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 1 September 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 and welcome to this reflection. Today, the 1st September, is the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, and so I will open with the special prayer for creation:

All powerful God, 
you are present in the universe and in the smallest of your creatures. 
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. 
Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty. 
Fill us with your peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one. 
O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes. 
Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. 
Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth. 
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light. 
We thank you for being with us each day. 
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle, for justice, love and peace. 

In the Responsorial Psalm of today’s Mass (Ps 51: 10-11) we hear these words;

I am like a growing olive tree
in the house of God.
I trust in the goodness of God
for ever and ever.

Olives and olive trees are mentioned many times in the Bible. One of the best known references is in the Book of Genesis where we are told that Noah released a dove from the ark and it returned bringing a freshly picked olive leaf (Genesis 8:11). In the Book of Judges a story is told of the trees looking for a king to rule them. First and foremost they requested the olive tree to be their king, but the olive tree responded, must I forego my oil which gives honour to gods and men, to stand and sway over the trees? (Judges 9:8-9). God refers to his chosen people Israel as a Green olive-tree covered in fine fruit (Jeremiah 11:16). St Paul uses similar imagery in his letter to the Romans where he refers to the wild olive being grafted on to the cultivated olive to share its “rich sap” (Romans 11:17). We know that Jesus frequented the “Mount of Olives” and and went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray before his betrayal. “Gethsemane”means an “olive press”, and Jesus was indeed to be go through the press and be crushed in his torture and death, the fruit of which is redemption.

The olive tree was an essential part of the life and economy of Israel, as in a number of other countries. But more that this, it became a symbol of peace and reconciliation, renewal and revival. It is a symbol of beauty and abundance. It is also a symbol of the righteous person, as we heard in today’s psalm. It is a symbol of life and blessing (Your children round your table like shoots of an olive tree – Psalm 128:3). Oil symbolises healing (Any one of you who is ill should send for the elders of the church, and they must anoint the sick person with oil in the name of the Lord and pray over him – James 5:14), of being chosen and consecrated (Aaron and his sons were anointed with oil and were consecrated priests – Exodus 30:30). It also symbolises light since oil was used for lamps, such as those of the ten virgins. The olive tree is a sturdy, hardy tree that takes a number of years to grow and bear fruit. Reputedly an olive tree can live for 1,500 years and the average life span is 500 years. Thus it is also a sign of permanence and rootedness.

We can readily see the depth of the imagery of the olive tree, not only for the life of Israel but also for our own Christian discipleship. It is interesting to note that the use of olive oil is still prevalent in the Church and that the three holy oils are blessed every year at the Chrism Mass, namely the oil of Chrism (used in baptism, confirmation and the ordinations of priests and bishops), catechumens (used for those entering into the Christian faith as a protection against evil and the oil of the sick used as the sacrament of God’s healing. 

As with the olive tree we Christians are meant to have deep roots in faith, to be resilient in our belief in God and living a Christian life even in the face of adversity, to be able to weather the storm and persevere our whole life through. We have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and his mark of ownership was placed on us in Confirmation when we were anointed with Chrism. We are meant to bear fruit – for the benefit of others, not our own – and to gladden their hearts and bring them joy, to be healers and bearers of the light, reconcilers and peace-makers, to help others recognize the beauty of what God has given us, and to be upright and righteous people, drawing from the “rich sap” which is God’s grace.

An olive tree is not much to look at, but the richness and benefits it brings, and what it symbolises, are profound and abundant. I may not feel that I am up to much and that I’m rather ordinary, but the olive tree tells us that no matter how ordinary we may look or feel, it is within our power to bring richness and goodness into the world through the grace and mercy of God.

Furthermore, the olive tree serves as a reminder to us of the richness God has blessed us with through his creation. God created what is good for the benefit of mankind. He has entrusted creation to us. Sadly we have failed dismally to care for creation and to use it wisely. We have given way to exploitation, greed and selfishness and through our own fault this has resulted in a threat to our very survival, since our earthly life is dependent on the earth and creation. We have destroyed so much over the centuries. The question is now urgent: what can I do to reverse these destructive attitudes towards the environment – how must I change and what can I do to bring about understanding and change in others? 

