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].

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 6 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 all a blessed and grace-filled New Year. As we begin this year, battered by Covid-19 and its consequences, we pray that the Lord will be close to lead us by the hand, so that we may have the strength to face with faith whatever challenges we meet. Our trust and our hope is in Christ our Saviour. Thank you for joining me for this reflection.

In the Gospel of today’s Mass from St Mark (6:45-52) we hear that, after the miracle of the loaves, Jesus instructed his disciples to get into the boat and to go ahead of him to the other side, while he went to to pray on the mountain. This is what we hear next:

And he saw they were distressed in rowing, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw and were terrified. But immediately he spoke with them and said, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear”. And he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. 

I will use the collect of today’s Mass for the opening prayer.  Let us pray:

O God, who bestow light on all the nations, grant your peoples the gladness of lasting peace, and place into our hearts that brilliant light by which you purified the minds of your people in faith. 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. 

Most people are in agreement that 2020 was a terrible year – some have been saying “get lost” 2020, good riddance. There is no doubt that 2020 was a tough and challenging year, but simply to dismiss it and hope to forget it is a wrong approach. All the suffering and hardship of last year will be in vain if we do not learn what we can from it and allow it to help us understand life more fully.  In all its horribleness and the enormous suffering it has entailed, we have to find Christ in it and to learn to “read the signs of the times”. The Gospel reading we have just heard teaches us the profound lesson that Christ is to be found in the storm, and not by ignoring the storm. The disciples did not initially recognize Jesus as he walked on the water, thinking him a ghost. In terror for their lives, as the wind and waves bashed their boat, they called out, and immediately as they called out to him Jesus responded with words of consolation and strength, Take heart, it is I, have no fear. Even when he got in the boat and the wind dropped, they remained astounded for their lack of understanding, St Mark mentioning specifically that they had not understood the miracle of the loaves which had preceded this event. It’s always easy to see the hand of God in the spectacular, the comfortable, those things which satisfy us and bring us a sense of peace. It is much more difficult to see God in hardship, suffering and in times of terror.

Last year must teach us the most fundamental lesson of the need to change. It is a lesson that if we continue on the paths that we have adopted over the past years, we are heading for destruction. All our relationships need to change, our relationship with God, with others and with ourselves.

Our relationship with God needs to change. The pandemic has taught us not only the fragility of human life but also the fragility of human constructs, such as the economy. It has taught us that having received the great gifts of science and technology, they do not contain all the answers to life, and they do not ultimately have the power to save. We are grateful for the blessings of intellect, science and technology and the progress and advancements they bring to human life. But they come with a temptation, in fact the most ancient of temptations – arrogance and pride, as “Man” begins to believe that he is capable of anything, that he does not need God. 2020 has certainly brought home to us the frailty of human advances and our need for God.

Our relationship with others needs to change. The pandemic has brought out the very best in people and there are many examples of astounding sacrificial love, of acts of bravery and courage. We think of the frontline workers who are willing to risk their lives for those they serve, who work long hours and who face the consequences of stress and burnout. There are many others too, who have shown such sacrificial love. But there are some who will not even wear a mask simply because it’s “uncomfortable”, who cannot delay parties or social events because they are obsessed with instant gratification. 2020 has made it clear to us the interdependence of life, that the health and wellbeing of others is dependent on my responsible and thoughtful behaviour; it has taught us with great clarity that we cannot serve God, who is Life, unless we serve the life of those around us. We should also have learnt that interdependence is not only about our relationship with other human beings, but our relationship with the whole of creation, and the urgent need for us to become more respectful and caring of nature and other forms of life, indeed of the very earth itself.

Finally, there is a need to change our relationship with ourselves. Do I really understand what faith is all about, or am I like the disciples in the boat who did not recognize Jesus in the storm and who did not understand the miracle of the loaves? Do I recognize that my faith is not only about comfort, consolation and the spectacular actions of Jesus, but that the road to resurrection and life is always through the Cross? Have I accepted that the Cross and the Resurrection are irrevocably intertwined, there is not one without the other? In times when we experience the Cross, such as in this time of the pandemic, does my faith in resurrection and life remain unshakeable? Can I see, despite the uncertainty and anxiety of this time, the presence and action of Jesus? Can I take to heart with faith and trust, his words,  Take heart, it is I; have no fear? Let us pray that we, and all the world, will accept the change that is required of us.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you                                                                          R/ And with your spirit

 May God, who has called you out of darkness into his wonderful light, pour out in kindness his blessing upon you and make your hearts firm in faith, hope and charity, so that you too, may be a light to your brothers and sisters.  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, New Year’s Day Friday 1st 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.

