Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 24 June 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.
As we enter into an intense period in the Western Cape, when we are going to witness a rise in the number of Covid-19 infections and a rise in the death rate, we turn with confidence to the Lord our God to guide us through this pandemic and to lead us into the ways in which he wishes us to walk. Today’s celebration commemorating the birth of St John the Baptist, reminds us particularly of the presence of God in the world and that his plan for redemption continues to unfold. In the First Reading of today’s Mass, from the Prophet Isaiah, we hear these words:
And now the Lord says, who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him (Isaiah 49).
Let us pray,
Heavenly Father, creator of all that lives and has its being, we thank and praise you for the gift of life, for you, Father, are indeed the source of all life. In our sinfulness we do much harm to creation which you have entrusted us, but you do not desert us and you continue to call us to the restoration of creation as you intended it to be. Be close to us especially now, as we face many anxieties and uncertainties, and lead us to live our faith by promoting life and wholeness, always respecting the beauty and dignity of all that exists. We make this prayer through Our Lord Jesus Christ, you Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.
Over the past few decades there has been a deepening understanding and awareness of the rights common to every human being. In more recent times, the consciousness of the need to protect and respect the environment has also grown – life depends on the earth which God has created. For we who are Christian, such an understanding of the dignity of life and the rights of people, is not a mere human philosophy or a political understanding of a human rights culture. It flows from our faith, from what we know and believe about God’s creation, about the meaning of life and about our role as human beings to which the world has been entrusted. All life is from God and life has been given through the Word, Jesus Christ. In the words of St John: Through him all things came into being, not one thing came into being except through him (Jn 1:3). Life is no accident, and nothing lives without having been brought to life by God. John the Baptist’s birth was fulfilment of the prophecies of the Old Testament, and he was chosen to be the one who would “prepare the way of the Lord”, to call people to repentance and to turn once again to God. In the words of his father, Zechariah,: as for you little child, you will be called prophet of God the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare a way for him (Luke 1:76). It is not only St John the Baptist who was chosen by the Lord – we fundamentally believe that everyone has life because God wishes it to be so. We are part of God’s plan.
Life is a miracle. It is a miracle we take for granted because of familiarity – we are accustomed to other living beings and other human beings. And yet, the birth of every child is a miracle. You, too, are a miracle created by God. Our bodies, the bodies of all animals and, indeed, all life is miraculous. Your body continues to function in thousands of ways without you even being aware of it – I suppose it is only when things go wrong with our bodies that we realise how much we took it for granted.
How scandalous it is, then, when we lose our respect for life and for the dignity of all creatures, but most especially human beings. In South Africa we are continually shocked and scandalized by the ongoing violence against women and children. In the United States the “Black lives matter” movement has gained momentum and has spread throughout the world. It is not as if people are saying that it is only Black lives that matter, or the lives of women and children – it is because of the particularly heinous crimes acted out on the vulnerability of people and discrimination against them. Such violence is not only anti-social but it is anti-God, as all violence is. We have a right to defend ourselves but we do not have a right to perpetrate violence. One of the greatest forms of violence – and one which many people take for granted and exclude from a “human rights” understanding – is the violence against the unborn. Millions are aborted annually.
The point is that as people of faith we promote life holistically – at all stages of life and for all people – from womb to tomb and without discrimination. This pandemic has made us aware of this as we become more and more conscious of the fact that other people’s health depends on us. Managing the virus is a life issue and that is why the Church is urging us more and more to be responsible in our behaviour and to embrace the behaviour change that is necessary to protect the lives of others. Let us re-commit ourselves to open our eyes and to marvel at the wonder of creation and the miraculous works of God, that we may promote and defend all life including the very earth itself.
Let us now pray for God’s blessing:
The Lord be with you R/ And with your spirit
Heavenly Father, look kindly on your people as we continue to struggle through these painful times. Open our hearts anew, O Lord, that we may be guided by you to recognize your miraculous works and to never take them for granted. Keep us in your love, Lord, keep our families and loved ones safe, and be close to us especially when things grow dark. Through Christ Our Lord, amen.
May Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.