Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 14 October 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 this reflection in the month of October, when we continue to remember Mary our Mother, and to request her intercession – she who always shows her love and care for us.
In the First Reading of today’s Mass, from the letter of St Paul to the Galatians (5:18-25), we hear of the gifts of the Holy Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Let us pray:
Heavenly Father, after the Ascension of your Son Jesus, you sent your gift of the Holy Spirit on your people, the Spirit that is not of timidity but is the Spirit of power, love and self-control. Touch our hearts, we pray O Lord, with your loving tenderness, that we may open them to the power of your Holy Spirit and so may surrender ourselves completely to you, and so be your faithful instruments of goodness, grace and unity to all those we encounter. 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.
St Paul contrasts the fruit of the Holy Spirit with the “works of the flesh”, such as immorality, impurity, strife, jealousy, anger, dissension and selfishness. The root of the “works of the flesh” is self-indulgence characterised by disregard for the needs of others. Because the “self” has become the centre of attention and gratification, it can only lead to disunity, conflict, jealousy and anger, as each individual “self” seeks to gratify itself with no concern for the other. On the other hand, if we are living by the Spirit and walking by the Spirit, it is God who is the centre of our attention and activity. We therefore live for him, as St Paul once put it, For in him we live and move and have our being (Act 17:28). Centering our lives on God, who we always approach through Jesus Christ, means that our relationship with others changes. We remember the very well known words of St John (1Jn 4:20), If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen, and again in his Gospel (Jn 13:35) he relates the words of Jesus, By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. Through faith the Spirit frees us from slavery of the law, through which we cannot be saved, to faith-filled liberating love. So we are all faced with this fundamental choice in our lives – what is the focus of my existence, what do I centre my life on? Is it on self, in which case I just want to take for myself, or is it on God in which case I want to give to him and others? Am I a giver or a taker? For most of us, it is not purely one or the other, it is a mixture of both We are often willing to focus on God and be a generous giver, but in reality we fail by taking in order to satisfy our need for self-gratification.
We are all gifted people and God has bestowed on us many different gifts. Perhaps we become too conscious of the gifts we don’t have and would like to have, rather than the wonderful and powerful gifts the Holy Spirit has shared with us. It is in allowing those gifts to grow and to use them for the benefit of others that enables us to bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit that St Paul enumerates in the First Reading. And we are able to put those gifts to good use when we allow the Spirit to take possession of us, and allow his fire to light up our lives into an enthusiastic and passionate desire to do the will of God. In the routine of life, and in the routine of the practice of our faith, it is so easy to allow our Christianity to become mundane, lukewarm and without any spark to it. Much more is expected of us in our relationship with God who has created us, who has given life to the world and allows us to share in the fruits of the earth and who, indeed, sent his only Son into the world for our redemption. When we recognize the extent of God’s love for us we cannot be left indifferent or untouched – we must allow his love to liberate our hearts to respond to his love and it is the Spirit that enable us to do that. As St Paul says in his letter to the Romans (5:5), the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Through the gifts of the Holy Spirit and motivated by our love for God, we are meant to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God. It is not beyond our capacity to do so, it requires simply the will and the decision to keep on trying and, where we fail, to try even harder in the future. The fact of the matter is that we do bear fruit in our lives – it may not be evident to us and we may not always recognize it. Ultimately, we are but the sowers of the seed and the harvest of fruit belongs to the Lord. So, in faith we continue, knowing that it is the fruits of the Spirit – the fruits that we are asked to bear – that bring about change among those around us and contribute to the growth of God’s Kingdom even as we continue to live in the reality of the earthly realm. We should never tire of doing what is good (cf. 2 Thes 3:13).
Let us now pray for God’s blessing:
The Lord be with you R./ And with your spirit
May God, the Father of all light, who sent his wondrous flame upon his disciples, powerfully cleanse your hearts so that, in unity in the profession of one faith and through your perseverance, he may enlighten you, grant you gladness by his blessing and make you abound with the gifts of the same Spirit, through Christ our Lord, amen.
May Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.