1st January 2021. Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Luke 2:16-21.

A happy new year to you and your loved ones. The new year opens up for us new opportunities for peaceful co-existence with the neighbour and with creation. May the blessings promised to the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) be ours so that we may indeed be the children of God.

Today is also the eighth day of the Christmas octave. A few years ago I made a retreat in Bloemfontein during the Christmas octave. The chapel I used each day used to be Fr Claerhout’s studio – a place of great inspiration and creativity. It was converted into a chapel. The front panel of the altar comprised a painting by the late Br Gunter Arndt OMI. Br Gunther was no Picasso but managed to produce a nice, simple representation of the nativity. 

Through the use of a gold colour for the straw in the manger right in the middle of the work, attention was drawn to the baby Jesus. The eyes of Mary and Joseph are fixed on the baby as are the eyes of the two animals in the scene. All this draws the viewer to gaze on the Christ-child. And the Christ-child, in his turn, fixes his gaze on the viewer. This makes possible a wordless connection with the child. 

In the Gospel passage for today we see Mary in contemplative mode. The language of the original text makes that clear. Hers is the prayer of silence and contemplation. This word is applied to Mary four times in the 1st two chapters of Luke. Hers is predominantly the prayer of contemplation. She was completely overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and hers was the highest form of prayer – the attitude of humble silence in the face of the Divine. This is the type of prayer called for by Jesus in the sixth chapter of Matthew. Loud prayers with many words did not impress him at all (Matthew 6:5-6). Contemplation allows us to see reality as it is. When Mary looked at her baby she would have known that he was fully human for she gave birth to him and nursed him. She would have also known that he was divine because of his conception. 

How nice it will be if we could give ourselves to contemplative prayer so that we too can see things as they really are. But a word of caution is necessary here. Contemplation can be dangerous as the reality revealed to us might not be what we would like it to be. The resultant switch in mind sets is what is known as conversion. Right now in South Africa we are faced with more restrictions as we try to flatten the curve. Many people will feel that their freedom is infringed upon as they cannot gather as planned to usher in the new year. Our contemplation i.e. seeing reality as it is ought to remind us that freedom is freedom to do the right thing otherwise we are enslaved – and right now the right thing is to promote life; my own and also that of the neighbour. In this way I can imitate Jesus who came that we might have life and have it to the full (John 10:10).

The Health Sciences tell us that there are two causes of disease. One is through a microbe such as the CoronaVirus or HIV. The other cause of disease is behaviour e.g. if I eat too much (and eating is a behaviour), I will get sick. If I refuse to sanitize and wear a face mask during the current pandemic and fail to embrace protective behaviours I can become infected, or worse still, cause others to become infected. We must remember that even if I am not showing symptoms, I could be a carrier of Covid-19. In our current context the most meaningful resolution we can make at the start of the new year is to firmly resolve to promote life.

Let us pray: Father, in the middle of a deadly pandemic we celebrate the birth of life. Help us to do all we can to promote the gift of life which you have given to us and to treasure it. We entrust our loved ones and our well-being to you and ask for your protection. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen [Blessing].

I wish you a meaningful start to the year. 

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 30 December 2020, during this time of the coronavirus pandemic. It is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please also see below the text of his reflection, primarily for the deaf.

I trust that you enjoyed a pleasant and peaceful Christmas, despite the circumstances in which the we all find ourselves at the moment. While much of how we may have wanted to celebrate was not possible, there is nothing that can separate from the love of God, and there is nothing that can remove the reality of the Incarnation and the home we have made for Christ in our hearts. Even if we are unable to attend Mass (at least until the 15th January) our communion with Christ remains strong and unshakeable. Welcome to today’s reflection.

In the Gospel of today’s Mass, from St Luke (2:36-40) we briefly meet the prophetess Anna, and hear of her encounter with the Holy Family who had gone to the Temple to present Jesus, their first born son, in compliance with Jewish law. This is what we hear after she had seen the child Jesus:

And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of the Lord was upon him.

We will take the prayer from the collect of today’s Mass.  Let us pray:

Grant, we pray, almighty God, that the newness of the Nativity in the flesh of your Only Begotten Son may set us free, for ancient servitude holds us bound beneath the yoke of sin. 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. 

Previously in Luke chapter 2 we met the righteous man Simeon who recognized in Jesus the light to enlighten the nations. Now, for the only time, we are introduced to the prophetess Anna. For a person who makes a brief appearance in Scripture some surprising details are given to us about her. Her father was Phanuel, she was of the tribe of Asher, she had been married for 7 years (although the name of her husband is not mentioned), and now she was a widow and 84 years old. St Luke writes that she “never left the temple” and served God day and night with fasting and prayer, presumably meaning that she was there for all the prayers and rituals. Whether she was recognized by the Jewish authorities as a prophetess, or whether she was held to be a prophetess by public opinion, we don’t known. What we can gather with certainly is that she was a pious, devoted woman, who expressed her devotion in prayer, fasting and service.

