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 22 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 peace on all who are joining me for this reflection. May God continue to be with us as we face the difficulties of our time. 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.

I have taken the Scripture verses from the First Reading of today’s Mass, from the Book of Ezra (9:5-9).

Oh my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens.

Ezra was a priest and scribe, skilled in the law, and was a great leader of the Jewish people at the time of the great Babylonian exile which lasted 70 years. He was an intercessor for the people of Israel, imploring God’s mercy for his people. Furthermore, he called on the people to return to the Law, the Torah, and so do what is pleasing to God. The exile ended when the king of Persia, Cyrus, not only allowed the Jews to return to Israel and re-build the Temple, but also encouraged others to donate and facilitate the project. God had moved the heart of Cyrus to look kindly on his people, and the Jews recognized in this the mercy of God who finally brought to an end their period of enslavement. The exile had resulted from and as a consequence of their sinfulness and that of their forefathers who had disobeyed God’s law and gone after idols.

We too are subject to a type of slavery – the slavery of sin. Each and every one of “falls short of the glory of God” (cf. Romans 3:23) and, in our human weakness, we separate ourselves from God. We try to be faithful to the law of God, but fail in many respects to “love God with all our heart, and soul and mind, and to love our neighbour as ourselves” (Matthew 22:37-39). To have a sense of our sinfulness, a sense which needs to deepen as we deepen our Christian life, should never result in any sense of self-hatred, despair or abandonment of being willing to try again. While we may kick ourselves when we fail again, in one aspect or another, and while we may get annoyed because of our weakness and failure, we rejoice in the fact that it is precisely because we are incapable of saving ourselves that Christ became incarnate and took on our flesh. He continually opens before us the possibility of conversion and re-establishing our relationship with him, through his grace and mercy. For that reason we do not give up on ourselves (because Christ has not given up on us), nor do we give up on striving to do better in the future. The appropriate response, when we have fallen into sin, is to repent, call on God’s mercy and forgiveness, and pick ourselves up, yet again, with the firm resolution that we are going to fight off the temptations that will come our way in the future. We assimilate penance into our lives, doing regular penance through prayer, fasting (if we are sufficiently healthy), abstaining and by sacrificial acts of love towards others.

It is Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection that gives us hope, and thus to give in to despair is the worst thing we can do, since it means that we have no hope in the gratuitous gift that Jesus offers us, the gift of salvation. There are many Biblical texts that encourage us in our fight against sin – think of St Paul’s saying: where sin increased grace abounded even more (cf. Romans 5:20), and, God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability and will provide a way of escape that we may endure (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13)

The Gospel reading of today’s Mass also enlightens us in this regard. The disciples were sent out to proclaim the Kingdom of God, but they are to take neither staff nor haversack, nor bread, nor money, and no spare tunic (Luke 9:1-6). In other words, they are to depend entirely on God’s providence, his grace and mercy, mediated to them through others who would provide for their needs – just as God returned the Jewish exiles to Israel through the king Cyrus. It is this attitude of complete dependence on God which helps us overcome sin, and helps us come to terms with our sinfulness. It reminds us that we have to continually plead with God for his mercy, forgiveness and help, to pray continuously and to express our dependence on his love.

How blessed we are, as Catholics, to have the Sacrament of Confession. It enable us to humbly approach God and vocalize our confession to him through the person of the priest. Genuine humility will reflect our genuine repentance, our desire to change and grow more in the likeness of God, our willingness to make amends, as far as possible, for the wrongs we have done, and to accept a penance in reparation to God. It is a joyful and life-giving Sacrament, re-building our relationship with God, showering us with his grace and pouring his love into our hearts. Let us just take a moment to express our deep thankfulness to God for his forgiveness and for the Sacrament of forgiveness, Confession…….

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

Heavenly and gracious Father, we thank you for the love you have always shown us. We are sorry for the times we have sinned against you and against our neighbour. With the help of your grace we will sin no more. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, amen. May Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

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 17 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.

Let us start by praying for the fruitfulness of the upcoming Synod.

We stand before You, Holy Spirit,
as we gather together in Your name. 

With You alone to guide us,
make Yourself at home in our hearts; 

Teach us the way we must go
and how we are to pursue it. 

We are weak and sinful;
do not let us promote disorder.

Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path nor partiality influence our actions. 

Let us find in You our unity
so that we may journey together to eternal life and not stray from the way of truth
and what is right. 

All this we ask of You,
who are at work in every place and time,
in the communion of the Father and the Son, forever and ever. Amen. 

