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 7 April 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.

Welcome to this reflection. I wish you all a blessed and life-filled Easter. We rejoice in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and his victory over sin and death. He has opened for us the gates of heaven and, while we are still in the world, our hearts and lives belong to him. Our true home is unity with Jesus Christ in his Kingdom. We are the Easter people, the people of Resurrection, and therefore the joyful acclamation “alleluia, alleluia” is always on our lips. I have chosen an excerpt from today’s Gospel, Luke 24:13-35.

And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. As they drew near to the village to which they were going, He appeared to be going further, but they constrained him saying, “Stay with us, for it is towards evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; and he vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, “did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

Let us pray:

Almighty God and Father, year  by year we rejoice in the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Graciously grant that by celebrating the Easter mysteries, we may grow in understanding and faith, and that our hearts will burn within us through the presence of the Living Word, that we may serve you and our neighbour humbly and joyfully. 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 two disciples, walking on the road between Jerusalem and Emmaus, met the Resurrected Christ without recognizing him. They began to speak to him about the events that had taken place in Jerusalem concerning “Jesus of Nazareth”, that he had been crucified and buried, but that the women had not found the body when they went to the tomb. Jesus in turn began interpreting the Scriptures of the Old Testament, and this is what made their hearts burn. Yet they still did not recognize him – that would only come later when they were at table with him and he broke the bread, and then he disappeared. At once they were energized to return to Jerusalem immediately to tell the apostles that Jesus had appeared to them and they recognized him in the “breaking of the bread”. In this account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus we recognize that there is already an example of the celebration of the Eucharist – they listened to the Word and then they broke bread. The “breaking of the bread” caused them to recognize Jesus, although they had not recognized him on the road. The Eucharist gives us a totally different and new experience of God – it is beyond and more transcendent that any other encounter with the Almighty. We, who have the Eucharist, know that we cannot put into words the experience it entails, nor how it changes our lives –  but it does. The two disciples, when they recognized Jesus in the “breaking of the bread”, lost their despondency and gained new energy – they returned immediately to Jerusalem to share the news with others. So too, the Eucharist is our source of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ and witnessing to him through good works. 

The Eucharistic Prayer, which I spoke about last week, is the consecratory prayer, the prayer of miracle, that brings about transubstantiation. The unleavened bread that is offered to God, and the wine, become the Body and Blood of Christ, and we pray the Eucharistic Prayer to fulfil Jesus’ command “Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19) – receiving Communion is the highlight of our encounter with Christ, but the Eucharistic Prayer is central to our fulfilment of that command and also our need to be present and witness the miracle of the changing of bread and wine. We should not allow our understanding of Mass to be superficial and reduced to receiving Communion only.

The language used in the Eucharistic Prayer (and other parts of Mass) is quite different from everyday language. This is precisely because the Mass is not to be considered as a merely “everyday event” – it is meant to be a foretaste of a different reality. It is meant to take us into the realm of God. This is the reason, too, that vestments are used by priests and deacons, why there is incense and bells, genuflecting and bowing, as well as other ritualistic symbols, gestures and actions. The singing is also different (generally) and is a formalised praise of God. It is meant to present “the other” to us, to help us see that there is a reality beyond the material reality of the world. It is a spiritual and supernatural experience. If we want to understand this more we should think also of the “heavenly liturgy” described by St John in the Book of Revelation[1]. In short, it is a sacred event and its sacredness should always be safeguarded.

Many of us wonder today why people leave the Church. Surely, if we sincerely and wholeheartedly believe that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Jesus, how could we ever leave that? St Peter himself, after many people had leftJesus when he had given that hard teaching to the Jews saying “if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” and Jesus asked his apostles whether they wanted to leave him as well, replied: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life”. Whatever reasons people may have for leaving the Church they must also fundamentally  include a loss of belief in the Eucharist. That is why it is so important for us to continually deepen our appreciation of this Sacrament, and the miracle it involves. When we lose our belief in Eucharist, some will then equate communion of other Churches as being the same, and others lose their appreciation of the sacrament of the ministerial priesthood (Orders), and the importance of succession through the laying of hands that links us, through the centuries, to the Apostles.  We need to pray constantly that we will hold fast to his belief because, the moment we lose it, we lose the essence of being Catholic. We prayed in the collect of Monday’s Mass: “grant that your servants may hold fast in their lives to the Sacrament they have received in faith”. May we always hold fast to it.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you                                      R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

May the loving God strengthen you in your faith, may he nourish you through the Body and Blood of his Son Jesus, and may he grant you eternal life .  Through Christ Our Lord, amen.

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


[1]    Read, for example, http://blog.adw.org/2010/09/the-biblical-and-heavenly-roots-of-the-sacred-liturgy/