Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 15th 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.
Thank you for joining me for this reflection. I hope that you are well wrapped-up and warm during these very cold days. The stormy weather we have experienced in the Western Cape must make us pause, not only to think of those who do not have sufficient shelter and food, but also what difference we can make to their lives using whatever means are available to us. We are so grateful that we are still able to supply families in need with food parcels, so thank you to all of you who are contributing to the Archdiocesan Covid-19 food parcel campaign.
The Scripture reading that is the basis of this reflection is from the Gospel of today’s Mass, the Gospel of St Matthew:
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. (Matthew 11:25ff).
Let us pray: O God, you show the light of your truth to those who go astray so that they may return to the right path. Grant us Lord, the grace to change so that we may reject what is contrary to your name, and to strive after all that does it honour. We make this prayer through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever, amen.
Infants are those who are innocent and simple and do not have the extra “baggage” to carry that we adults have through our life-experiences. They are those who are dependent on their parents for nurture and sustenance, and need them for life itself. Jesus, at another time, told us that if we are to enter the Kingdom of Heaven we are to change and become like little children (Matthew 18:13). My question is: can the present Covid-19 crisis, as sad, painful and frustrating as it is, lead us into becoming more like little children.
One thing many have experienced in a very deep way over these past months, is how dependent we are on those things we consider “normal”. We have been stripped of our social lives, our entertainment, our routine, our sense of security. Many are facing unemployment and economic hardship. Indeed, as I have mentioned, millions of people are facing poverty and a shortage of food. A number of our support structures have slid away and we have been faced with relying on our inner strength. There is a comparison to be made between the present times with the time of death – when we have to let go of all we love and all we are accustomed to, and to abandon ourselves to God. God is the one thing that remains, and to be embraced by him we have to let go of everything else and simply trust in him. The present difficulties make it very clear to us on how many other things we depend on and that we do not have the simplicity of infants to make ourselves totally dependent on God. This is not to say that the many beautiful relationships and the many beautiful activities of our lives are not important or are not good. They are both important and good, but we must remember who we are as human beings – finite and incomplete in our earthly, physical existence.
We have received so much in the past that enables us to weather the storm, the storm of this virus which is controlling so much of our lives, or the storm of letting go of our earthly lives as we face our mortality. We have our faith, often transmitted to us by our parents. We have been nurtured and nourished by the Church, through the Sacraments, most especially the Eucharist. We have made a home for God’s Word in our hearts. We are part of a believing community and we have been encouraged, and given encouragement, through our participation in that believing community. We may feel desolate now, but all these things have given us, through the mercy of God, the inner strength to face the long journey of faith. Ultimately, it is not our strength, but Christ’s strength within us. The experience of Elijah bring this home to us. He was fleeing from Jezebel who was intent on killing him. He fled to the wilderness and wished he were dead. After falling asleep he was awakened by an angel who told him to get up and eat, and he found scone and water where he was lying. He slept again and was again awakened by the angel who ordered him to eat again “or the journey will be too long for you”. He got up and ate and, strengthened by the food, he walked for 40 days and 40 nights and reached Mount Horeb, the mountain of the Lord (1 Kings 19ff).
As painful as it is at the moment, when we have been cut off from so much that sustains us, we must not neglect to be grateful because God has fed us abundantly for the journey. From what we have received in the past, we have the strength to continue in complete trust of him. We draw now from the wells of salvation (Isaiah 12:3-5) and we should make the promise, that when things get back to some normality, we will never again take for granted what God offers to give us. We may feel at those times that we do not need what he offers, but the time will come when we need that sustenance to have the strength to complete the journey.
Let us now pray for God’s blessing:
The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit
Merciful Father, look kindly upon your people in their need, and give them the strength and grace needed as we face these painful times. Open all their hearts in generosity, Lord, that they may see not only their own needs, but recognize and respond to the needs of their neighbour. Keep them safe in your love and guide them that they may always be conscious of your presence. We make this prayer through Christ our Lord, amen.
And may Almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.