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

O God, from the very beginning of time you commanded the earth to bring forth vegetation and fruit of every kind. You provide the sower with seed and give bread to the hungry to eat. Grant your people, enriched by the gifts of your goodness, to use these gifts wisely and praise you unceasingly now and for all ages unending. Through Christ our Lord, amen

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

Spirit of Contrition, spirit of humility, spirit of charity and a spirit of joy is what gives people happiness and peace within themselves – St Francis.

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 27 August 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.

Friday of the 21st Week. 

I once again wish to start by saying the prayer for peace in Southern Africa:

O God of justice and love, bless us, the people of Southern Africa,
and help us to live in your peace.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury; let me sow pardon;
Where there is discord, let me sow harmony.

Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
Seek to be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
To receive sympathy, as to give it;

For it is in giving that we shall receive,
In pardoning that we shall be pardoned,
In forgetting ourselves that we shall find
Unending peace with others.

We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

We are encouraged to pray the peace prayer often. 

Gospel Passage: Mt 25:1-13. PLEASE READ THE TEXT.

This story seen through 21st century South African eyes seems like a concocted fairy-tale but seen in the context of a Palestinian village of the 1st century, every detail rings true. Ten virgins went out to meet the bridegroom – who would always try to catch the bridal retinue unprepared. Even as late as the 20th century, the exact time of the arrival of the bridegroom was uncertain. But back to the virgins – the passage breaks them up into opposites. Five were foolish (the word used is the one from which we get the word “moron”), and five were wise. There are many words for wisdom and the word used here is the direct opposite of a moron. It means intelligent and with foresight. There is a lesson here for those prophets of mediocrity who think that intelligence has no part to play in our Christian lives.

Whatever the case, the morons took lamps but not oil. No one was allowed onto the streets after sunset without a lighted lamp. This means that the welcoming of the bridegroom would definitely be incomplete. It is also worth noting that word for oil indicates olive oil, oil for anointing, and also figuratively, it was a symbol of festivity. What is communicated here is that the festivities were ruined through the foolishness of being unprepared. 

There are times in everyone’s life when preparation is of utmost importance. For example it is pointless to prepare for an examination at the last minute. Even more pressing is the reality that we could die unexpectedly. The saddest thing about unexpected death is that important matters could be left unresolved. For those who are left behind, how terrible not to have sought and offered forgiveness while there was still a chance. Death does have an awful finality about it. The advice of the passage is to “keep awake” (Matthew 25:13) – in other words to be prepared at all times. I wish you well as we prepare to meet the bridegroom. 

Today the Church also holds up before us the shining example of St Monica – a faithful woman who had a very difficult life. She was the mother of the great St Augustine whose feast we celebrate tomorrow. When Augustine was young he led a rather reckless life. Monica’s wisdom was not to repeatedly confront him but to turn the matter over to God ‘aloud and also in silent tears’. She practiced the virtue of patience as the years rolled on and never gave up on God. The end result was the marvellous conversion of her Son. Today we must pray for all mothers who have difficult children to raise and encourage them to learn from the example of St Monica – never to give up on God as he never gives up on us.

Let us pray: Lord, help us in our daily lives to be prepared to meet the bridegroom. Help us to give and seek forgiveness, love and friendship while it still matters and can be appreciated by those to whom we extend our hands. So often we want to do what is good but pride steps in the way. Help us to be humble so that we can make a difference to those around us – while they are still alive. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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 25 August 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.


It is wonderful that the vaccine is now available to those 18 years and older. We are on about day 517 of the Covid restrictions and sadly there is no end yet in sight. The vaccine roll out has been slow, partly due to reluctance on the part of some to receive the vaccine. Nonetheless, we are aware of God’s presence and the psalm of today’s Mass gives much comfort and consolation. But first, let us pray for peace in Southern Africa:

O God of justice and love, bless us, the people of Southern Africa, and help us to
live in your peace.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury; let me sow pardon;
Where there is discord, let me sow harmony.
Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
Seek to be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
To receive sympathy, as to give it;
For it is in giving that we shall receive,
In pardoning that we shall be pardoned,
In forgetting ourselves that we shall find
Unending peace with others. We ask this through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

These are the opening verses of the Responsorial Psalm 138 (139):

O LORD, you have searched me and known me!  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.

This most beautiful psalm should be properly understood. For some, it may give rise to feelings of “God the policeman” who is always watching us and waiting for us to make mistakes. This is not what is meant and the way to understand Psalm 138, and I encourage you to read the whole psalm, is in terms of the love relationship we have with God. The composition of the psalm is attributed to King David, a person who was well aware of his faults and sinfulness. He was also a person deeply aware of God’s love and forgiveness, and this filled him with repentance, humility and gratitude. He loved God, and the psalm celebrates God’s love and expresses his love of God. 

