Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 23 December 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.
Despite all the hardships of this year, we begin our celebrations of joy and gratitude, for salvation has come into the world. It is necessary to celebrate and, as we hear in the Scriptures, we neither weep nor mourn for the Day of the Lord is holy (cf. Neh 8:9). So, for the moment, we put our troubles behind us, and we lift our hearts to God in praise of his goodness. Our celebrations may be different this year as we seek to keep ourselves and others safe by being responsible, but rejoice we must. Thank you for joining me for this reflection.
In the First Reading of today’s Mass we hear from the prophet Malachi (3:1-4;4:5-6):
But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? “For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offering to the Lord.
Let us pray:
O Wisdom of the Most High, come to teach us the way of prudence. O root of Jesse, come and deliver us; delay no longer. O Key of David, come and lead us out of the prison where we sit in darkness. O King of the nations and cornerstone of the Church! Come and save mankind, whom you formed from the clay of the earth. O Daystar, splendour of eternal light and son of justice! Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death. Come, Lord Jesus, amen.
I heard a story of a certain lady who was accustomed to reading the Scriptures. On one occasion she came on the reading from Malachi that we have just heard, and she wondered at the words, he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. She decided to visit a silversmith to see what purifying silver involves. She did not tell him the reason for her visit, but questioned him about the process of purifying silver. He explained it to her fully and, when he was finished, she asked him, Do you sit and watch while the work of refining is going on? The man replied in the affirmative saying, Oh yes. I must sit and watch the furnace constantly because, if the silver is in the furnace too long, even if it is just for a few seconds too long, the silver will be injured.
God sits as a refiner and purifier of silver. He sees it necessary sometimes to allow us to be purified in a furnace, to mould us and to transform our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. He allows hardships in our lives that we may develop resilience and perseverance, that we may be more compassionate and understanding when others are going through their own struggles, doubts and anxieties. But while we go through these hardships he does not abandon us, he sits and watches lest we are overcome by them. He will not let us be tested beyond our endurance (cf. 1Cor 10:13).
But the lady had not finished with the silversmith. She asked him one further question, How do you know when the process is finished? He replied saying that was simple. When I can see my own image in the silver, I know the process is complete. The trials, struggles and difficulties of life should mould us into the image of Christ, so that we become people filled with his mercy, understanding, tenderness, forgiveness and gentleness. Even in everyday life we hear people say something like, life has mellowed him. Our experience of life, with its joys and tears, its laughter and sadness, changes us into being more human and tolerant people.
This is one of the positive lessons that we must take from the corona virus pandemic. For millions and millions of people around the world it has meant tragedy, bereavement and vulnerability. It has changed the world. We must also allow it to change us. If we are going to come through it as better people, then this heartbreaking and frustrating experience must help us re-discover our values in life, what is important and what is not important. It must make us more caring of others, and much more aware of our responsibility for the health and wellbeing of others, as well as our responsibility to the health and wellbeing of creation. Most especially, it must transform us into people of hope, who can see beyond the present sufferings and recognize God’s hand in our lives and in the world, leading us to reflecting his image to the world more faithfully – just as the silver is fully refined when it reflects the image of the silversmith.
The coming feast of the Incarnation is an opportunity to strengthen our hope and our faith in God. For we are reminded that his name is Emmanuel, God-with-us. He is not separated from our pain and uncertainty, but he is among us urging us to place our trust in him, to surrender ourselves into his hands and to welcome his light into our hearts. So let’s resist the temptation to go around complaining, or looking like we are carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. Let us allow him to liberate us from that prison of darkness, the prison of negativity and despair, and lead us into the light. Then others will recognize the image of Christ in us, as we spread joy and gratitude for salvation.
Let us now pray for God’s blessing:
The Lord be with you R/ And with your spirit
Look kindly on your people, O Lord, who await your light to dispel the darkness and lead them to salvation. Look kindly on your people, O Lord, and fill them with the joy of the coming feast. Look kindly on your people, O Lord, and strengthen them that they may not falter on the way. Through Christ our Lord, amen. And may Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen
I wish you, your families, friends and loved ones, a peaceful, joyful and Blessed Christmas. May the child Jesus come into your hearts to strengthen and comfort you. Merry Christmas.