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.