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 8th July 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.

Welcome to my chapel at home. It is always a pleasure to have this opportunity to be with you for a brief moment as we continue to be physically separated. Once again, we will start with a short quote from Scripture, from the Gospel of today’s Mass, from St Matthew.

The  names of the twelve apostles are these: first Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother… (Matthew 10:1ff)

Let us pray:

Loving and eternal Father, you have called and chosen us to follow your Son Jesus Christ. Help us always, Lord, to be faithful to him and to learn from him, so that we may act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with God. In these painful and troubled times, strengthen us in the likeness of Christ, that we may see beyond our own pain and suffering and may recognize the needs of others and respond to their cry for help. We make this prayer through your Son Our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reign with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever, amen.

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

These are words of Shakespeare from Romeo and Juliet. It is question worth asking when we consider that Jesus gave Simon the new name of “Peter” (cf. Matt 16:18). We know from Scripture that Peter was far from a perfect, sinless person. He was impetuous, vacillating in his loyalty to the Lord and impatient. And yet, Jesus recognized something in him that perhaps Peter himself had not recognized, and thus Jesus entrusted to him “the keys of the Kingdom” as part of the new born Church. Perhaps a clue of the something that Jesus recognized in him was in the name “Simon” which, we are told translates to “listening” or “hearing”. Despite all imperfections, he was open to listening to the Lord and hearing his message. His name Simon could also be regarded as the imperfection of the human person, but the name of Peter was the new person, the rock, the one who is firm in his belief, solid and unshakeable.

The choosing of Peter and the other apostles is a source of great comfort and hope for all of us. As Christians, we fundamentally believe that we are all chosen by God – chosen to do God’s will, chosen to witness to the resurrection and chosen to spread the Gospel to the very ends of the earth. We are imperfect people, weak, short-sighted – as were the apostles. But God recognizes something within us and calls us to be the people that he wishes us to be and not simply as we are. Thus, Christian life is always a journey of deepening our co-operation with the grace of God, that grace which calls forth in us the goodness that the Lord sees in us. The goodness that each one of us has is not of our own doing: it is a gift, giving to us by God. We cannot be proud of ourselves because we have it, we cannot think that it is our own doing or accomplishment. It is given to us. Our response is to be able to “hear” and “listen” to the call to co-operate with the grace of God and allow that goodness to blossom and flourish in our lives – not for our own edification but in order to allow God to touch the lives of others through us. St Paul sums it up in his letter to the Ephesians: And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them(Eph 2:8-10).

So no matter what our weaknesses, imperfections and sinfulness may be, we don’t give up. We continue on that journey knowing that, if left to ourselves, we cannot be saved. It is God’s mercy that will save us. Like Peter, we have to be strong in our trust and faith in God, and not give in to despair because we make mistakes and sin – that would be the worst thing to do. Our hope is solely in God’s mercy and love, and so we continue striving to be better people, more authentically living the Gospel, while at all times rejoicing in God’s perfect goodness. The beautiful words of St Paul give deep insight into God’s plan: But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong (1 Cor 1:27). Our acceptance of our limitations enables us to accept God’s grace, and our appreciation of our “littleness” allows God’s strength to work through us. We should never forget our littleness – it opens us to humbly accept God’s gift of salvation.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you                                                              R/ And with your spirit

May almighty God strengthen you in your faith, hope and love, that you may continue in perseverance and trust in his goodness, and respond to his grace generously. May he keep you, and all your loved ones, safe from every evil, and may he bless you, The Father (+), the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

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