O Lord, you search me and you know me. Think about that for a moment. If you fall in love with someone, you really want to know them, to know what makes them “tick”, how they see the world, what makes them happy and what makes them sad. It is not idle curiosity or invasiveness, it is a fascination with the person you love. And so God “searching us and knowing us” is not invasive or punitive, it is God’s love for us. In modern society it often feels that we are only a statistic, one of a multitude, anonymous. How lovely it is to be known by someone else. How very blessed we are to be known so personally by God. Hopefully, we can have the same response to God in that we thirst, hunger and desire to know him more and more and to enter the depths of his being, because we love him and wish to love him more. Just as the psalmist says in v.17, How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Psalm 62(63) also captures this desire: O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting. My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water.

The psalmist invites God to test his thoughts, Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!  It is easy to verbally profess love for someone, but how deep is that love? Is it true love or will it burn out when the initial fascination ends? Will I be rejected if I the other really gets to know me? And so, we may want to test the love of the other; not maliciously or harshly, but a little here and there to ascertain whether it really is love or not, and how far that love extends. The psalmist is willing to make himself vulnerable and so invites God to do the same to him, to “try him and know his thoughts”. The invitation is a mark of the genuineness of his desire to love and that, despite failings, his motivation is pure and there is no deceit in his expression of love. We also face circumstances from time to time when our love of God is tested. We are comforted by the words of St Paul in this regard, the God will not let you be put to the test beyond your strength (1 Corinthians 10:13).

The important thing about being “tried and tested” is not that God will discover new things about us– after all, “he knows us through and through”. But that testing leads us to know ourselves better, to see ourselves in a different light and to learn new things about ourselves, so that we can improve, correct mistakes and deepen our love to make it more true and authentic. We all have our “blind spots” and, as someone said, lying to ourselves is more deeply ingrained than lying to others. Discovering our true motivation in life is a life-long endeavour. We sometimes couch our actions in philanthropic language which does not reflect a deeper and perhaps even unconscious motivation. For example, we help the beggar at the street corner saying we want to share our resources, whereas we are really doing so as an easy way of getting rid of him. We always need to question and reflect on our motivation, especially for the important decisions of life. God trying us and testing us helps us to see ourselves more honestly.

Finally, the psalmist invites God to “lead us in the way of life everlasting”, because we cannot embark on the journey to our eternal home without God’s leadership, guidance and accompaniment. We cannot do it by ourselves, we need God in our lives and, if we are to grow in love of God and neighbour, we need Him to shed his light into our hearts and onto our thoughts, that the love we profess so easily with our lips will indeed indicate the love we bear in our hearts and which is manifested in our actions.

The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

Loving Father, in these times of uncertainty we take comfort from the fact that you are never far from us and that, indeed, you search us and know us. Grant us perseverance, Lord, to use the passing things of this world wisely and to place our hope in the eternal truths of your Kingdom. Through Christ our Lord, amen

Vaccination Sites

Please see this information graphic from the WC Government with regard to available vaccination sites for 21 August 2021.

Season of Creation

Pastoral letter

Bishop Jan De Groef

SEASON OF CREATION’

My dear brothers and sisters,

Perhaps some of you may wonder: why does the Bishop write a pastoral letter on the safeguarding of creation? Are there no more important issues to address? It may sound as something new to many of us but the present reality many people, particularly the poor, experience is caused, to a great extent, by climate change: multiple flooding in one part of the globe or within a country and excessive heat and drought resulting in wildfires in other parts. The present covid19 pandemic has still aggravated the calamity. Pope Francis in his Encyclical ‘Laudato Sii’ points on a living connection between environmental well-being and the Gospel. Some of our own resolutions of the last Diocesan Pastoral Council meeting also deal with the safeguarding of creation and it is one of the focal areas of the new Pastoral Plan. 

