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 18 November 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.

Almost unbelievably there is just a little over a month before we celebrate Christmas. Time passes quickly and so we need to heed the voice of the Lord calling us to be vigilant and to prepare. Welcome to this reflection.

In today’s Gospel from St Luke (19:11-28) we hear of three servants who received one pound each from their master who had been called to a far country to receive kingly power. Although many of the citizens hated him and sent a messenger to him to tell him that they did not want him to reign over them, he eventually returned. This is what we hear:

When he returned, having received the kingly power, he commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by trading. The first came before him saying, “Lord, your pound has made ten pounds more”. And he said to him, “Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.

Let us pray:

Almighty God and Father, take our shame away from us, Lord, and make us rejoice in your saving works. May all who have been chosen by your Son always abound in works of faith, hope and charity in your service and in the service of their neighbour. We make this prayer through Our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever, amen.

We know that the second servant made five more pounds from the one pound. The third was afraid so he hid the one pound in a napkin because he knew his master was a severe man. Jesus told this parable just before entering Jerusalem at a time when people supposed that the Kingdom of God was about to appear immediately. Jesus was certainly aware that, just as many of the citizens hated the king in the parable, so there were many who hated him and did not wish to recognize him as their king. He needed to make his disciples and followers aware that the Kingdom of God would not come immediately, and to guide people as to what the manner of their life should be until his Kingdom is established.

Of all the many teachings of this parable, I would like to focus on four. Firstly, it is a parable of enormous hope and affirmation for all of us, because Jesus has confidence in us and trusts us to bear fruit with what we have been given, just as the king in the parable trusted his servants. We have been given his love and grace, we have been blessed by being taught the truth and we have received the gifts that God bestows on human kind. It is now up to us as to how we use what we have been given, but the expectation is certainly that we should “bear fruit”, that we use all we have been given for the benefit of others. These can be the skills or talents we have but, much more importantly, they are about human qualities – qualities such as compassion, caring for others, our ability to forgive and seek forgiveness, solidarity with others, a thirst for justice and a desire to be peacemakers. Just as we often work on our skills to grow them and better them, we are expected to work on our human qualities to grow in love, compassion, gentleness and so on.

The second point of this parable is the call to fidelity. Even though the master was away for an extended period, and even though the environment was hostile during his absence, the two servants were faithful to their master and accomplished what was expected of them. It can be difficult to remain faithful. Even in our own experience we can look back on our lives to moments when we were filled with enthusiasm and zeal to serve God and how, over time, much of the enthusiasm and zeal has changed – either by becoming watered-down or, hopefully, by maturing and deepening. It can be difficult to remain faithful to the person of Jesus Christ when we live in an environment where so much of what we believe is questioned, disregarded or thought to be irrelevant or even unacceptable. Fidelity demands perseverance as we await our Master’s delayed return. 

Thirdly, there is always a risk in responding to the call of Jesus – just as the two faithful servants had to take a risk. There was a risk that they may not have succeeded in increasing their master’s money and may have made a loss, a risk because they had to face the hostility of others and continue to do what was required of them, and the risk that the master would never return. Christianity, and responding to the Lord, also involves a risk. It is a step into the dark. We have belief but we do not have certainty. We are not sure whether we will be able to persevere. We fall because of our many failings, mistakes and sinfulness, yet we continue to trust in the promises of one we cannot physically see, hear or touch. We risk the wrath and rejection of some when we make a stand for the dignity and sanctity of life, for justice and for truth. But it is a risk we are willing to take, because deep down within ourselves we recognize that this is the way of light and life. There are moments of fear, of lacking confidence and of weariness. But we recall that the command “do not be afraid” (or similar words) appears hundreds of times in the Bible. We know that being scared is a human reaction – the strength we have, through God’s grace, is that we are not overcome by such feelings and do not allow them to dictate our actions.

Finally, this parable reminds us that we will be called to account for the manner in which we have lived our lives. Just as we demand accountability from those who have been given responsibility in politics, business, Church or civil society, so each one of us will be asked to account for his or her actions, choices and decisions. At that time, of course, we know that we will not be judged according to justice alone, but we trust that it will be a judgement of mercy. Let us heed the call to be vigilant and to prepare.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R/ And with your spirit

May God bless you with every heavenly blessing, make you always holy and pure in his sight, pour out in abundance upon you the riches of his glory, and teach you with the words of truth; may he instruct you in the Gospel of salvation, and ever give you the gift of Christian charity.

We ask this through Christ Our Lord, amen. And may Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Sone and the Holy Spirit, amen

As we continue to remember and pray for our departed loved ones, and all souls, we say: Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen. 

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