What did she see in Jesus that caused her to “give thanks to God” and to speak of him to “all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem”? She was obviously touched and deeply moved by seeing Jesus and the Holy Family, but what was it that differentiated Jesus from the many babies she would have encountered in her life? We cannot give an answer to that and it is perhaps not the most important question to ask. The more important question is why was it Anna (and, of course the righteous man Simeon) who recognized Jesus as not being just another infant? The answer to that lies in the faith and devotedness of Anna. She  “never left the temple” – her life was completely focussed on God. This was now the purpose and meaning to her life – to praise and glorify God through prayer, fasting and service. It was her unencumbered focussing on God that led to this almost mystical recognition of Jesus, and moved her to such an extent that she opened her heart and spread this good news to others. One could almost say that she was the very first apostle, relating her deep experience of encountering salvation.

Anna is such an important example for us. Her experience of God in her recognition of Jesus, a child, small and almost insignificant, was possible because her eyes were opened through her devotedness, making her aware and sensitive to God’s presence and actions.  And this is what any disciple of Jesus should be – focussed on God. And it does not matter whether you are educated or uneducated, rich or poor, male or female, married or single, a child, a father or mother – the fundamental vocation we have as Christians is to be disciples of Jesus. I may be a bishop, you may be a mother or father, you may be excellent at your work, top of your field, you may be “well thought of” in your circle of friends, but ultimately none of these things have any true meaning or lasting value if we are not first and foremost disciple of Jesus, striving to live his teachings and model his behaviour, and always having our focus on him. If we have that, then being a father, a mother, a priest, excellent at our work takes on a new meaning because they now become a means to better serve God and his people. 

It is not surprising that it was this simple, elderly woman (and the elderly Simeon) was the one to recognize this “otherness” in Jesus.  The priests and Levites, the leaders of Jewish society, neither recognized him as a baby nor as an adult. When we become so reliant on our education, status or power, and neglect to understand the fundamental importance of humbly centering our lives on God and striving to change and grow more in his likeness, then we become blind to the presence of God and we cannot recognize his work and activity in the world. If we wish our eyes to be opened, and if we desire to see the signs of God’s salvation in the small, routine, day to day events of life, the answer lies in getting back to the basics of having God at the centre of all we think, say and do..

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you                                                                          R/ And with your spirit

 With deep gratitude for your goodness and love, we pray Lord, that you will bestow your blessing upon us, that your Holy Spirit will give us newness of life to invigorate and enlighten us, that we may always proclaim the Incarnation of your Son for the salvation of the world.  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, Christmas Day Friday 25 December 2020, during this time of the coronavirus pandemic. It is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please also see below the text of his reflection, primarily for the deaf.

Friday Reflection: Christmas Day

When looking at a stable who would imagine that it could be the site of Real Presence? Similarly, when looking at our families who would imagine that it is also a site of Real Presence. Families have some wonderful characteristics which make us feel safe and secure but families also consist of fragile persons like you and me and at times our inglorious self emerges making family life a bit of a challenge. How then can we say that the family is a site where God can be encountered and revealed? 

Two considerations: Firstly, God’s presence does not exist in flawless conditions. The birth of Jesus took place in a stable. The first sensation his little nostrils will have picked up would have been the stench of animals. So real presence does not take place in a deodorized vacuum! 

Secondly, Jesus did not come from outer space like Superman did. Jesus was born into the context of a family and when that happened, God said once and for all that the human family is the arena from which he delivers his most important Word – his Word about forgiveness, about healing, about love, about selflessness, about joy, about peace and about all the values which make our families vibrant units of the body of Christ.

The reason why the Word of forgiveness, healing, peace, etc. is necessary is simply because every human being experiences incompleteness, pain, brokenness, loneliness and discomfort. The family which has no need of forgiveness and healing does not exist. In psychology such a family is called a white knight – it simply does not exist! St Paul reminds us that all have sinned (Romans 3:23). The perfect parent does not exist neither does the perfect child or sibling. All are on the way, striving to be recognised, thanked, validated and ultimately for union with God. Even the genealogy of Jesus in the New Testament (Matthew 1:1-16) is striking for its inclusion of broken people. Just to name two characters – King David was an adulterer and Rahab was a prostitute.