Moreover it is not just a question of ecology but a question of how we, human beings, relate both to nature and to one another. Do we see ourselves at the center of everything which gives us a right to do as we please and abuse both creation and our fellow human beings without impunity? The two relationships cannot be separated. Perhaps some of you will remember the poster propagated by the Southern African Bishops Conference (SACBC) Department for Formation, Life and Apostolate of the Laity, presenting both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. Pope Francis in nr. 49 of his Encyclical ‘Laudato Sii’ states that: “Today we cannot fail to recognize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach which must integrate questions of justice into discussions about the environment, in order to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” In nr. 217 he states that: “Our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God.” In the same paragraph Pope Francis goes on to make it clear that: “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.” Even in the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, the Creator of all things and of us human beings mandated us: “to cultivate and to take care of the garden of Eden” (see Genesis 2: 15). This verse was very of the misunderstood as allowing us to do whatever with this earth and exploit it. This is not what God intended. It is a result of our inborn greed. Pope Francis in his Encyclical calls for an ecological conversion where “the effects of our encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in our relationship with the world around us (see ‘Laudato Sii’ nr. 217).

How can we respond? Surely the first thing is to become aware of the situation of the ecological and social degradation we are experiencing. But it should not end up there. We have to act. The theme of this month of creation expresses it very well ‘Pray and take action for our common home’. We must find ways in which dioceses, parishes, blocs youth groups, Sodalities and families can be actively involved in assuming shared moral responsibility for our common home and the common good. Perhaps we are tempted to respond that the problem is far too big to tackle and that it is better to leave it to the government and to big organizations who are meeting in Glasgow (Great Britain) later this year (from 31st of October till 12th of November) to talk about climate issues. No, the little we do, even on local level, is important and can cause a chain reaction like throwing a pebble in a pool. Let’s start with keeping our environment clean. Let’s be careful with the use of water and electricity.

Various SACBC Departments have collaborated in preparing material for each week of the month (each week having a different theme). It can be used in the various groups mentioned above. And wherever we are, alone or together with others, let us pray the special prayer composed by Pope Francis, which we find at the end of his Encyclical ‘Laudato Sii’:

All powerful God, you are present in the universe and in the smallest of your creatures. You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty. Fill us with your peace that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one. O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes. Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth. Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light. We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle, for justice, love and peace.

Yours in Christ,

+Jan De Groef

Bishop of Bethlehem diocese

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 20 August 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 20 August 2021. 

I once again wish to start by saying the prayer for peace in Southern Africa:

O God of justice and love, bless us, the people of Southern Africa,
and help us to live in your peace.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury; let me sow pardon;
Where there is discord, let me sow harmony.

Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
Seek to be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
To receive sympathy, as to give it;

For it is in giving that we shall receive,
In pardoning that we shall be pardoned,
In forgetting ourselves that we shall find
Unending peace with others.

We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

We are encouraged to pray the peace prayer often. 

Reflection based on Ruth 1:1,3-6,14-16,22

Our first reading is taken from fragments of the first chapter of the book of Ruth. A thorough reading of the fist chapter from your Bibles is recommended. Read it slowly and prayerfully. Note the struggle of the family, note the neediness which took them to Moab. Undoubtedly the early readers of the work would have remembered how their ancestors also had to leave their homes and go to look for food. Once in Moab the sons marry Moabite women. 

The names in the story are all significant. Elimelech literally means “my God is King”. Irrespective of where the faithful find themselves, God still reigns over them. Naomi means “a pleasant person”, who shows herself to be an exceptional mother-in-law (Ruth 1:7-18). At the end of the chapter, Naomi renames herself Mara which means “bitter”. Life sometimes does leave scars on us. The sons are called Mahlon and Chilon. While the former means “sickness/weakness”, the latter means “pining/destruction”. This is symbolic and points to their untimely deaths. Orpah means “neck” – read in some circles as “stiff neck”. This seems a bit unfair as Orpah showed a willingness to go with Naomi. Ruth means “friend” and has come to symbolise abiding loyalty and devotion. She is fully incorporated in the family of God’s chosen people and her name is included in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:5) as the great grandmother of King David. Earlier on I recommended a reading of the whole of the first chapter. Let’s revise that. Read the whole book of Ruth. It is very short with only four chapters but it makes very interesting reading, with all its intrigue. The ultimate lesson is that anyone who obeys God is acceptable – whether they belong to the clan or not. But you can read the story for yourselves and make your own discoveries.

For now I want to look at how our first reading ends. Whereas at the start of the reading, there was famine causing the family to migrate, at the end of the reading we are told that Naomi and Ruth – the two widows, return to Bethlehem “at the beginning of the barley harvest” (Ruth 1:22). This indicates a new beginning and is fitting because Bethlehem literally means “the house of bread”. The rest of the book will show how God takes care of the poor through his faithful servants. Boaz (whose name means “in him is strength”) is exemplary in all of this – and he too is listed as an ancestor of Jesus (Matthew 1:5). 

