In other words, we receive the Body of Christ, the Eucharist, and we become the Body of the Christ, the Church. (LG 26)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in the section on the Eucharist, called “The unity of the Mystical Body: the Eucharist makes the Church”, says the same thing: Those who receive the Eucharist are united more closely to Christ, and through the Eucharist, Christ unites them to all the faithful in one body, the Church. (CCC 1396)

The Catechism goes on to say that communion in the Eucharist renews, strengthens, and deepens our incorporation into the Church, which is already achieved by Baptism. The call of Baptism to form one body is fulfilled in the Eucharist. (CCC 1396) There is a powerful hint there of the unity of the sacraments of initiation – Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation.

The Church makes the Eucharist

Let’s consider briefly in what sense the Church makes the Eucharist, which is the other important dimension to the Eucharist-Church relationship. This is, of course, where you, as people engaged in ministry in the Church, come in. De Lubac, and more especially Cardinal Ratzinger, teach that the ordained priesthood and all ministry in the Church, is at the service of the Eucharist.

So, consider, whatever ministry you engage in at your parish is oriented to, and at the service of the Eucharist, either directly or indirectly. There are ministries that are more directly tied to the actual celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, but no less important are the ministries that prepare for and make the celebration of the Eucharist possible, such as catechism, RCIA, baptism preparation, pre-marriage instruction, youth ministry, and others.

When we as the community of faith gather, in obedience to the command of Jesus who said, “Do this in memory of me,” and we exercise our ministerial gifts in service of the Eucharist, we are made into that which we receive, the Body of Christ.

Conclusion

In closing, consider the responsibility and role you have as ministers in the Church, for the Eucharist, and the potential and power of the Eucharist to rebuild and renew the Church, in this challenging time. Use this time of lockdown as a time of getting ready, discerning, being formed for mission.

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Questions for Discussion

  • What are the opportunities that this time of pandemic has offered and continues to offer us, as Church?
  • What practices should we try to get going again, resurrect and renew? 
  • How can the celebration of the Eucharist rebuild the Church post lockdown and what role do you see yourself as playing in this?

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References

DE LUBAC, H., The Splendour of the Church, Sheed and Ward, London 1956.

McPARTLAN, P., “Eucharist and Church: The Contribution of Henri de Lubac”, The Month 21 (1988), 847-859.

RATZINGER, J., “L’ecclesiologia della Costituzione “Lumen Gentium”“, L’Osservatore Romano, 4 March 2000, Italian edition.

1H. DE LUBAC, The Splendour of the Church, 92. Most often this double principle is rendered as ‘The Church makes the Eucharist, and the Eucharist makes the Church’.

2H. DE LUBAC, The Splendour of the Church, 92. This edition is a translation of the original French edition entitled, Méditation sur l’Eglise which was published in 1953.

3H. DE LUBAC, The Splendour of the Church, 87-113.

4Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 10.

5Lumen Gentium, 11.

6J. RATZINGER, “L’ecclesiologia della Costituzione “Lumen Gentium””, 6d.

7ST AUGUSTINE, Confessions, 7, 10, 16 (PL 32, 743).

8P. McPARTLAN, “Eucharist and Church: the Contribution of Henri de Lubac”, 849.

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 22nd January 2021, 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 22 January 2021. Text of Mark 3:13-19

I want to start by explaining a few aspects of the text. Jesus had already called these men to be his followers and now from the many who followed him, he constitutes the Twelve into the original apostolic community. The original text simply states that he “made the Twelve” meaning that he deliberately constituted this community and called the members “Apostles” – a word which means “sent”. They are called for two purposes viz. to be with Jesus, and to be sent out to proclaim the Gospel. It is interesting that this event should take place on a mountain – the traditional place of communion with God. This indicates that the call and response dialogue in the Bible comes out of a communion with God and is a deliberate action of Christ. Israel comprised twelve tribes and now the new Israel will be embodied in the Twelve. 

Looking at this group one has to admit that they look a lot like us. They came from different walks of life and from different places. It was, in a word, a non intentional community. They were summoned to be together by Christ. Mark 3:14 indicates a clear purpose in their being called together. This purpose was “to be with him” and also to be sent out to proclaim with authority which he gave them. Later on during his trial one of the ladies around the fire where Peter took refuge would recognise that Peter had “been with Jesus” (Mark 14:66f). Those who spend time with Jesus carry an unmistakeable recognition – even when falling away as happened to Peter.

