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 12 August 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.

Even in these difficult times there are occasions of great joy. During this past week, Bishop Noel Rucastle was ordained bishop of Oudtshoorn, and Rev. Rui Henriques, who is preparing for priesthood, was ordained a deacon in his home parish of Stellenbosch. We give thanks to God who continues to bless his church with pastors and ministers, and on behalf of all in the Archdiocese I wish them blessings and assure them of our prayers.

In the Gospel reading of today’s Mass (Matthew 18:15-20) we hear these words of Jesus: 

…If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses…”

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, we thank you that you sent your Son Jesus to reconcile the world to yourself. Through his love, a love so great that he gave his life for us, we have been granted your forgiveness. Help us Lord always to be grateful for so great a sacrifice and give us the courage to always seek reconciliation among people. We make this prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever, amen.

Reconciliation is key to Christian life. Christ himself reconciled us to God and has made peace through the blood of his Cross (cf. Colossians 1:20). The way to reconciliation has been opened before us and St Paul urges us: “be reconciled to God” ( 2 Corinthians 5:20). Since we are imperfect and often fail to live a life that is filled with self-sacrificing love, we continually need to reconcile with God, to acknowledge our sins and to seek his forgiveness, always committing ourselves to rectifying our faults and trying to do better. As I said in a recent reflection, how blessed we are to have the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Confession. It is a Sacrament of renewal and new life.

But Jesus also stretched out his hands on the Cross that there would be reconciliation among those who accept his embrace, bringing people together in the unity of the family of God. As St Paul says in his second letter to the Corinthians (v19), All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. It is awe-inspiring, and humbling, that we are called to be ministers of reconciliation and that we have been entrusted to conveying and practising the message of reconciliation in the world in which we live.

Reconciliation goes way beyond forgiveness. Even if there is forgiveness, it does not mean that there will be reconciliation, although reconciliation always involves forgiveness. Forgiveness may be personal and individual, whereas reconciliation always involves more than one person. You may have noted in the Gospel reading, Jesus did not say we should sit and wait for the one who aggrieved us to come to us. He urges that we take the initiative to restore the relationship. And that is what reconciliation is – the restoration of relationships, re-establishing peace and harmony. There is so much that militates against reconciliation. In a world of individualism and presumed self-sufficiency, we may be tempted to give up on people, why bother with them, we don’t need them, we can live our own lives without them, we may say. Then there are emotions that can prevent reconciliation – deep hurt, anger, a wish for revenge. Very often it is attitudes of pride and obstinacy that either prevent us from taking the first step, or re-buffing others when they take the first step. Jesus encourages us to be mature about this, to deal with conflicts and divisions in a Christian way. Thus he encourages to go and talk things through.

But it is not only in personal relationships that we need reconciliation. The Covid-19 pandemic has manifested in a stark way the deep divisions among us – between those who live in poverty and those who have excess, political divisions, a nationalism that believes a country can “go it alone”, the divisions between the young and strong, and those who are elderly, vulnerable and sick, the divisions between those who have access to resources and those who don’t, the division between those who selfishly misuse resources and those who are desperate for them. Reconciliation recognizes our inter-dependance. The pandemic has also made us aware of how much we need to reconcile with mother earth which has been exploited and scarred through human selfishness. In essence, Christian reconciliation is about restoring the whole of creation as God intended it to be.

So let us pray earnestly that we will always be agents of reconciliation and never agents of conflict and division.   We need to do that even in the most simple of situations, such as how we use social media – always committing ourselves to be reconciliatory and not divisive.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you                                                                  R/ And with your spirit

Loving Father, we ask you to look kindly upon your people that they may seek to sow the seeds of love, forgiveness, peace and reconciliation, that we may heal divisions in our families, relationships and in society. We make this prayer through Christ our Lord, amen.

May almighty God bless you, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, amen.

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