The emptiness of seeking earthly gain. 2 Timothy 6:2-12 

Our current pandemic, with all the uncertainties it has ushered in, ought to have taught us a few lessons about what is important and what is normal. The lifestyles we took for granted are no longer possible under the restrictive conditions we have to cope with. People often ask: “when are things going to get back to normal?” They have a longing for the way things used to be. Perhaps a more important question is to examine how we have lived and to ask to what extent has that been normal. 

For example, people in the cities are used to having Mass in their Parishes on a daily basis and find it difficult to cope with present situation. People living in rural areas on the other hand have Mass once a month and many others have the Eucharist far less frequently than that. And yet they celebrate the Sabbath faithfully every week. They nourish their faith by sharing on the liturgy of the Word and by praying. Normally these communities have a Catechist and the people themselves take care of preparations for Baptisms, Confirmations, First Holy Communion, etc. Most belong to sodalities and these organisations take care of such things as home-based care for the aged, feeding the poor, and bandaging the wounded. Their entire life is Christianity in action simply because it is characterised by sharing and caring. 

In terms of the Christian message which is more normal – our isolated lifestyle or their communitarian lifestyle? Covid-19 has pressed the reset button and has forced us to be the Body of Christ in the home. We have become less independent and a lot more inter-dependent. We have come to realise that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers and also that they are our keepers. In 2013 prior to becoming Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio SJ referred to the serious sin of self referentiality and called it a “theological narcissism”. Self referentiality is a technical term referring to an extreme form of independence which screams out that we need nobody and that no one can teach us anything. Well, Covid-19 has rearranged that. The very fact that we expect others to wear masks and to be vaccinated so that we too may be safe, illustrates that we are dependent on the goodwill of others.

The sharing of resources so that the poor were fed when the pandemic first hit our shores was a meaningful exercise in Christian living. Many in the Archdiocese of Cape Town responded in true Christian fashion. I pray that that kind of “being normal” never ends. Nowadays we have other agencies such as Caritas Cape Town, SVP, and other parish based organisations attending to that work of mercy and it must never end. This is where our first reading of today’s Mass is so informative. It teaches us what we ought to have known by instinct but choose to forget – that we came into this world with nothing and that we will leave with nothing (2 Timothy 6:7). In the previous verse St Paul laments the fact that many see religion as a means of making a profit (2 Timothy 6:6). I was watching the News on the morning after the President announced the change in Lockdown Levels and the interviewer asked one of the leaders of a so called “mega church” how the new lockdown levels affected the “church industry”. A slip of the tongue perhaps, but it does betray how people see these kinds of religious operations. Over and above this, St Paul – and this is clearly spelt out in the original text, encourages the servants of the Word to serve even more authentically so as to benefit the community of believers and not themselves.

The passage ends with a special appeal to those who hold office in the Church to be true to the promises (or vows) which were made in public. This is a passage which calls for greater accountability. Accountability according to this passage is not an optional extra – it is an essential dimension of the life of those called to serve – whether as lay leaders, ordained clergy, leaders of government, leaders on sports fields, leaders at schools, in workplaces or any other forum. For the Christian there is only one template and that is “Christ-like” service. In this regard the teaching in Mark 10:45 is most appropriate.

Let us pray: Father, give us the grace of humility so that we may serve as Christ did. We ask this through him who is Lord forever and ever. 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 15 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.

Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, and today we remember the suffering of Mary, the mother of Jesus, as she stood at the foot of the Cross. Today’s feast is rightly called “Our Lady of Sorrows”. Welcome to this reflection, and we will begin by praying 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.

I have chosen a couple of verses from the alternative Gospel of today’s Mass (John 19:25b-27):

When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. 

Jesus was a humble man. His humility was manifest in the way in which he spoke to others, in his compassionate actions and his openness to sinners in their weakness. This good man died a humiliating death. Raw and brutal power not only sought to kill him, but to ensure that it was degrading death and that he be stripped of all human dignity. Yet he suffered that humiliation willingly and patiently for he knew it was necessary for the salvation of the world.

There is a difference between humility and humiliation, although the two are related. Humility is a virtue that a person chooses to live by. It is expressed through an honest self-appraisal of oneself, neither exaggerating or devaluing one’s gifts nor one’s faults. It is always appreciative of the worth of others and would never “bruise the broken reed or seek to extinguish the wavering candle1”. As a virtue, it is something that grows within us through conscious effort and perseverance. Humiliation, on the other hand, is something imposed on a person over which he or she has little or no control. It is intended to strip the person of his or her dignity, to shame them and to cause them pain. Of course, on occasion we can be our own worst enemy and humiliate ourselves, but that is something for another occasion.