It is interesting that these Apostles had no distinguishing marks. In so many ways they resemble us. Their family portraits would be just like our family portraits. It is significant that had this group been together in any other place i.e. apart from Jesus, Simon the Zealot (in our passage referred to as Simon the Canaanite) would have plunged a dagger into the heart of Matthew and would have considered it an honour to do so. The Zealots were hell-bent on overcoming the Roman occupation of their land and Matthew, being a tax collector would have been seen as a collaborator with the foreign occupiers. But now with the constitution of the Apostolic community even traditional enemies begin to embrace each other. This is what being with Jesus is all about. It brings people together and dismisses false notions of partisan absolutes. This text can teach us a lot because like to original apostolic community we too find ourselves responding to the high calling of the baptised, and at times falling away from Jesus. That Jesus continued to believe in them indicates that we ought to take courage and that we should never give up on Christ, as he will never give up on us. Do not be afraid of our brokenness and of the incompleteness we experience in our families and homes. Christ will never abandon us. In a reflection a few months ago I included some lines from Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem” (2008). Let me repeat those lines here: “ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in”.

Judas is mentioned in the last verse (v 19) of the passage and mentioned alone as the one who will “hand him over”, give him up, or betray him. In verse 14 of the passage he was called to “be with” Jesus. But in the last verse he is the one who would be against Jesus. Later Jesus would teach us that anyone who is not with him is against him (Matthew 12:30). 

It is interesting that the first three to be called had their names changed. Whenever this happens it signifies that the person is set aside for a special mission. These were the ones that witnessed him heal Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:30), raise the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:37), being transfigured on the mountain (Mark 9:2-8), and agonising in the garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33). What could be the role he has for each of us? Many of us have had our names changed – some when they made vows and others when they were baptised or confirmed.

Let us pray: Father, help us to realise that we are called not through our own merits but because you love us and see possibilities for us. Help us to respond to your call with courage and conviction. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. [Blessing].

Bishops’ Lenten Appeal 2021

Attached please find the Bishops’ Lenten Appeal newsletter and report for 2020, as well as guidelines for donating to the Appeal for 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic. This year, Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of the Lenten fast, falls on 17 February 2021

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 20 January 2021, 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.

Blessings on you and welcome to this reflection. In yesterday’s and today’s Gospel we hear about the actions of Jesus which outraged the Pharisees. In yesterday’s Gospel they were angered because Jesus’ disciples had picked ears of grain on the Sabbath and this was considered work. On that occasion Jesus summed up his teaching by saying, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath and so the Son of man is lord even of the Sabbath. In today’s Gospel (Mark 3:1-6) Jesus was in the synagogue and healed a man with a withered hand. It was the Sabbath. This is what we hear: 

And he said to the man with the withered hand “Come here”. And he said to them “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart.

Let us pray:

Loving and compassionate Father, we humbly pray, that you will give us courage when things go wrong. Strengthen us with faith in you, with hope in your promises and with love of your will. We make this prayer through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever, amen. 

The third of the ten commandments instructs us to keep the Sabbath holy – that for six days we are to work but on the seventh day we are to rest and dedicate the day to God. Of course, the early Christians changed the day we celebrate the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first day of the week. This is the first day of creation, the day of Christ’s Resurrection, the day of Pentecost when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church. It was also considered to be the eighth day of the week by many early Christian writers – a day that does not exist in our present earthly reality but is the anticipation of our entry into heavenly eternity. And so, in fidelity to the third commandment, we keep the Sabbath holy and we know it as the Day of the Lord. The question I wish to pose to you today is simply this: “How well have you done in keeping the Sabbath holy since the lockdown began in March last year?”  While all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Cape Town, as with many other places in the world, were freed from their obligation to attend Sunday Mass, it is beyond the competence of the Church to free anyone from keeping the Sabbath holy. I am sure that you will remember that in our communications with you we suggested that you keep the Sabbath holy by having a table covered with a white cloth, a candle, a crucifix, and to dress respectfully while participating in a live-streamed Mass. Prayers were given for making a spiritual communion as well as other prayers to assist people to celebrate the Lord’s Day. Have you managed to persevere in doing this and have you managed to persevere in prayer during these difficult days?