It is good to know all this. But it is even more important to allow the story to reveal who I am. We mentioned the names and their meanings. These meanings were tied to the characteristics of the persons. What are my characteristics? What am I known for: Strength or its opposite; friendship or its opposite; helpfulness or its opposite? Who in the story best represents me? We also see in the story the embracing of otherness. How do I see my “in-laws” i.e. those who come into the family, and others who are different to me? This story can be used like a mirror, with every character offering a chance to get a deeper glimpse not only of who I am but also of who I am called to be. I wish you well as you see how your lived experience squares up with the template of this inspired book.

Let us pray: Lord, your Word teaches us how to live with otherness and how to show fidelity in the various circumstances of our lives. Give us the grace to imitate the Biblical heroes held up before us in the reading. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Bishop Sylvester David OMI
VG/Auxiliary Bishop: 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 18 August 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 today’s reflection. In this month especially dedicated to women, let us continue to pray for all the women of our country, that the Lord will richly bless them, protect them and inspire them.

Let us now pray for peace in Southern Africa:

O God of justice and love, bless us, the people of Southern Africa, and help us to
live in your peace.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury; let me sow pardon;
Where there is discord, let me sow harmony.
Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
Seek to be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
To receive sympathy, as to give it;
For it is in giving that we shall receive,
In pardoning that we shall be pardoned,
In forgetting ourselves that we shall find
Unending peace with others. We ask this through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

The Reading I have chosen for the reflection is taken from the end of the Gospel of today’s Mass (Matthew 20:1-16).

Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Jesus had just related a parable comparing the Kingdom of God to a landowner who hired workers at various times of the day. The first lot he hired at about six in the morning and he agreed on a just wage with them for a full 12 hour day’s work. Then he hired others – some worked three hours, six hours, nine hours, others only one hour. The landowner made payment to the workers at the end of the day, paying them all the same amount starting with those who had worked the shortest time. The hopes of the first group were high and they thought they would get more since they had worked so much longer. Their hopes were dashed when they received only the agreed amount. They grumbled, but the landowner pointed out to them that they had no right to begrudge him his generosity.

The picture we get of the Kingdom of God from this parable is one of inclusivity – God’s Kingdom is open to all people. It displays a patience on the part of God who accepts those who have served him well throughout their lives, but who is also willing to give time to others to repent, mend their ways and convert. As St Peter put it, The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2Pe 3:9).We see in the parable a generous God who truly desires the salvation of all and who shares his gifts bountifully with those he has created – Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow, says St James (1:17).

God is generous in the grace he bestows on us, in his mercy and in his forgiveness. It is all a free gift. We cannot earn God’s love, he grants it gratuitously. His generosity is not confined or restricted in any way. God’s Spirit blows where he wills, as we hear in St John’s Gospel,  the wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit (John 3:8). It is against God’s nature to be miserly or mean with what he offers. It is not for us us to say who God will bless with his gifts and what gifts he will give them. We must not be envious when God grants gifts to others, even if we think them unworthy. Neither can we say who God will save and who he will not. We simply do not have that authority. God is a generous God, who offers his love and life to all his creatures. To repeat, we cannot earn his compassionate and forgiving love. It is a gift and we can only respond to it in gratitude.

The response we make is important. Sincere gratitude to God is first and foremost. Humble gratitude indicates that we realise what great gifts God has given us even though we remain unworthy of them. Secondly, just as God has been generous to us, so we respond by being generous to others so that we may reach out to those in any kind of need and assist them in whatever way we can. This may mean sharing our material resources, giving a listening ear or simply being a friend. St Paul captures this idea when he writes, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Thirdly, we respond to God’s generosity be being patient with others, helping them and encouraging them to change for the better, and not giving up on them (a small proviso here – if someone is making our lives a living hell, or we are in danger from them, obviously we have to make the correct decisions to protect ourselves).

