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 26 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.

Greetings and welcome once again. When Jesus encountered his disciples after his Resurrection, he greeted them with the words “peace be with you”. We perhaps miss the full import of those beautiful words which expresses his desire we should be at peace within ourselves, at peace with others and at peace with God. And so I wish you all “peace” – peace with your family and friends, peace with those you don’t get on with, peace with God and peace within yourself. In today’s Gospel from St Matthew (Matt 23:27-32) we hear Jesus speaking to the scribes and Pharisees:

Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also appear righteous to all men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, we live among so many contradictions in our lives and in the world, and often we do not know the right thing to do or the path to take. Pour your grace into our hearts, Lord, to remove all hypocrisy from them that we may be as honest as we can with ourselves, with others and with you ,that we may always be sincere in our relationships and seek to live by the truth. 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.

To some extent we are all hypocrites. The image we present, or the mask we wear, does not always represent what is within ourselves. Often that is not intentional, and often it is not harmful or even deceitful. But it can become so, particularly if someone is not committed to developing the virtues of truth and honesty. Honesty and truth, while connected, are not the same thing. There are various perspectives on the difference between the two. My own understanding is that you cannot be honest without truth, whereas you could be truthful without being honest. While there is absolute truth – God is Truth – the finite nature of human experience cannot come to grips with the fullness of truth. It is, as St Paul said, “looking through a glass darkly” (1Cor 123:12). That  is why, when people witness the same event such as a car accident, there will be variations in their description. It is not intentional deceit as their accounts vary according to where they were standing, what caught their attention and their interpretation of what happened. It is also possible to tell the truth about events without necessarily encompassing all the truth.

Honesty is what exists within a person, and is the decision or commitment to see himself/herself as they really are, without rose coloured spectacles. It incorporates sincerity and the desire for objective truth and for the whole truth. Furthermore, it is the determination to be just in all things and to be true to one’s beliefs in practice. No more whitewashed tombs hiding decaying bones, to use the analogy of Jesus in the Gosple. Primarily, honesty is the realistic assessment of self and the attempt to bring one’s thoughts, words and actions into harmony, so that they are at peace with each other. Sometimes we hear people say: But I was just being honest when I said that about him! In such cases, our claim to honesty could be just a cover up for rudeness –  honesty also involves tolerance and humility.

For any Christian it is crucially important to grow in honesty, in order that we may be truthful in all things. But it cannot remain at a personal, individual level. Here in South Africa, we have been scandalized and outraged by the alleged corruption and the misuse of funds meant for the health of people during this time of coronavirus. We must be outraged. Such dishonesty affects the lives of people who are already suffering bitterly. Christianity strives not only for personal honesty but to promote an honest society. Human dignity in itself demands honest civil leaders, honest priests and bishops, honest captains of industry and commerce. There is no ideology involved here, it is about the common good, and for that reason through our own honesty we must call others to honesty.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you                                                                              R/ And with your spirit

Graciously enlighten your family, O Lord, we pray, that by holding fast to what is pleasing to you, they may be worthy to accomplish all that is good. We make this prayer through Christ Our Lord, amen.

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

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