Mary, who shared in the pain of witnessing her Son’s torture and cruel death on the Cross, shared also in his humiliation. In a human sense, she was powerless to do anything to help and was undoubtedly acutely aware of the gloating eyes and enjoyment of some of those gathered to look upon the suffering one. She stood her ground, she endured the painfulness of the situation and bore it patiently, without losing hope or faith. I think it is fair to say that even as she, Our Lady of Sorrows, witnessed the blood and destruction of her Beloved, she was able to see beyond it, in some way, to the light and glory of the Resurrection.

We have all experienced humiliation at some time in our life. It can be very hard to get over such times, and they can haunt us for many years. Mary shows us another way of dealing with the pain and indignity of humiliation. Patiently, humbly and in fidelity, she was able to unite her suffering with the suffering of Jesus on the Cross, without anger, self-pity or despair. She absorbed the suffering and transformed it into hope. Many saints deliberately sought humiliation for two reasons – to unite themselves more fully with Christ’s passion and death, and in order to help them grow in humility.

We are not able to avoid humiliation at some point of our lives. You have only to pause and look around in a busy supermarket, for example, to see how people “look through” the elderly as if they did not exist, how annoyed people can become with them because they are a bit slow, how they are treated as if they have lost their faculties. Old age brings with it a certain humiliation. Again, when sickness strikes, we may lose control over our body which, in itself, is humiliating. Again, we have only to think of the mentally or physically challenged and how they are at times treated as “non-persons” or a drain on society, to realise how common humiliation is and how many people live with humiliation.

Recognizing humiliations as being part of life is important for two reasons. Firstly, we have to ask ourselves whether we have the resilience and the inner resources to deal with it in a way that does not destroy us. Do we have the depth of spirituality to be able to unite our pain of humiliation with the Passion and Cross of Jesus in a way that seeks to allow our suffering to “complete what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ2”? Can we endure it with patience and hope, absorbing it and allowing it to help us grow in humility and in the depth of our relationship with God. Secondly, and very importantly, do we have the courage and compassion to stand with those who are suffering humiliation for whatever reason? It may be the humiliation of poverty or discrimination, the humiliation of dependence in sickness or old age, or the humiliation of those who are scorned because they are different in some way. In short, are we able to be like Mary who stood at the foot of the Cross supporting her Son and in solidarity with him in his suffering? Ultimately, we should not see humiliation only as an inevitable aspect of human reality, but also part and parcel of our spiritual life as an aid in growing closer to Christ.

Let us now praise for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

God our Father, you willed that Mary, Virgin and Mother, should stand close to the Cross and share in the suffering of her Son, Jesus. In honouring her today, may we too complete in ourselves, for the Church’s sake, what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ3. Through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord, amen. May Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

1 cf. Isaiah 42:3

2 cf. Colossians 1:24

3 Based on the Collect and Prayer after Communion of today’s Mass

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 10 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.

10 September 2021. Our union with God.

Recently we have been praying for peace in Southern Africa. We must continue to do that but at this time I wish to pray for the fruitfulness of the upcoming Synod.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
And kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And you will renew the face of the earth.

Father, pour out your Spirit upon our your Church
And grant us a new vision of your glory,
A new experience of your power,
A new faithfulness to your Word,
And a new consecration to your service
So that your love may grow among us,
And your kingdom come.

Through Christ our Lord. 
Amen.

Our union with God

Our hymn for morning prayer a few days ago concluded with this stanza:

“Blest Trinity we praise you
In whom our quest will cease;
Keep us with you for ever
In happiness and peace.”

These words stayed with me for a few days and I kept repeating them. “Blest Trinity we praise you in whom our quest will cease;…” These words speak of union with God. Our quest will cease when we are enveloped by the Divinity. Imagine that – being enfolded by the arms of God himself. St Augustine noted that are hearts are restless until they rest in God. St Eugene de Mazenod, the Founder of the Oblates expressed a similar notion. The saints had a deep awareness that God is the destiny of every faith journey.

The Trinity whom the hymn addresses embodies the deepest meaning of union – and this union is never self-centred. There is a continuous openness to the others. The Holy Spirit will always recall the words of Jesus for us (Jn 14:26), Jesus continually invites us to have intimacy with the Father (Jn 17:3; 17:21 and Mt 11:27), and the Father will breathe the Spirit on us (Job 32:8; Ezek 37:5-6)). This is what the divine union is all about – each person of the Trinity pointing to the others. This is the model for all our unions and for all true intimacy – and this is the reality “in whom our quest will cease”. This is when completion is at its most satisfying.