In this time of Covid we need this generosity of spirit. Receiving the vaccine is one example of being generous because we don’t get vaccinated only to protect our own lives but also to protect the lives of others. Please vaccinate. Being generous with a smile, friendliness and cheerfulness goes a long way to lift the hearts of others who may be struggling within themselves. Finally, a very big thank you to all our parishioners for your generosity and your support – both material and moral – that you have shown the priests of the archdiocese. We really appreciate it and may God bless you.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

Almighty Father, we thank for your generosity, for sharing your life and your love with us. Open our hearts and pour within them your love, that we too may always have generosity of spirit and so serve our neighbours with humility. Through Christ our Lord, amen

Day 9: Novena in Preparation to Celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption

As we prepare to celebrate our patronal feast, Mary Assumed into Heaven, each day of our novena clergy of the Archdiocese of Cape Town will offer reflections on Our Lady.

In this reflection for Sunday, 15 August, Archbishop Stephen Brislin reflects on Mary Assumed into Heaven – Celebrating with us now the hope and joy of all people being reconciled and restored in Jesus.

This video is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please share these daily reflections on your parish WhatsApp groups and other social media platforms.

The text of the video is provided below, especially for those who are deaf.

Thank you for joining this final Novena reflection. I wish you and all your loved ones a blessed and joyful Feast Day. Mary was assumed into heaven, body and soul, a mystery rich in meaning and profound in the promise it holds out to humanity. It is interesting that the “Dogma of Assumption” does not simply state that Mary was assumed into heaven, but it specifies “that Mary was taken body and soul” into heaven. We often think of ourselves as somehow being made up of different constitutive parts – spirit, soul and body. These are aspects of personhood, but the mystery of the Assumption affirms strongly the integrity of the human person, in other words, the unity and wholeness of the person. A person cannot be cut up into different parts, although we recognize that there are different aspects such as the physical, the spiritual and the soul. All are necessary to make a person a person, and the Assumption of Mary displays this clearly – she was not only saved by Jesus and assumed in a spiritual way into heaven, but also bodily. It is our belief that the whole person is saved and not just one aspect.

Similarly with the Ascension of Jesus. After Jesus rose from the dead he was at pains to demonstrate to his disciples that he was not a ghost or purely spiritual being – thus, he requested some fish to eat, saying that ghosts don’t eat. He instructed Thomas to place his finger and hand in his wounds to prove that he was flesh and blood. Jesus’ bodily resurrection and ascension is the destiny that is offered to all of us, and this is affirmed by the Assumption of Our Lady who, like us, was a disciple of Jesus.

Of what importance is this to us? There can be a tendency for some to place undue emphasis on the material aspect of humanity and to deny a spiritual side, to seek only satisfaction of the body to the of neglect the spiritual. On the other hand, there are those who over-spiritualize their human life and who think that the body is of no consequence, thinking it finite and subject to decay, and believing that it is only the spirit that will be saved.  It is vital to understand the importance and integrity of the human person, even in everyday life. For example, health Care, Education, Town Planning, etc., all of these need to take into account that a person is not only a physical being, but has spiritual and emotional needs as well.

This tendency to “divide” the human person occurs because there can be discord within ourselves. Even Jesus said, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”1. St Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, I do not understand my own actions….For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do2. We sometimes feel that we are at “war” within ourselves, that we are being pulled in different directions because we do not subject ourselves to our will, but are drawn by forces within ourselves that we don’t fully understand. Sometimes are will rebels, even against our better judgement. There is a need to reconcile those forces within us. To reconcile means to make things compatible with each other. Christian maturity is to make the different aspects of our personhood compatible with each so that we are able to align the will with the flesh, the soul with the body, and to mould them into a unity and oneness, so that our “yes” is “yes” and our “no” is “no”3. In this way we respond to our Christian vocation and our path to sanctification as we seek to belong fully to Christ, body, spirit and soul – the total person.4

Our Christian vocation is not confined to personal sanctification. We are all called to mission, to be bearers of the light of Christ to the world. Just as we wish to bring wholeness to the disconnectedness within ourselves, we have a responsibility to bring wholeness to our community and to our society. In other words – in the words of St Paul – we are Christ’s ambassadors entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation5. The miracle of the Assumption urges us to go beyond a personal quest to be fully integrated as persons, and to bring healing, unity and wholeness to others, especially in the society in which we live.The mystical Body of Christ is broken and suffering just as Jesus’ physical body was broken on the Cross. Divisions and conflicts exist wherever there are people. They exist in our country which continues to be divided by its past, suffering because of the present and uncertain of the future. How fortunate we are to have Mary Assumed into Heaven as the Patroness of South Africa. Her intercession and protection do not only inspire us to continue the work of reconciliation and healing, but they also give us the hope and confidence that our efforts will bear fruit. We should not shrink from the task at hand but, like Mary, we should respond generously to integrating and gathering people into harmony and a peaceful acceptance of each other.

