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 25 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.

Welcome once again to this reflection. I hope that this will be a very blessed day for you.

In the Gospel of today’s Mass (Lk 21:12-19) we hear Jesus warning his disciples that there will be persecution, and that his followers will be brought before kings and governors for his name’s sake – but this will be their opportunity to bear witness and the Lord himself will give them the words and wisdom to do so. He encourages them to endure – this is what he says:

You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put to death; you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By you endurance you will gain your lives.

I will take the prayer from the Mass of the Solemnity of Christ the King:

Let us pray:

Almighty ever-living God, whose will it is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the King of the universe; grant, we pray, that the whole creation, set free from slavery, may render your majesty service and ceaselessly proclaim your praise. We make this prayer through Our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever, amen.

We are in the last week of the Church’s liturgical year and the themes of vigilance and preparation have become more urgent because the stakes are so high. If we are to be part of God’s Kingdom, and if we are to be among the “sheep” at his right hand on the Day of Judgement, we need to be prepared for what it takes to get there – we cannot take salvation for granted. Before we enter into the Season of Advent, the time of anticipation, expectation and waiting, we ponder deeply again on what it means to be vigilant and to prepare. The Gospel of today’s Mass, as well as the First Reading (Rev 15:1-4) point us in the right direction. Vigilance and preparation demand perseverance. We have to persevere in our faith and all that goes with faith. A dictionary definition of perseverance is continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition. It means to “hold fast” and not to waver (Heb 10:23). We hold fast to our hope, to what we believe in, and to how we live our lives in the Spirit of God. As St Paul says in his second letter to the Corinthians, we are subjected to every kind of hardship, but never distressed; we see no way out but we never despair (2 Cor 4:8). In all the challenges of life that we encounter – difficulties, failures and opposition – we hold fast to the source of life, the source of meaning and the source of all hope.

One of the characteristics of human beings is that we are titillated and fascinated by changing fashions, ideas and inventions. We are always on the lookout for something “new”, even if it is trying the new coffee shop on the corner or getting a new gadget. We anticipate the pleasure it will give us and how it will please us more from what we had in the past – even if we know, in our heart of hearts, that we will soon get tired of it and want to try something new again. How often has a parent heard a child say “if you buy me that, I’ll never ask you for anything again”. There is nothing wrong with enjoying things new and trying new things, as long as we are not just blown along with a changing world and adopt whatever changing beliefs or morals are in vogue. Again, as St Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians, Then we shall no longer be children, or tossed one way and another, and carried hither and thither by every new gust of teaching, at the mercy of all the tricks people play and their unscrupulousness in deliberate deception (4:14). And importantly, he goes on to say, If we live by the truth and in love, we shall grow completely into Christ, who is the head (4:15).

So while we may enjoy the changing fashions and ways of the world, when it comes to things that really matter, we must remain rooted in what we believe, to have our foundation in “truth and love”. In short, our anchor in life must remain in Christ Jesus our Lord, through whom salvation comes, and we are to cling to the basics of our faith without letting go. This is not as easy as it may sound since there can be extraordinary pressure placed on people to conform to prevailing views, ideologies and perceptions, and there is often a hostile intolerance when they will not. Not everything new is wrong, and humanity does progress in terms of deepening knowledge and understanding, and we thank God for these blessings. But when a conflict arises between the values imparted to us through Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit throughout history, and prevailing culture, our choice must always be to remain firm in the Christian values we have been taught. We know that this will often not be popular, and that on occasion it will bring us into conflict with modern culture. But then, Christianity is not about popularity, it is not about saying things because we want to please people – that is what the false prophets did. Our task is to humbly speak and live the truth, not to waver in our faith and to remain true to the commandment to love that allows for no arrogance or self-righteousness, but only humble service. May God give us the grace to endure, so that we may be vigilant and prepare for his coming. As Pope Francis recently said we should make our choices with eternity in mind, by thinking not about what we want to do, but what is best to do.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R/ And with your spirit

May Almighty God fill you with the richness of his love, and strengthen you by the gift of his Holy Spirit, that you may endure in your faith to the end and come to the joy of the Kingdom of God. Through Christ our Lord, amen. And may Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son 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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