Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 9 September 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 home and to my chapel. In today’s Gospel from St Luke (6:20-26) we are given the “roadmap” of Christian living, the Beatitudes, the Blessings. Prior to his teaching on the beatitudes, according to Luke’s Gospel, Jesus had gone up the mountain to pray. He then summoned his disciples and, from among them, chose his twelve apostles. Together with them he then descended from the mountain and went on level ground where a large crowd had gathered to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. We hear that people with unclean spirits were also cured. This is what happened next:
Jesus lifted his eyes on his disciples and said, “Blessed are you poor for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold your reward is great in heaven.
Let us pray:
O God, who chose the Blessed Virgin Mary from among the poor and humble, to be the Mother of the Saviour, grant we pray, that following her example and acknowledging our littleness, we may offer to you sincere hearts and place in you all our hope for salvation. 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.
We are well accustomed to hear the Gospel reading of the Beatitudes. We know they are “counter cultural” values, going in a different direction from how most of us would like our lives to be. Who, after all, wishes to be poor, to hunger, to weep or to be hated by others. We aspire, at the very least, to have sufficient to sustain our lives and to enjoy life as much we can with laughter, rather than sorrow. We desire to love and to be loved by others. But, of course, the Beatitudes do not refer to the material aspects of life, but refer to the attitudes and virtues that are meant to inspire and guide us in living a Christian life.
Let us briefly have a look at the different beatitudes. We are the blessed poor because we recognize our inner insufficiency. We are not perfect, we are very often blind to knowing right and wrong. We are poor because we get our values mixed up and follow false paths. We are poor because, while we can acknowledge that others are different to us, we battle to accept difference. Pride, fundamentalism and arrogance all militate against this type of poverty, this recognition of true self. Similarly, we hunger always, because we have tasted that the Lord is good, in the words of St Peter (1 Peter 2:3). We hunger to know God and to know truth, and we thirst to drink from the wells of God, the wells of grace and love. But those wells are deep and so we always thirst for more – more depth within ourselves, more authenticity more sincerity. We hunger because often we are only drawing from the surface of God’s depth in our prayer life, in our appreciation of God’s Word and the sacraments and in the way in which we express true and sacrificial love to those who suffer. And we weep. We weep for our own mistakes of the past and present, for our sinfulness, for the sinfulness of a world that is often uncaring, unjust, violent, cruel and oppressive of people. We may well be hated by others on account of Jesus, but not because we seek hatred. It is a hatred that arises because there are those who hate truth. The true disciple will always be firm in standing for the truth and for justice, but will always do so humbly and without any sense of self-righteousness or superiority. It is a hatred that arises because some perceive truth to be a threat to them. After all, to take a topical example, among the corrupt who will be hated the most, a fellow corrupt person or an honest person? Clearly, it will be the honest person because he is a threat to the corrupt. We will be hated for the prophetic nature of Christianity that calls people back to the goodness of creation, the meaning of our existence and to a culture of life – that calls us to an abandonment of selfishness, domination, greed and violence. It is a path of respect for all life from womb to tomb.
Jesus preached this profound homily after healing many people of their ailments and casting out evil. The sermon is a logical continuation of showing the way for a much deeper and more whole personal healing but also a deep healing of humankind, of relationships and of society. While it is a way of poverty, hunger, weeping and rejection, it is in fact, in a much more profound sense, the way of richness, of joy, of peace and satisfaction. Above all, it is the way of love as we go deeper into the mystery of God’s unfathomable love and mercy and, through our commitment to follow him, we seek ways to image his love and grace to a world that hungers to find light, rest and peace.
Let us now pray for God’s blessing:
The Lord be with you R/ And with your spirit
Grant that the hearts of your faithful may submit to your merciful love, that we may always seek your help knowing that without your guidance we can do nothing that is just so that strengthened by our faith we may know what is right and receive all the help we need for our 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.