As soon as we recognise this and embrace each other with all our faults and failings, Christian family starts to emerge. Then Christmas becomes real right in our homes – as opposed to being glamorized in the shopping malls and fashion stores of our cities. I wish you a joyful (even if muted) Christmas season.

Let us pray: Lord bless our families with the ability to embrace each other and gift us with peace, love and forgiveness in our homes. 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 23 December 2020, during this time of the coronavirus pandemic. It is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please also see below the text of his reflection, primarily for the deaf.

Despite all the hardships of this year, we begin our celebrations of joy and gratitude, for salvation has come into the world. It is necessary to celebrate and, as we hear in the Scriptures, we neither weep nor mourn for the Day of the Lord is holy (cf. Neh 8:9). So, for the moment, we put our troubles behind us, and we lift our hearts to God in praise of his goodness. Our celebrations may be different this year as we seek to keep ourselves and others safe by being responsible, but rejoice we must. Thank you for joining me for this reflection.

In the First Reading of today’s Mass we hear from the prophet Malachi (3:1-4;4:5-6):

But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? “For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offering to the Lord.

Let us pray:

O Wisdom of the Most High, come to teach us the way of prudence. O root of Jesse, come and deliver us; delay no longer. O Key of David, come and lead us out of the prison where we sit in darkness. O King of the nations and cornerstone of the Church! Come and save mankind, whom you formed from the clay of the earth. O Daystar, splendour of eternal light and son of justice! Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death. Come, Lord Jesus, amen. 

I heard a story of a certain lady who was accustomed to reading the Scriptures. On one occasion she came on the reading from Malachi that we have just heard, and she wondered at the words, he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. She decided to visit a silversmith to see what purifying silver involves. She did not tell him the reason for her visit, but questioned him about the process of purifying silver. He explained it to her fully and, when he was finished, she asked him, Do you sit and watch while the work of refining is going on? The man replied in the affirmative saying, Oh yes. I must sit and watch the furnace constantly because, if the silver is in the furnace too long, even if it is just for a few seconds too long, the silver will be injured. 

God sits as a refiner and purifier of silver. He sees it necessary sometimes to allow us to be purified in a furnace, to mould us and to transform our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. He allows hardships in our lives that we may develop resilience and perseverance, that we may be more compassionate and understanding when others are going through their own struggles, doubts and anxieties. But while we go through these hardships he does not abandon us, he sits and watches lest we are overcome by them. He will not let us be tested beyond our endurance (cf. 1Cor 10:13).

But the lady had not finished with the silversmith. She asked him one further question, How do you know when the process is finished? He replied saying that was simple. When I can see my own image in the silver, I know the process is complete. The trials, struggles and difficulties of life should mould us into the image of Christ, so that we become people filled with his mercy, understanding, tenderness, forgiveness and gentleness.  Even in everyday life we hear people say something like, life has mellowed him. Our experience of life, with its joys and tears, its laughter and sadness, changes us into being more human and tolerant people.

This is one of the positive lessons that we must take from the corona virus pandemic. For millions and millions of people around the world it has meant tragedy, bereavement and vulnerability. It has changed the world. We must also allow it to change us. If we are going to come through it as better people, then this heartbreaking and frustrating experience must help us re-discover our values in life, what is important and what is not important. It must make us more caring of others, and much more aware of our responsibility for the health and wellbeing of others, as well as our responsibility to the health and wellbeing of creation. Most especially, it must transform us into people of hope, who can see beyond the present sufferings and recognize God’s hand in our lives and in the world, leading us to reflecting his image to the world more faithfully – just as the silver is fully refined when it reflects the image of the silversmith.

The coming feast of the Incarnation is an opportunity to strengthen our hope and our faith in God. For we are reminded that his name is Emmanuel, God-with-us. He is not separated from our pain and uncertainty, but he is among us urging us to place our trust in him, to surrender ourselves into his hands and to welcome his light into our hearts. So let’s resist the temptation to go around complaining, or looking like we are carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. Let us allow him to liberate us from that prison of darkness, the prison of negativity and despair, and lead us into the light. Then others will recognize the image of Christ in us, as we spread joy and gratitude for salvation.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you                                                                          R/ And with your spirit

 Look kindly on your people, O Lord, who await your light to dispel the darkness and lead them to salvation. Look kindly on your people, O Lord, and fill them with the joy of the coming feast. Look kindly on your people, O Lord,  and strengthen them that they may not falter on the way. Through Christ our Lord, amen.  And may Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen

I wish you, your families, friends and loved ones, a peaceful, joyful and Blessed Christmas. May the child Jesus come into your hearts to strengthen and comfort you. Merry Christmas.