Ultimately, prayer is communion with God. It is creating the space, time and openness to allow God to be present to us while, at the same time, allowing ourselves to be present to God. There are many aspects to prayer – praise, repentance, thanksgiving, intercession and petition, and there are many ways to pray – aloud, in silence, alone, with others, sacramental prayer, prayers of the heart, and so on. An essential aspect of prayer is that it must include listening. It is not our monologue with God, but is both our spoken words to him and opening ourselves, in silence and stillness of heart for him to speak his quiet mysterious word to us. The Sabbath is given to us as that special day of acknowledging and celebrating our communion with God, our relationship of love with him. But the profound teaching of Jesus of yesterday’s and today’s Gospel reminds us that we cannot desire and have communion with God, unless we desire and have communion with our neighbour. Jesus’ actions convey to us that keeping the Sabbath holy is God’s commandment but it does not mean that we can ignore the needs of our neighbours. In fact, our communion with God is irrevocably linked with our compassionate and loving response to the needs of others.  And how can we say that we love our neighbour, or that we are in communion with our neighbour, if we are hard of heart and fail to alleviate the burdens of others when it is in our power to do so. In the words of St James, How does it help, my brothers, when someone who has never done a single good act claims to have faith? Will that bring salvation? If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, “I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty”, without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that?” (James 2:14-16).

Maintaining a prayer life takes both discipline and commitment. We have to keep praying even when we don’t feel like it, or we feel dry inside. It is both very personal and, at the same time, communal. It is the expression of my relationship with God, my union with him, but even if I am praying by myself, it is communal prayer because I am praying as a member of the Church, of Christ’s Body. When we pray we pray in the name of the Church and for the Church. For our prayer to be true and sincere, it must always contain our desire to remain united with the Head of the Body, Jesus, and to be united with the members of the Body through sincere love and kindness.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you                                                                          R/ And with your spirit

Let the splendour of the Resurrection lighten up the hearts and minds of your faithful, Lord, scattering the shadows of fear and death, and bringing to the radiance of eternity your people.  Through Christ our Lord, amen.  And may Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

Correspondence from our Bishops

Please see the attached correspondence from the office of Archbishop Stephen Brislin and Bishop Sylvester David OMI regarding:

  1. The most recent Clergy transfers and appointments
  2. The appointment of a Diaconate Board
  3. A second directive for Lockdown Level 3 by our Bishops
  4. Directives for Lockdown Level 3 issued on 29 December 2020, for reference purposes.
  5. A response to Questions of Ethics around the Covid-19 Vaccine by Br Nhlanhla Mhlanga OMI, lecturer in Moral Theology at St Joseph’s Theological Institute, Cedara.

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 15th January 2021, 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 15th January 2021. A transition into ordinary time

Last Sunday evening the Christmas season drew to a close and we once again entered into ordinary time. Green is the predominant liturgical colour. We do not leave the Christmas season behind but carry its values and the blessings we received into the next season and in order to make the transition as fruitful as we possibly can, we need to see what lessons we can take from the rather muted Christmas celebrations of 2020.

Those who monitor human development tell us that every stage of development is characterized by crisis. Furthermore we are told that crisis connotes two aspects viz. danger and opportunity. If I only see the danger I will miss the opportunities and if I only see the opportunities I will place myself at risk. What is needed is balance and a sober look at the situation. Being muted and in the context of a crisis with so much threat to life around us, we had to look deeply in order to see the opportunity. For me, several opportunities arose. Firstly there was more time for reflection. There was a greater awareness that we are dependent on God. We are also dependent on each other calling forth from each other the responsibility for social distancing, sanitizing and the wearing of face masks. For families there was the possibility of locating the body of Christ in the home. There are four levels of Church and the body of Christ in the home is the essential building block for other levels.

We also nurtured in us a longing for the sacraments and for community worship as we knew it. This longing is a viable stage in Christian spirituality. St Catherine of Sienna reminds us that we have been created to desire God. We gave up the privilege of worshipping with others and receiving the sacraments in order to promote the wellbeing of ourselves and of others. In the urban centres of the world many have grown accustomed to daily Mass – but in the rural mission territories, some have Mass once every six weeks. I worked in such a place and have encountered great faith in the areas around Estcourt and Wembezi in KwaZulu-Natal. I have been fortunate to celebrate Mass in great Basilicas. These were wonderful experiences especially in Rome and above the tomb of St Eugene de Mazenod in Marseille. But celebrating Mass in a make-shift church surrounded by shacks was also uplifting as I witnessed the Body of Christ come alive not only ON the make shift altar but also AROUND that altar where the faithful gathered. St Paul reminds us that we are the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27) and those communities of the poor and dispossessed testified to that. They longed for the sacrament and rejoiced when they could celebrate and receive the Eucharist. The longing created an expectation and a scared space within each heart. This is what the Christian virtue of hope is all about. We cannot hope for something we already have.