Let us now pray the Memorare:

Remember O most gracious Virgin Mary,

Never was it know that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help and sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto unto thee O Virgin of virgins, my Mother, to thee I come, before thee I kneel sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy, hear and answer me, amen.

May Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son…

Mary, Assumed into Heaven, pray for us.

1 Matthew 26:41

2 Romans 7:15;19

3 Matthew 5:37

4 1 Corinthians 3:23

5 2 Corinthians 5:11-21

Day 8: Novena in Preparation to Celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption

As we prepare to celebrate our patronal feast, Mary Assumed into Heaven, each day of our novena clergy of the Archdiocese of Cape Town will offer reflections on Our Lady.

In this reflection for Saturday, 14 August, Fr Peter-John Pearson reflects on Mary assumed into Heaven, praying with us for a radical transformation of us as a nation.

This video is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please share these daily reflections on your parish WhatsApp groups and other social media platforms.

The text of the video is provided below, especially for those who are deaf.

Both the social upheaval and the pandemic have reminded us that we need hearts and minds and systems that are more inclusive and loud, unambiguous demands for social justice that are more direct and strategic. It has been noted frequently that the both the pandemic and the social unrest in our country have foregrounded that inclusion and naming our needs are the two dominant signs of the times.

We are challenged by this feast not least because it is the feast of dignity, of integrity. In a country where for centuries the dignity of the majority was denied, where every policy and the social environment fell short of any kind of integrity, the gift of this feast as our patronal feast was and remains, hugely, a challenge to restore dignity and nurture a culture of integrity. The increasing poverty, the glaring injustices, the legacy of racism, the spiralling unemployment, the spikes in gender based violence and the great theft from the poor which is seen in the rampant corruption and the subversion of good governance and accountability all underline that this feast speaks as powerfully to our present reality as it spoke to our cruel past. Mary’s public witness underlines spells out the consequences of our devotion.

The events of recent weeks have reminded us that social cohesion in our country is weak, that many are left out, feel no sense of belonging and that far too many are abandoned on the margins. They live in an environment where they have no voice, where there is no hope of participating in shaping their future. 

I have always been deeply struck by that powerful narrative of the Visitation. Mary and Elizabeth meet. Two women with unusual, awkward stories, stories that do not fit the norm. They meet and share a space where only their voices are heard. Zachariah has been silenced. There is no dominant group’s voice, no male voice, no institutional voice. The voices that usually exclude or interpret the stories of the excluded are silent and the voices of the women fill that space. They speak for themselves, interpret their reality, find their agency. No one speaks for them. They need neither a man nor an institution to speak for them. If we take the feast seriously, if we understand the pain of exclusion and the silencing of the voices of the poor and women and migrants and those on the peripheries, then we will surely put our energy on this feast into making space for the excluded voices, designing systems especially economic systems that allows for an experience of justice that in turns honours’ every person’s dignity. We must ensure that excluded voices in every sphere find public expression no matter how unsettling they may be.

There is of course another Marian text which John includes in his gospel. It is the story of the wedding at Cana. Mary understands that something is missing which is critical for the joy of the couple and for a preservation of the dignity. She makes the demand urgently, stridently almost and definitely unambiguously. They have no wine! We look around and we see that there are many basic rights which undermine people’s dignity, compromise their integrity and rob them of joy, just as the lack of wine did for the wedding couple. They have, and in our world-they have no education, no sanitation, no protection against gender based violence, no water, no houses. The list is as endless as it is unjust. The consequence of our devotion must surely be that like Mary we name boldly the things that are denied, the rights that are compromised. To not join in these demands is to have reduced Mary to a plastic piety. She who was raised from amidst the anawim  is fearless in raising her voice alongside her cousins and singing that Magnificat that calls for a season of pulling down the mighty from their thrones and raising the lowly, that challenges us to send the rich empty away and to fill the hungry with good things. It is Mary who in a public space at a wedding calls for a reversal of want and need of basic necessities and demands the ‘best wine,’ the best houses, toilets, schools and security for all. In that way we hour Mary Assumed into Heaven and ensure that the Kingdom of this world becomes the Kingdom of our God.

Amen.