If we examine the liturgy and other forms of prayer in the Church we will note that all our prayers are intended to achieve union with the divine. Jesus’ teaching on prayer moves in this direction. Prayer is more than saying many words in public. It is more about listening intimately to the Father in private (Mt 6:5-6). Jesus himself practiced this type of prayer often (Lk 9:18; Mk 1:35; Mk 14:32-42). In this last reference to his prayer at Gethsemane, he also encourages his disciples to pray. So we see prayer, both liturgical prayer and private prayer, featuring prominently in the life of Jesus. The Gospel of John recounts the several trips Jesus made to the Temple for the liturgical celebrations (Jn 2:14; 5:14; 8:2; 10:23; 18:20). Lk 4:16 tells us that his presence in the synagogue on the Sabbath was his custom. Jesus practiced both liturgical prayer and private prayer. If we are to follow him, then we must pray as he did. He did, after all, want followers and not admirers.

But back to the notion of union with God. What is so astounding and incomprehensible is that God desires union with us even though we are broken and incomplete. It is this union with God that will actually bring wholeness and completeness. All we can do is make ourselves available. I wish you joy as you deepen your union with the Divine. Do not be afraid of this notion of becoming one with the Divine. This does not mean that we reduce the status of the Divine – it actually enhances our status as believers. Remember the words said when the priest or deacon adds water to the wine at Mass “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity”. We are made for union with God. And so to conclude: “Blest Trinity we praise you, in whom our quest will cease;…”

Let us pray: Father you constantly invite us into deeper union with you. Help us to make ourselves available so that where you are, we may also be. 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 8 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.

Today we celebrate the birthday of Our Lady. In doing so, we remember that each and every person is willed by God, and that our births are not accidents. Welcome to today’s reflection and let us begin by praying 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 is an excerpt from the alternative Second Reading of today’s Mass (Romans 8:28-30):

We know that by turning everything to their good, God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those he has called according to his purpose. They are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son…1

Fundamentally, we believe that God has love for each and every person and is willing to co-operate with anyone. Sadly, it is not everyone who has love for God and thus he is rebuffed and rejected, a blockade is erected in their lives to prevent his grace from entering in and so conversion is resisted. It is worth noting at this point that love of God is achieved primarily when we know him, have encountered him and are able to respond to him by seeking greater communion with him and by serving him through good works. However, there have been many instances of God working through those who do not know him but who, nonetheless, are people who seek to do good and have chosen to live their lives according to values which correspond to the values of God’s Kingdom. For example, Cyrus in the Bible, was a pagan king and yet allowed the Jews to return to Israel and facilitated the re-building of the Temple. Another is the widow of Zarephath or Sidon who offered shelter and the last of her food to the prophet Elijah. Today such people are what the famous theologian, Karl Rahner, would refer to as “anonymous Christians”. This is why it is beyond our competence to put boundaries on God’s grace or to decide who he will work through or who he will save. We cannot dictate where God’s Spirit will blow.

God has given us life through his love and, from the time of creation, has entrusted humankind with the responsibility of caring for all he created. Furthermore, at the time of his Ascension, Jesus extended the trust that God has in us, by giving us – his disciples, the followers of Jesus – a share in his mission of salvation and restoration of Creation. He invites us to embrace our first innocence, the innocence of Adam and Eve before the fall, and, in so doing, to allow Christ to draw people to himself for the sake of their salvation. The mission of the Church, in which we the baptized all share, is to proclaim the good news of the Gospel. The good news that, not only our sins are forgiven through the sacrifice of Christ, but that Creation is restored to what it was intended to be from the beginning.

This is the common purpose we have as the baptized – to humbly serve God’s Kingdom of love, unity, inclusion, peace, harmony and justice. The evangelical mission of the Church is not simply to tell others about Christ or to instruct them – it is about living the Gospel ourselves. It is when we live in love of God and neighbour, that the goodness of Christ becomes manifest to others and, working through us, Jesus will draw people to himself2. There are certain requirements on our part. Firstly, we commit ourselves to submit to God’s will in all things. We respond, with Mary, saying “Be it done according to your word”. Secondly, while we know our relationship with God is very personal, it is also communal. We belong to the Church, the community established by Christ, and so there is no room for egotistical behaviour. We work together as one. Thirdly, there will always be differences of opinions and perceptions – wherever people gather that will be the case and we have to accept it. The consequence is that we always have to be a listening community in order to understand the differences of perception. Above all, we have to discern and listen to what God is asking of us and where he is leading us, and not allow ourselves to become entrenched in any obstinate or fundamentalist ideology. Fourthly, it entails opening our hearts to God’s Holy Spirit through prayer and by keeping God’s commandments, not simply the letter of the law but the spirit of the law.