Something else that has crept in imperceptibly is a more reflective attitude. This was a particular grace during the quiet season of Christmas. Our rituals are not automatic gestures. They invite us to participate in the mysteries we celebrate. These rituals show us the meaning of worship – especially that it has to be different from other routine aspects of life. In worship we enter into sacred space. Like Moses we have to take off the shoes of routine and mundane existence (Exodus 3:5 and cited in Acts 7:33) because our worship places us on holy ground. We have to maintain the attitude of worship being special and cut off from the ordinary. It is only when our worship is genuine that we can meaningfully cope with what is routine and mundane. To the extent that I have a deep encounter with the Lord, I will be able to have a meaningful dialogue with the world.

I wish you a meaningful transition into the new liturgical season.

Prayer: Lord of times and seasons – we give you grateful thanks for the many opportunities you give us to discover your love and to grow in it. We thank you for Christmas season which we have recently celebrated. Thank you for the wonder of the Word made flesh. May we who have celebrated Christmas take its values into our daily lives and make your love known to all with whom we interact, and in that way allow your word to be seen in our human flesh. We ask this 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 13 January 2021, 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.

In the liturgical cycle of the Church we are now in “Ordinary time”, subsequent to the Season of Christmas which ended with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord last Sunday. Ordinary time is divided into two – the first part continues to Lent, and the second part begins after the 8 weeks of the Easter Season and will continue until we once again enter into Advent. Ordinary time is characterized by the wearing of green vestments and the focus is on the daily teachings of Jesus, his parables, miracles and interactions with different people. Welcome to today’s reflection. 

Today’s reading at Mass is from the Letter to the Hebrews (2:14-18). It begins with these words:

Since the children share in flesh and blood, Jesus himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power over death, that is, the devil.

Let us pray:

God our Father, by your Word you created the world and you govern all things in harmony. Grant us the grace and wisdom to always love and respect what you have created and never disrupt the harmony with which you have blessed your creation. We make this prayer through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever, amen.

Things can change so quickly in the world. Many of us can remember our childhood and how different it is to the world of today. For one thing, consumer products were far more restricted, for example – unlike today when you can buy virtually any fruit at any time of the year – fruit was seasonal. You ate oranges in winter and apples in summer. Globalization has brought about immense change in our lives. In the “old days”, for many people, money was in much shorter supply than today. Parents struggled to raise their children and could not afford to waste. Sadly, millions of people in our country still struggle to survive, often not having sufficient of even the basics to keep them alive. Even though we are aware of this, we have entered into an era of human reality characterized by consumerism and waste. It is what Pope Francis calls a “throw-away” society. It is tragic enough that we are prepared to waste and discard material goods, especially food, but the mentality of discarding what we see as no longer of any use has also extended to attitudes towards people. The elderly, in the eyes of some, become a nuisance and drain on society because they are no longer economically productive and need expensive medical care. Similarly those born with mental and physical challenges are perceived to be of no use and unable to contribute to society and, indeed, are seen to be a burden on those who are productive – they should be aborted. Such attitudes extend to the poor and powerless.

And so, while we are deeply aware of the fact, and of Christian teaching, that we all share in the same flesh and blood, and that Jesus took on the same nature as we have, we stop short of seeing and accepting what the implications are for society and the society which we necessarily must work for. Christ came proclaiming the Kingdom of God, in fulfilment of the Prophecy of Isaiah and the vision of St John as recorded in the Book of Revelation, to establish new heavens and new earth. It is for this that we strive together, with the Head of the Body Jesus, through constant renewal and fidelity to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Gospel. The renewal that is required should not be interpreted as a merely spiritual, internal renewal of ourselves, although that is always the staring point. Spiritual renewal must always find concrete expression in “renewing the face of the earth”. The pandemic has brought home to us how urgent this renewal is – as I spoke on in my reflection last week. It must include counteracting the unsavoury causes of ongoing poverty and the exclusion of millions from opportunity in life. The renewal we seek must be an abandonment of the rampant consumerism, waste and hyper-individualism that so characterizes our society today. Likewise, in the past few years we have seen the cancerous growth of monopolies in different fields, but particularly in the economic field and that of social media, where monopolistic control has passed into the hands of a few with little accountability. The Covid 19 pandemic must bring home the truth that all these human constructs, such as the economy, are meant to be in the service of human beings, rather than becoming an end in themselves and, worse, becoming a new type of control and enslavement. Towards the end of last year, Pope Francis made an impassioned plea for all to understand that these human constructs need an ethical and moral foundation in order to serve integral human development and that they promote a more just and humane society. In essence, it is the continued struggle we face as human beings, between selfishness and concern for others – even if it is the most simple of things, like wearing a mask! I will end with a quote that is attributed to Pope Francis:

Rivers do not drink their own water; 
trees do not eat their own fruit; 
the sun does not shine on itself and flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves. Living for others is a rule of nature. We are born to help each other. 
No matter how difficult it is. 
Life is good when you are happy but much better when others are happy because of you. 
Let us remember that pain is a sign that we are alive, problems are a sign that we are strong and prayer is a sign that we are not alone. If we can acknowledge these truths and 
condition our hearts and minds, our lives will be more meaningful, different and worthwhile.”

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R/ And with your spirit

Loving Father, you gave us Jesus, your Word made flesh, as mediator and to gather men and women into one family, redeemed by the Blood of his Cross. May your people respond willingly and generously to his call for them to follow him, and grant them your blessing. Through Christ our Lord, amen. 

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

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 8th January 2021, 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 8th January 2021. Luke 5:12-16

No amount of explanation of the text or preaching on the text can take the place of our own prayerful reading of the Gospel passage. To engage with the word of God is to engage with God himself because we cannot separate the speaker from the word anymore than we can separate the dancer from the dance. What I say in this reflection can only add to the base each person has established through engaging with the word. Questions such as “who is the outcast in my situation?” can be helpful. Also helpful is to see which position I am closer to – the one needing the help, or the position of Jesus who routinely gives help.

This passage is about the healing of the leper. In the time of Jesus there were two kinds of leprosy – a virulent skin disease and a more serious type in which parts of limbs were lost. Whatever the case lepers were considered untouchable. There are a few lessons in the text:

Firstly, the leper did what was forbidden. Lepers were not allowed to make contact with anyone. They had to stand afar off and shout “Unclean! Unclean!” Leviticus 13 and 14 give detailed instructions about this. The leper in our passage took a decision to step out of his cycle of self pity and depression and in this mindset of seeking a better life, he approached Jesus with his request. There is a lesson here for all who find themselves trapped in a cycle of victimhood and depression. One can choose to remain a victim or to become an agent of change. Also, this man acted in faith. He sees Jesus not just with physical eyes but with the eyes of faith, he prostrates himself and begs Jesus to heal him. There are three forms of prayer in the one sentence – contemplation, adoration and petition. The passage tells us that he was not just a leper but he was “full of leprosy” (Luke 5:12). That was not all he was full of. He was also full of faith. Misfortune, poverty and ill health are definitely not signs of faithlessness. This man teaches us that blessings come to those who have hope – irrespective of their social standing.

Secondly there is the attitude of wanting a better life for the neighbour. We see this in the attitude of Jesus. He stretched out his hand, saying by that gesture that there should be no untouchability among us. He also shows what can happen when we reach beyond ourselves. He empowered a man to take responsibility for his life. Jesus does not achieve results by pressing buttons. He literally touches the man’s condition. That is how we need to empower those around us. We need to embrace their reality, affirm their faith and literally touch their suffering. Okay the pandemic with its social distancing requirements places limits on what we can do but what about the things we are able to do while observing the protocols – such as making contributions to the hungry, making contact with someone who is lonely or hurt, etc. I started off by saying that in the time of Jesus there were two types of leprosy. How many kinds of untouchability do we experience today. This gospel passage calls us to see who the outcast is and to stretch out our hands in their direction.

It is interesting to note that the passage starts and ends with social isolation. The leper was in permanent quarantine at the start and Jesus opts for isolation at the end. In between the man is touched by Jesus and integrated into society. Jesus too, will spend time alone with the Father and then stretch out his hand in the direction of the needy all over again. We have to contend with both types of isolation at this time – the isolation forced upon us and the isolation freely chosen. If both are accepted in faith we will emerge stronger and empowered to stretch out our hands.

Let us pray: Father, we thank you for the presence of Jesus in our lives. At Christmas we celebrated his presence in the family. Help us to locate him in our own homes by living his values and speaking his words. Help us to speak his words of truth, of justice, of peace and of healing. Through speaking his words may we participate more and more in his life. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. [Blessing].