Mary’s birthday reminds us of the meaning and purpose of our own lives. As we rejoice in the birth of the new Eve who, in submission to and by the grace of the new Adam, co-operated with him in restoring creation to its first innocence, may we too seek that innocence in the complexity of life, and give ourselves wholly to God living for him in service of his Kingdom.

Let us now praise for God’s blessing: The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

Loving Father, we thank you for the gift of life, and most especially today we thank you for the gift of Mary, the Mother of the Church. Through her intercession, may our hearts always burn with love of you and our neighbour, that through us you will draw all people to yourself. Through Christ our Lord, amen. May Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

1 Jerusalem Bible translation

2 John 12:32

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 3 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.

Reflection for Friday 3 September 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.

Some thoughts on the Good NEWS and on reflective prayer: Lk 5:33-39

In our Gospel passage for today’s Mass, Jesus says: “…nobody puts new wine into old skins; if he does, the new wine will burst the skins and then run out, and the skins will be lost. No; new wine must be put into fresh skins”. This means that we have to treat the Good News as simply that – something new and not some old hat. God is after all breaking into our lives afresh each day and we are called to be attentive to that.

Some years ago Fr Albert Nolan OP made it abundantly clear is his very-easy-to-read book entitled “God in South Africa” that the good news must be treated as news i.e. as something new. In “Evangelii Gaudium” Pope Francis speaks along the same lines encouraging Christians who are supposed to proclaim the Good News not to look like they have just returned from a funeral. This is why knowing the love of God is so important. It is the basis of Christian belief and helps us overcome our trials and to proclaim the good news. 

What is needed is an attitude which approaches the Gospel with fresh eyes. Easy to say – but hard to do as we have many presuppositions and these tend to clutter our prayer lives and our reading of Sacred Scripture, not to mention our relationships. One example is the attitudes we tend to develop when seeing others. This can be none other than the justification of our own prejudices. In South Africa, it was one of the “gifts” showered on the nation by the fallacy of apartheid. It helped people to tie up entire cultures into neat little bundles which they could manipulate. What happens then is that the vital ingredient of otherness is thrown out and I encounter not a brother or a sister that I can dialogue with – but someone whose motivations I think I know and am closed to the newness which every authentic human encounter can bring. 

The example of Jesus has truly been lost on many people. Jesus demolished artificial boundaries when he healed the foreigners (Syro-Phoenicians, Samaritans and other traditional enemies of the outwardly holy Pharisees such as the untouchables like the blind, the lame and the outcasts). He smashed the gender boundaries when he had a conversation with the Woman of Samaria. A close reading of the text of Jn 4 shows just how revolutionary that was. 

To cut a long story short; what we need is a little newness in our lives. It is only a genuine prayer life – one that seeks a genuine union with God that can help us to achieve this. This calls for availability and a total openness to God and not some perceived personal cleverness that works out our own solutions as that will keep us filling new wine into our old wineskins. This calls for discipline and a generous heart – the two most vital ingredients in authentic prayer. I wish you well in all this. I know from my own personal experience how difficult it can be to sit in inner silence and wait for God – but it does result in a meaningful encounter that can only be described as Real Presence and it is all God’s doing. All I can do is to make myself, my real self, available to God where I do not have to prove any points about how good I am, how clever I am, or even how right I have been all along. 

All our relationships vacillate between concealment and disclosure e.g. I will not say to a casual acquaintance what I say to my Spiritual Director. The one area in which I can truly be most fully myself is in my relationship with God – “and the Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you” (Mt 6:4, 6, 18). I am reminded of Archbishop Brislin’s faith reflection based on Ps 138 in which he points out God’s intimate knowledge of each of us (cf. ADCT webpage for the reflection on 25th August 2021).

For us priests and religious an hour a day is what is needed. For others who might be new to this kind of life; go easy at first. Try 15 minutes, then 20, 30, etc. But do not give up. If you experience difficulty, start again at the beginning. My own prayer life is nothing else but a constant return to the basics and then with the help of my Spiritual Director and my close friends I see meaning in all this. All the while the relationship with God is deepened – and it is all God’s doing.

Let us pray: Lord teach us to pray. Help us to see that the more we disclose our true selves to you, the more we get to know who we are. Give us the courage to surrender to you the brokenness we experience and to wait in hope for the newness which you bring. 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 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

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